The advent of AI is drastically changing the environmental law landscape. Until recently, it was nearly impossible to track the environmental impacts of corporate activities or products. The sheer immensity and complexity of the numbers shrouded our understanding of environmental inputs and outputs. But now, AI technology makes wrangling those numbers possible, entirely changing the legal field.
AI technology will give plaintiffs' greenwashing claims new teeth. ClimateBert, an AI neural language model, is already being deployed to effectively double-check corporate reporting and disclosures related to emissions. Other tools are being developed to compare climate disclosures with recommended thresholds – essentially trying to catch those businesses hiding in plain sight. And AI's role will only expand – litigators will be able to quickly and efficiently track the environmental footprint of a product or double-check the environmental claims on a label.
Further, AI may be used to assist environmental regulators. A Stanford Law professor, Daniel Ho, alongside others, has recently developed a program to identify and analyze patterns of data to locate industrial animal operations and help regulators determine their environmental risk. These sorts of tools can and will be expanded to regulate all sorts of environmental compliance issues, ranging from overfishing to stormwater pollution.
AI will also change environmental litigation, allowing parties to sort and analyze large amounts of technical data quickly. Complex litigation will be most affected, as the daunting task of sifting through years of hazardous waste or emissions data will quickly be addressed through machine learning. As a result, environmental litigation will become more streamlined, and the effectiveness of the AI employed will become a new legal hurdle.
Businesses should be ready to employ these devices to self-police, as the ubiquity of AI will only make the environmental world more transparent.
This post is a part of a series on trends in the artificial intelligence space for 2023, authored by MoFo lawyers.
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Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.
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