This site will help you imagine what extreme climate change will do to your home | MCUTimes

This site will help you imagine what extreme climate change will do to your home

It looked exactly as it had on September 9, 2020, when the entire San Francisco Bay Area was wrapped in orange smoke – a scary scene I hoped I would never see again. But this time, the disturbing sight was generated by a new site using artificial intelligence. The goal: to draw attention to the dangers of our changing environment and inspire people to act against it by showing what climate disasters would look like in our own backyard.
On ThisClimateDoesNotExist.com you can look up any address – your house, landmarks such as Arc de Triomphe In Paris, Times Square in New York or San Francisco “Painted ladies” home – and get a surprisingly realistic sense of what it might look like if the place was hit by floods, wildfires or smog. The site that does this by using AI trained in images of such scenes to imagine images from Google Street View was created by researchers at Thousands, an AI research institute in Montreal.

The website, which was unveiled on Thursday, has been up and running for two years. It began with the realization that even though we have the tools to cope with climate change, it is a huge obstacle to dealing with public awareness and political will, said Yoshua Bengio, professor at the University of Montreal and founder of Mila, who also led the research team to the project. Bengio, a winner of the Turing Award, said the researchers wanted to create images that felt personal, leading to the idea of ​​using AI to show what your house might look like during an environmental disaster.

“Citizens have heard in the past about climate change from scientists, reports and graphs,” Bengio said. “And there is a cognitive aspect, that is, something does not frighten us so much if it is not right before our eyes.”

Climate scientists reported in August that the world is already about 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels. Temperatures should stay below 1.5 degrees, they say – a critical threshold to avoid the most serious consequences of the climate crisis. For every fraction of a degree of warming, the consequences of climate change worsen. Even by limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, scientists say the kind of extreme weather the world experienced this summer, including floods and more devastating hurricanes, will become more severe and more frequent.

ThisClimateDoesNotExist can show you such images that make your home or e.g. The Leaning Tower of Pisa seems to be really flooded or covered in smoke or smog. However, creating these images is not as simple as placing an image of water in front of a building or adding a diaphragmatic filter.
The Triumphal Arch of Paris did not really flood;  this image of it from Google Street View has been modified with AI to show what such a climate disaster could look like.

There are not many pairs of images out there that show home before and after a flood – the kind of data that would be useful for training an AI system on the relationship between the image it is fed with and what it should make it into. . To compensate for this, researchers started building a computerized virtual world. This world, equivalent to several blocks in a city, allowed them to control floods and other elements so they could create synthetic images of places “before” and “after” a climate disaster, said Sasha Luccioni, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Montreal and Mila and a lead researcher on the project.

This synthetic data, along with real images showing flooded houses and images of smoky orange skies and smog, was used to train an AI system to take a given image from Google Street View and make it look like a climate disaster at hand. . To do this, the system first had to learn where e.g. Water should go in a given image, and then essentially paint water in a realistic way, including reflections of objects protruding from the water and considerations of illuminating the image.

ThisClimateDoesNotExist uses AI to show what places can look like due to climate change;  here is a Google Street View image of San Francisco's & quot;  Painted Ladies & quot;  home is depicted by technology as enclosed by smog.

After a user enters an address and ThisClimateDoesNotExist generates images, the site encourages the user to share them with others and presents resources to learn more about climate change and combat it.

“I think what we want is to channel the initial one, like, ‘Oh man, my house is underwater’ in climate action,” Luccioni said.

– CNN’s Rachel Ramirez contributed to this report.

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