Microsoft in new Scope 3 bid as AI emissions soar

This column first ran on Callaway Climate Insights.

As Canadian wildfire smoke starts to pour into the northern U.S. for a second summer, it should become clear to investors that grand government programs and international cooperation cannot move fast enough to hold global warming at bay.

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Against that backdrop, more companies — particularly large tech players in AI — are stepping up to make sure they can lower their carbon footprints even as they seek ever more energy from our aging electric grids to develop AI products.

Microsoft (MSFT) is quickly becoming the leader in this field. Just a few weeks after announcing the largest purchase of new clean energy to date, the tech giant said this week it would clean up its vast supply chain of harmful emissions by the end of the decade.

The company, with more than 90% of its (growing) carbon footprint coming from its chain of thousands of suppliers according to the Wall Street Journal, joins Amazon (AMZN), Google (GOOGL), Facebook (META),  and even Wal-Mart (WMT) in moving to clean up its supply chains. This comes even after political squabbling and lawsuits have prevented U.S. securities regulators from passing emission disclosure laws that allow investors to track such progress in supply chains.

For the tech companies, it’s about more than just the climate future, too. The power demands from their AI work are forecast to more than triple in coming years and they need clean energy to be able to drive them while also cutting their emissions. Microsoft’s own emissions are up 30% since 2020 because of AI — almost all Scope 3, or supply chain related.

It’s not yet every man or woman for themselves against global warming, but at a time when U.S. regulators are so hell bent on bringing the tech giants to their knees, it’s interesting to see that these giants are really the only ones trying to make a difference on emissions as global warming bears down on us.

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