It is the biggest, toughest problem facing mankind, and tackling it requires innovative thinking from our brightest and best.

Now extra cash has been set aside to combat climate change – using the latest, cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI). 

Six companies are to share £170,000 of Scottish Government funding to help tackle the climate emergency using AI. 

The applicants have been chosen to develop AI-enabled technology through the Can Do Innovation Challenge Fund, managed by national jobs quango Scottish Enterprise.

Four Glasgow-based firms – Arceptive, Industrial Systems and Control, Integrated Environmental Solutions, and Trade in Space – will split the cash with Space Intelligence and Topolytics, which are both based in Edinburgh.

Their projects include using AI to develop more efficient food supply chains, an AI-based thermal imaging service to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from homes and a waste and resources map to identify recycling opportunities for waste and by-products.

Digital Economy Minister Kate Forbes said new technologies are vital in the fight against climate change.

She said: “Scotland was one of the first countries in the world to acknowledge that we are facing a global climate emergency and we will do everything we can to make a difference.

“Our commitment to meeting ambitious emissions targets makes it vital that we develop new technologies – including harnessing the potential of artificial intelligence.

“Scotland has a proud tradition as a leader in technical innovation and is home to a huge array of companies pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

“I am excited to see what they produce with the support of this fund.”

The concepts will be developed over a 10-week period, with up to three of them progressing to the next phase, where they will produce minimum viable products.

Managing director for Scottish economic development at Scottish Enterprise Linda Hanna hailed the positive potential of AI.

She said: “This challenge fund calls on our most innovative companies to apply leading-edge technology in tackling one of the biggest challenges facing mankind.

“It’s inspiring to see ingenuity and passion from Scotland’s business base, alongside the talent that makes us such a highly-competitive business location.

“We look forward to working with these companies as they examine the potential of AI to make a lasting, positive change for our environment, economy and people.”

Scottish Greens climate spokesman Mark Ruskell praised the move but 
called for more to be done to tackle climate change.

He said: “It’s great to see the Scottish Government investing in innovative artificial intelligence solutions to tackle the climate emergency. It would be great if they coupled this with investment in common sense solutions like increasing safe cycling routes and improving Scotland’s bus network.” 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared a “climate emergency” at the SNP conference last year and has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2045.

The Scottish Government argues this represents “the most stringent legislative targets anywhere in the world and Scotland’s contribution to climate change will end, definitively, within a generation”.

It followed recommendations set out by the Committee on Climate Change that Scotland meet emissions targets five years ahead of the UK in 2050.

Arceptive is proposing an AI-based platform to provide “continuous, large-scale thermal imaging services to government and local authorities, with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions produced by residential buildings by creating street-level reports of thermal leakage”. 

Trade in Space aims to make our food supply from other parts of the world more secure and less likely to be disrupted by climate change.

Topolytics said its waste and resources map would be the “highest-quality, most granular view of waste and by-products generation and movements currently available anywhere in the world”.

Space Intelligence wants to develop AI that can interpret satellite images and identify different land cover types such as forests, meadows and crops, while Integrated Environmental Solutions is seeking to build a system to monitor, analyse and predict the environmental performance of buildings. Industrial Systems and Control is focused on renewable energy storage.