How to reduce ML impact on climate change.

The universities have created a tool that measures the electricity usage of any machine-learning program. With it, Azure users building new models can view the total electricity consumed by graphics processing units (GPUs)—computer chips specialized for running calculations in parallel—during every phase of their project, from selecting a model to training it and putting it to use. It’s the first major cloud provider to give users access to information about the energy impact of their machine-learning programs.

The new Azure tool, which debuted in October, currently reports energy use, not emissions. So now researchers figured out how to map energy use to emissions, and they presented a companion paper on that work at FAccT, a major computer science conference, in late June. Researchers used a service called Watttime to estimate emissions based on the zip codes of cloud servers running 11 machine-learning models.

They found that emissions can be significantly reduced if researchers use servers in specific geographic locations and at certain times of day. Emissions from training small machine-learning models can be reduced up to 80% if the training starts at times when more renewable electricity is available on the grid, while emissions from large models can be reduced over 20% if the training work is paused when renewable electricity is scarce and restarted when it’s more plentiful.