Google seems to have its hand in virtually everything, from ocean mapping to home energy monitors. Now the search engine giant can add reducing deforestation to its lengthy resume. The company’s philanthropic arm,, recently unveiled new software that can actually track and monitor global deforestation. If the software becomes more widely implemented, it could serve as a useful tool in helping to cut carbon emissions and combat climate change. worked with Greg Asner of the Carnegie Institution for Science and Carlos Souza of Imazon in order to fully develop the program. To evaluate deforestation in a certain area of the world, the software relies on past, present and future models of satellite image data. By processing a decades-worth of images, it is able to extract scientific information on how the size and shape of tree cover has changed over the years. Google hopes that by arming scientists and forest managers with this valuable data, they can better protect the world’s forests.

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And while the software is certainly interesting from a technological standpoint, it may also further one of the programs being hammered out at this week’s UN climate conference in Copenhagen. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries, or REDD, is one of the carbon curbing mechanisms currently being discussed at the conference. Under this program, richer countries would provide financial incentives for poorer nations to protect their forests. By protecting said forests, these nations would help eliminate deforestation, a major contributor of the world’s carbon emissions. Google’s new software provides a simple and cost-effective way to analyze global deforestation, which is one of the first steps necessary for implementing a successful REDD program.

We’re not sure how Google can manage to crank out genius products at such a rapid pace, especially during a recession. But if they continue to help the earth, we say keep ’em coming.

Via The Guardian