ChatNetZero: We Ask An AI Bot The Big Climate Questions

By Ellie Smith

9 months ago

Can a robot help solve the climate crisis?


Feeling confused by the recent changes to the UK’s net zero strategy? Wondering what a company’s carbon targets are? Or simply mulling over the future of our beloved planet? There’s a robot for that. New AI chatbot ChatNetZero is here to answer all your questions about climate change, with a particular focus on helping ‘demystify net zero’. 

Led by a group of scientists from research lab Data-Driven Envirolab and AI company Arboretica, ChatNetZero uses data from Net Zero Tracker, a data hub featuring environmental information from companies and nations. The service aims to ‘decipher the complicated nuances of “net zero” and determine the credibility of decarbonization plans set by businesses, governments, and financial institutions.’ Its website states that other bots like Chat GPT are not ‘attune to the nuances of net-zero targets’, adding that they often ‘fabricate false, but generally convincing statements when queried for specific details regarding an entity’s decarbonization efforts.’

Unlike Chat GPT, ChatNetZero avoids these statements – which it calls ‘hallucinations’ – with a special algorithm, which aims to cut misinformation. But how effective – and accurate – is it? We had a chat with the new robot; here’s how it responded. 

Q&A with New AI Bot ChatNetZero

What are you?

I am an environmental policy specialist with expertise in climate science.

What can you teach us?

As there is no specific information provided in the question, I am unable to provide a detailed answer about evaluating various actors’ net zero targets.

Can you help solve the issue of climate change?

As an environmental policy specialist, I can contribute to solving the issue of climate change by advocating for well-designed mitigation efforts, promoting the economic opportunities of transitioning to a cleaner future, and pushing for accelerated climate action. I can also support the development of emerging technologies and measures for hard-to-abate sectors. 

Non-state actors such as industries, financial institutions, cities, and regions play a critical role in achieving net zero emissions by 2050. 

It’s crucial to avoid delays, excuses, and greenwashing.

Footprint on a beach

What can the average person do about climate change?

The average person can contribute to mitigating climate change by supporting and advocating for non-state actors such as industry, financial institutions, cities, and regions that play a critical role in achieving net zero emissions by 2050. They can also demand transparency and accountability from these entities to avoid greenwashing and ensure they are implementing clear emission reduction strategies. 

Additionally, individuals can contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors, as required by the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, through personal lifestyle changes and choices. 

What should I do about climate anxiety?

To manage climate anxiety, it’s important to understand that while climate change is a significant threat, efforts to mitigate it can also provide solutions, enhancing food and energy security, equity, and affordability. 

Recognize that many non-state actors are working towards a cleaner future and mitigating climate risks. 

Prioritize areas most vulnerable to climate change and consider the guidance of the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures. 

Understand that while progress is being made, more needs to be done to reduce emissions. 

Companies should prioritize climate change mitigation and present their strategies transparently. Lastly, remember that climate resilience and justice are crucial alongside mitigation. 

What are the UK’s net zero targets?

The UK’s net zero target is to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, a step up from the previous target of at least 80 percent reduction from 1990 levels. 

This target is legally enforced by the ‘Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019’. 

The UK also commits to reducing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by at least 68 percent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. 

Scotland has separate targets to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, with interim targets of 75 percent and 90 percent reductions by 2030 and 2040 respectively. 

Nine cities in the UK have net zero as their end target. 

Japan Airlines plane

Does carbon offsetting actually work?

The effectiveness of carbon offsetting is highly contentious and sometimes misleading. 

Many companies claim to neutralize their emissions through offsets, often relying on biological carbon sequestration.

However, this approach is problematic as biological carbon storage can be reversed. 

Additionally, the voluntary carbon market is fragmented and unregulated, and offset projects do not guarantee additional action equivalent to emission reductions. 

Furthermore, carbon offset credits do not fully account for the potential non-permanence of carbon capture. 

Therefore, while some companies use offsetting to claim carbon neutrality, the real impact of offset credit use and the suitability of carbon dioxide removals for offsetting emissions are uncertain. 

Are the world’s current climate goals enough to sustain the planet? 

No, the world’s current climate goals are not sufficient to sustain the planet. The UN report indicates that global emissions are not decreasing quickly enough to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C. 

Instead of reducing emissions by 45 percent by 2030, they are projected to increase by nearly 11 percent. 

Companies’ plans for the period up to 2030 are significantly below the efforts required to limit global warming to 1.5°C. 

The current targets for 2030 are not aligned with the internationally agreed goals of the Paris Agreement, which are necessary to avoid the most damaging effects of climate change.

Where do you see the planet in five years?

In five years, progress towards net zero targets will likely be mixed. 

Amazon aims for 100 percent renewable energy within this timeframe, while Stellantis and Foxconn have set short-term targets for 2025 that align with their 2030 goals. 

However, Mercedes-Benz has not committed to earlier emission reduction targets within a five-year horizon. 

The majority of companies’ 2030 climate pledges are falling short of required ambition and are inadequately verified. 

Non-state actors are encouraged to set short-term targets of five years or less, aligning with the Paris Agreement’s requirements. 

However, the overall progress will depend on the implementation and verification of these targets.

Person using a chatbot with a laptop

Our Verdict

ChatNetZero is focused on the facts – each line comes with a citation of where the information comes from (useful) and answers are more concise than other bots like ChatGPT (also useful). It pulls from recent, reputable sources and the ‘hallucinations’ algorithm is a clear benefit.

However, it’s most beneficial for specific questions about a company or region’s net zero targets, rather than more subjective queries. You also can’t ask follow-up questions so it feels less like a chatbot than its peers, and sometimes it gives random answers which lack context (when we asked it about the future of the planet, for instance, it focused on a few particular companies). Some of the language feels a little jargon-like too, particularly to those less familiar with net zero policies.

All in all, ChatNetZero will be helpful for people looking for definitions of environmental terms or comparisons of different carbon cutting policies without having to trawl through lots of data. It’s also a good way of getting a quick summary of a contentious issue, such as carbon offsetting. But if you’re after answers to life’s bigger eco-questions, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Try it out at chatnetzero.ai.