Keywords: power, reinforcement learning, environmental policy
TL;DR: This paper explores how RL-driven environmental policy refracts power and creates unique challenges to ensuring equitable and accountable environmental decision-making processes.
Abstract: Machine learning (ML) methods already permeate environmental decision-making, from processing high-dimensional data on earth systems to monitoring compliance with environmental regulations. Of the ML techniques available to address pressing environmental problems (e.g., climate change, biodiversity loss), Reinforcement Learning (RL) may both hold the greatest promise and present the most pressing perils. This paper explores how RL-driven policy refracts existing power relations in the environmental domain while also creating unique challenges to ensuring equitable and accountable environmental decision processes. We focus on how RL technologies shift the distribution of decision-making, agenda-setting, and ideological power between resource users, governing bodies, and private industry.