While politicians and citizens of the world waste their time debating the merits of global warming and climate change, there is no doubt that the world’s forests are disappearing. One can say that the climate changes all the time and you may have a point, but the suggestion that forests aren’t being destroyed is the acme of lunacy and folly.

Deforestation

The philosophical question that if a tree falls in the woods with no one around, does anyone hear it may be becoming irrelevant, as a new mapping program is showing the rate of the world’s deforestation in near real-time.

Satellite use

Through a combination of satellite data and user-generated reports, Global Forest Watch is hoping to help local governments save protected areas and slow down illegal logging and deforestation.

“More than half a billion people depend on [forests] for their jobs, their food, their clean water,” said Andrew Steer, CEO of World Resources which announced and launched the website on Thursday “More than half of all terrestrial biodiversity lives in forests.”

According to Steer, the world loses around 50 football fields of forests each minute and has been losing that amount for nearly 15 years.

Each month, the website will update at a fairly course resolution using data provided by NASA’s NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra and Aqua satellites. While not terrifically impressive, Global Forest Watch intends to annually update the site with a resolution nearly 100 times that of the monthly update using data from NASA’s Landsat program.

“What is new here is that we are taking an enormous amount of very complex and very confusing information and making it available to everyone, everywhere,”said Nigel Sizer, the director of the WRI Global Forest Initiative.

Google partners in project

Global Forest Initiative has over 40 partners in the project including Google. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s participation means that the forest map is very similar in its functionality to Google Maps.

At first glance, the site shows areas of the world be quickly chopped down despite often being in protected areas. Marahoué National Park in Côte d’Ivoire in Africa, for example, shows up completely pink on the map view.