Google helps track global deforestation in near-real-time

Google, environmentalists and governments on Thursday unveiled a state-of-the-art database to track deforestation, hoping to ramp up enforcement of a major culprit behind climate change. The website, www.globalforestwatch.org, will show tree loss around the world in high resolution and with frequent updates. The data aimed both at policymakers and companies buying from forest areas will be available for free and not require much technical skill to use.

Google is no stranger to humanitarian work, and its latest effort is helping keep an unflinching eye on the world’s trees. For its part in the Global Forest Watch, the search giant is providing tech (namely, Earth and Maps) that allows virtually anyone to monitor deforestation on a massive scale. Let’s say you want to peek at how much of Brazil’s rain forest has been clear-cut in since 2008. You can do that. Even better, you can look at how much has been replanted — sadly, not a lot — if the mood strikes. The website’s interactive map also allows users to see just which industries are doing the damage, the extent of tree-top cover and a whole lot more. No, Google making data visible isn’t exactly new, but this application might be the first to have a lasting impact on the environment.

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