Image for article titled These AI-Generated Images of Climate Change Make Me Uncomfortable

It’s getting harder to avoid AI-generated images and text—and harder to spot them in the first place—and that’s true even on Shutterstock, one of the world’s leading providers of stock photography. Last month, Shutterstock rolled out a tool for paying users that allows them to generate AI images based on their searches, in addition to finding pre-generated AI images available in the library.

I write about climate change every day, but it’s sometimes a topic that’s hard to illustrate. Should I include a photo of a wildfire with every story? A picture of an ice-free stretch of sea? How do you best show sea level rise or hotter-than-average temperatures? The green energy transition, meanwhile, involves just a few standard images (wind turbines, solar panels) and a lot of stuff that’s pretty boring visually (electrifying buildings). We’ve covered the trials and unexpectedly sexy tribulations of finding stock images for renewable energy before, so I know that humans are perfectly capable of making weird and incomprehensible climate imagery without the help of AI.

It’s clear robots are going to take over a lot of our jobs soon—but, before that happens, we can laugh at their shortcomings and bizarre quirks. Take a stroll with me through some of the weirdest AI-generated climate images on Shutterstock.


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