The environment is a hot topic, literally. As global temperatures have warmed since 1850, the discussion on what to do about it has heated up as well. Humanity is having an undeniable impact on the natural world. Our growing demand for resources is leading to land-use changes, loss of biodiversity and pollution. Climate change continues to disrupt weather patterns, temperatures and water availability, leading to impacts on human and natural ecosystems — even the forests are on the move.

The good news is that there is more information than ever before about the environment. Growing global attention is leading to increasing regulations, deeper research and deployment of advanced sensing and mapping technologies. However, connecting the dots for better insights and solutions is difficult because the relevant information is often siloed, and decision makers are reluctant to act without a high degree of certainty.

Today’s complex supply chains make this an even tougher puzzle to unravel. Cognitive technology, enabled by artificial intelligence, or AI, is uniquely adapted to helping with these challenges, from finding patterns and interconnections within macro datasets to providing local, personalized diagnosis and predictions that learn and improve over time. (More about IBM’s research on this topic here.)

With its ability to understand, reason and learn, cognitive technology is proving a great ally in protecting our planet in four key ways:

1. Better conservation of natural resources. By combining satellite imagery, sensors and machine learning, companies and governments are reducing water usage in their operations as well as pinpointing the variables that lead to better soil health. One winery created a cognitive irrigation system that can deliver water in a way that’s situational, hyper-local, automated and self-tuning, helping it cut water use by 25 percent over three years.

2. Earlier pollution detection. Advanced machine learning and self-organizing mesh networks are helping organizations pinpoint the sources of pollution faster and more accurately, whether air pollution or methane leaks. This enables more targeted mitigation actions that are better for business and the environment, such as improved natural gas operations with reduced emissions. Read More