In a recent story, the New York Times reported on the increasing and substantial role that remote sensing and geographic analysis plays in addressing global environmental issues. The article, Mapping the World's Problems, illustrates the importance of satellite imagery for tracking and evaluating environmental degradation where national-level data are nonexistent or not trustworthy.
For example (not in the story), satellite-measured night lighting is used as a proxy measure for economic activity where such data are not collected or where the official records are not reported at a particular scale.
Of interest for industry watchers will be that Google (Google Earth Engine) is featured prominently in the NYT coverage, highlighting projects around data visualization. No mention of other widely used platforms (e.g., Idrisi or ArcGIS) is made. Such coverage, perhaps instigated by Google, does show the growing importance of geospatial technologies in global environmental analysis and as a contested domain for competition between software and service providers.