Friday, February 21, 2014

Google-backed database steps up fight on deforestation

Terra Daily via AFP: 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,, 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.

The planet lost some 2.3 million square kilometers (900,000 square miles) of forest from 2000 to 2012, according to data by Google and the University of Maryland, despite what some environmentalists call good-faith efforts by nations such as Indonesia.

"The problem to date hasn't been the lack of goodwill, or even the lack of nice forest regulations and laws written down. It has been, among other things, the lack of ability to really know what's going on," said Andrew Steer, chief executive of the World Resources Institute, a leader in creating the database.

"When the president of Indonesia passed good laws on forests, it was very difficult for him to know what was actually going on in real-time," Steer told reporters ahead of Global Forest Watch's launch Thursday in Washington.

The database will allow anyone to look online and verify the boundaries of protected forests, including buyers of palm oil who want to avoid illicit production, Steer said....

Deforestation in Haiti (left) and the Dominican Republic (right). NASA image

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