OSLO, (Reuters) – The Internet could provide an early warning system for environmental damage, imitating an online watchdog that gives alerts about outbreaks of disease, scientists said yesterday.
An automated trawl of blogs, videos, online news and other sources could yield bits of information to fill in a bigger picture of problems such as global warming, pollution, deforestation or over-fishing, they said.
“We’re facing huge environmental challenges … But we don’t have good monitoring systems,” said Victor Galaz of Stockholm University who was lead author of the study with colleagues in Britain, the United States and Sweden. “With the Internet there are pretty good ways to get that information. Nobody has exploited that really,” he told Reuters. Better environmental information could help governments to act.
Online statistics about a surge in fish prices in an Asian port, for instance, might hint at wider problems of over-fishing. Or a blog about an insect pest outbreak in a Nordic forest might fit a pattern tied to global warming.
The study pointed to successes by the Canadian-developed Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN), which trawls news wires and web sites for information about diseases.