fredag den 11. december 2009

Seeing the forest through the cloud

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Today, at the International Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, we demonstrated a new technology prototype that enables online, global-scale observation and measurement of changes in the earth's forests. 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. According to the Stern Review, protecting the world's standing forests is a highly cost-effective way to cut carbon emissions and mitigate climate change. The United Nations has proposed a framework known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) that would provide financial incentives to rainforest nations to protect their forests, in an effort to make forests worth "more alive than dead." Implementing a global REDD system will require that each nation have the ability to accurately monitor and report the state of their forests over time, in a manner that is independently verifiable. However, many of these tropical nations of the world lack the technological resources to do this, so we're working with scientists, governments and non-profits to change this. Here's what we've done with this prototype to help nations monitor their forests:

Start with satellite imagery
Satellite imagery data can provide the foundation for measurement and monitoring of the world's forests. For example, in Google Earth today, you can fly to Rondonia, Brazil and easily observe the advancement of deforestation over time, from 1975 to 2001:

(Landsat images courtesy USGS)

This type of imagery data — past, present and future — is available all over the globe. Even so, while today you can view deforestation in Google Earth, until now there hasn't been a way to measure it. [...]

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