This week at the Cancun climate talks, Google revealed its newest technological marvel: the Google Earth Engine.
Using trillions of bits of scientific data from NASA’s longest continuing orbiting satellite, the tool provides environmental scientists, independent researchers, and nations with 25 years worth of information to help detect changes, map trends and quantify differences to the earth’s surface.
World leaders are gathered in this week Cancun to discuss a plan of action for dealing with global climate change that will hopefully result in binding agreements from the biggest polluting nations.
According to Yale e360, “Google is already working on applications for tracking deforestation and mapping land use trends, including the creation of the most comprehensive scale map of Mexico’s forest and water resources ever made.”
The project’s engineering manager Rebecca Moore told the Washington Post that Google Earth Engine aims to show “how the earth is changing under a changing climate, and use that information to drive public policy… We’re hoping that it will elevate people’s understanding of the planet.”
Most climate hawks are extremely skeptical that leaders gathered in Cancun will be able to reach an agreement that encourage’s developing nations to stop deforestation while also requiring big time polluters like the U.S. and China to make a drastic reduction in their emissions.
Many believe that before progress can be made, “these efforts need to be validated by tracking data that proves the regions in question face the pressure of deforestation and have been able to resist it” (Washington Post).
By offering 20 million CPU hours free to developing nations and scientific organizations to utilize the platform, Google hopes that the Earth Engine will emerge as a critical tool in the enforcement of land management initiatives such as the UNs REDD program in which wealthier nations pay developing nations to preserve rainforests.
Watch the video below to learn more about how it works!
Image: Screen capture of Mexico percent tree cover map from Google Earth Engine
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