Google unveils deforestation monitor to combat climate change

The philanthropic arm of Google, Google.org, has introduced a deforestation monitor that could be a useful tool to combat climate change.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

The philanthropic arm of Google, Google.org, introduced on Thursday a deforestation monitor that could be a useful tool to combat climate change.

Using a new platform, its "high-performance satellite imagery-processing engine," the company can crunch the massive amounts of data stored on Google's servers to instantly produce, using satellite images, detailed maps showing changes in forests over time.

The platform, unveiled at the International Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, could be used as a tool for nations to comply with the United Nations-proposed REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) program, which would require members to monitor the state of their forests and land use.

Based largely on data from the UK's Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change report, the REDD program plans to offer money in exchange for the prevention of the destruction of forests deemed significant to curbing global climate change.

The concept: make the trees worth more as they are than cut down. According to the Stern report, keeping forests intact is one of the most cost-effective ways to cut carbon emissions.

"We hope this technology will help stop the destruction of the world's rapidly-disappearing forests," Google.org wrote in a blog post. "Emissions from tropical deforestation are comparable to the emissions of all of the European Union, and are greater than those of all cars, trucks, planes, ships, and trains worldwide."

The program is in testing right now, but Google.org plans to make it available within the year, perhaps as a "not-for-profit service" for only scientists, governments, or environmental monitoring agencies.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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