How fast are wooded areas disappearing in your community, or halfway across the globe? With a new tool from Google, you may be able to keep track of trees being cut down in any given forest using satellite imagery and easy-to-understand color-coding.
Google.org debuted its "high-performance satellite imagery-processing engine" Thursday at the International Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, revealing that it could even be used in conjunction with a proposed U.N. program to combat climate change.
The platform shows intact forests in green, new degradation in orange, old deforestation in yellow and new deforestation in red for selected time periods, allowing users to analyze the rate of forest loss with visuals that are easy to process.
U.N. member nations could potentially use the tool to monitor the state of their forests and land use under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD) program, if it’s implemented.
The aim of the REDD program is to make trees more valuable alive than cut down through payments to nations who prevent people from cutting down forests that have been deemed vital to curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s not yet known whether Google.org will offer use of the platform, which is currently in a testing phase, to the general public. It may be provided as a “not-for-profit service”, meaning the imagery would only be available to scientists, governments or environmental monitoring agencies.
"We hope this technology will help stop the destruction of the world's rapidly-disappearing forests. 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," Google.org wrote on its blog.