This AI chatbot will answer all your climate change questions

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A new AI chatbot can help you understand climate change and how it’s causing a global crisis. The Washington Post has introduced Climate Answers, which is designed to respond to your questions directly using the newspaper’s climate journalism. 

The AI draws from the publication’s extensive archive on the subject to compose its response in everyday language, along with links to the pieces it is using as sources. 

“The rise of chat interfaces powered by generative AI got us thinking: How could we offer an experience that leaned into the expertise and high-quality reporting produced by The Washington Post?” Washington Post chief technology officer Vineet Khosla explained in a blog post. “This experiment leverages artificial intelligence to help our users discover and explore our authoritative climate reporting.”

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Climate Answers turns to articles published by the Washington Post Climate & Environment and Weather sections since 2016 to respond to queries. The AI has some strict guardrails on it to prevent hallucinations or misinformation. If the tool doesn’t surface any useful articles to use as sources for an answer, it will just say it can’t answer rather than provide an incorrect or irrelevant answer. 

Interactive AI Journalism

Accurate and accessible climate information is increasingly crucial. The effects of climate change are impossible to ignore for anyone paying a slight bit of attention, but greater awareness of what’s happening and how to combat it are crucial to actually mitigating the deadly future we all face. Utilizing AI to streamline access to climate reporting is a useful way for the Washington Post to contribute. That said, while the paper didn’t cite the specific AI models involved, some of them are quite high in energy costs, lending some irony to the project.

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Khosla pitches Climate Answers as a way to personalize reader experiences and tailor how they absorb the paper’s reporting to their preferences. The idea is to make the Washington Post’s journalism more interactive and accessible through conversational AI. Khosla said he hopes this specific project will deepen the public’s understanding of climate issues.

Climate Answers is a major step in the Washington Post’s larger plans for integrating AI into its operations as part of its “Build It” program. The newspaper has already introduced AI-written article summaries in some cases and employs a synthetic voice created by AI to read newsletters out loud.

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