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This website helps you imagine what extreme climate change will do to your home

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It looked exactly the same as September 9, 2020, when it was the entire San Francisco Bay Area surrounded by orange smoke – A scary scene that I hoped to never see again. But this time the disturbing sight was generated by a new website with the help of artificial intelligence. The goal: to draw attention to the dangers of our changing environment and inspire people to take action against it, showing what climate disasters would look like in our own gardens.
Turned on ThisClimateDoesNotExist.com you can search for any address: your home, landmarks like Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Times Square to New York or San Francisco “Painted Women” Homes – and have a surprisingly realistic idea of ​​what it might look like if that place were affected by floods, forest fires or smoke. The website, which does this by using AI trained in images from these scenes to re-imagine images from Google Street View, was created by researchers from Thousands, a Montreal AI research institute.

The website, which was unveiled on Thursday, has been up and running for two years. He began by noting that while we have the tools to tackle climate change, a huge obstacle to tackling it is public awareness and political will, said Yoshua Bengio, a professor at the University of Montreal and founder of Mila , who also led the research. project team. Bengio, winner of the Turing Prize, said researchers wanted to create images that felt personal, which led to the idea of ​​using AI to show what your home might look like during an environmental disaster.

“Citizens of the past had heard about climate change from scientists, reports and graphs,” Bengio said. “And there’s a cognitive aspect, which is that something doesn’t scare us so much if it’s not right in front of our eyes.”

Climate scientists reported in August that the world is already around 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels. They say temperatures should be kept below 1.5 degrees, a critical threshold to avoid the most severe impacts of the climate crisis. With each fraction of a degree of warming, the consequences of climate change worsen. Even limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, scientists say the kind of extreme weather the world experienced this summer, including instant floods and the most devastating hurricanes, will become more severe and frequent.

ThisClimateDoesNotExist can show you home images or, for example, the Leaning Tower of Pisa they appear to be actually flooded or covered in smoke or smoke. But creating these images is not as simple as placing a water image in front of a building or adding an open filter.
The Arc de Triomphe in Paris did not really flood;  this Google Street View image has been modified with AI to show what a climate catastrophe could look like.

There aren’t many pairs of images showing houses before and after a flood: the kind of data that would be useful to form an artificial intelligence system about the relationship between the image being fed and where should convert it. To compensate for this, researchers began building a computerized virtual world. This world, the equivalent of several blocks of a city, allowed them to control floods and other elements so they could create synthetic images of places “before” and “after” a climate catastrophe, said Sasha Luccioni, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Montreal and Mila and a principal investigator of the project.

This synthetic data, along with real images showing flooded houses and images of smoky sky and smoky orange, was used to train an artificial intelligence system to take any image from Google Street View and make it look like there was a climate catastrophe nearby. To do this, the system first needed to learn where, for example, the water should go in a given image, and then basically paint water in a realistic way, including reflections of objects coming out of the water and considerations for image illumination.

ThisClimateDoesNotExist uses AI to show how places can look due to climate change;  here, a Google Street View image of

After a user enters an address and ThisClimateDoesNotExist generates images, the website encourages the user to share them with others and presents resources to learn more about and combat climate change.

“I think what we want is to channel that initial, like,‘ Oh man, my house is under water, ’toward climate action,” Luccioni said.

– CNN’s Rachel Ramirez contributed to this report.

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