From The Independent last night…. A series of Questions & Answers has produced a very interesting discussion and led to a huge reader response…
World-renowned physicist Professor Freeman Dyson has been described as a ‘force-of-nature intellect’. He’s also one of the world’s foremost climate change sceptics. In this email exchange, our science editor, Steve Connor, asks the Princeton scholar why he’s one of the few true intellectuals to be so dismissive of the global-warming consensus
From: Steve Connor
To: Freeman Dyson
You are one of the most famous living scientists, credited as a visionary who has reshaped scientific thinking. Some have called you the “heir to Einstein”, yet you are also a “climate sceptic” who questions the consensus on global warming and its link with carbon dioxide emissions. Could we start by finding where we agree? I take it you accept for instance that carbon dioxide is a powerful greenhouse gas that warms the planet (1); that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have risen since direct measurements began several decades ago (2); and that CO2 is almost certainly higher now than for at least the past 800,000 years (3), if you take longer records into account, such as ice-core data.
Would you also accept that CO2 levels have been increasing as a result of burning fossil fuels and that global temperatures have been rising for the past 50 years at least, and possibly for longer (4)? Computer models have shown that the increase in global temperatures can only be explained by the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations (5). Climate scientists say there is no other reasonable explanation for the warming they insist is happening (6), which is why we need to consider doing something about it (7). What part of this do you accept and what do you reject?
From: Freeman Dyson
To: Steve Connor
First of all, please cut out the mention of Einstein. To compare me to Einstein is silly and annoying.
Answers to your questions are: yes (1), yes (2), yes (3), maybe (4), no (5), no (6), no (7).
There are six good reasons for saying no to the last three assertions. First, the computer models are very good at solving the equations of fluid dynamics but very bad at describing the real world. The real world is full of things like clouds and vegetation and soil and dust which the models describe very poorly. Second, we do not know whether the recent changes in climate are on balance doing more harm than good. The strongest warming is in cold places like Greenland. More people die from cold in winter than die from heat in summer. Third, there are many other causes of climate change besides human activities, as we know from studying the past. Fourth, the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is strongly coupled with other carbon reservoirs in the biosphere, vegetation and top-soil, which are as large or larger. It is misleading to consider only the atmosphere and ocean, as the climate models do, and ignore the other reservoirs. Fifth, the biological effects of CO2 in the atmosphere are beneficial, both to food crops and to natural vegetation. The biological effects are better known and probably more important than the climatic effects. Sixth, summing up the other five reasons, the climate of the earth is an immensely complicated system and nobody is close to understanding it.
That will do for the first set of questions. Now it is your turn.
From: Steve Connor
To: Freeman Dyson
So you accept that carbon dioxide is a powerful greenhouse gas that warms the planet, that concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere have been rising since direct measurements began several decades ago, and that CO2 is almost certainly higher now than for at least the past 800,000 years. You think it “maybe” right that CO2 levels have been increasing as a result of fossil fuel burning but you don’t accept that global temperatures have been rising nor that the increase in carbon dioxide has anything to do with that supposed trend. And finally, you have little or no faith in the computer models of the climate.
As a physicist you must be aware of the calculations of estimated increases in global average temperatures due to the positive radiative forcing of the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – the heat “captured” by CO2. The mainstream estimate suggests that doubling CO2 from pre-industrial levels would increase global average temperatures by about 3C. If you accept that CO2 levels have never been higher, but not that global average temperatures have increased, where has the extra trapped heat gone to? Can we deal with this before we go on?
From: Freeman Dyson
To: Steve Connor
No thank-you! The whole point of this discussion is that I am interested in a far wider range of questions, while you are trying to keep us talking about narrow technical questions that I consider unimportant.
You ask me where the extra trapped heat has gone, but I do not agree with the models that say the extra trapped heat exists. I cannot answer your question because I disagree with your assumptions.
From: Steve Connor
To: Freeman Dyson
Sorry you feel that way, I hope we can get back on track. I was only trying to find out where your problem lies with respect to the scientific consensus on global warming. As you know these models are used by large, prestigious science organisations such as NASA, NOAA and the Met Office, which use them to make pretty accurate predictions about the weather every day. The scientists who handle these models point out that they can accurately match up the computer predictions to real climatic trends in the past, and that it is only when they add CO2 influences to the models that they can explain recent global warming. There is a scientific consensus that CO2 emissions are having a discernible influence on the global climate and I was attempting to find out more precisely why you part company from this consensus.
You have written eloquently about the need for heretics in science who question the accepted dogma. There are a number of notable instances in science where heretics have indeed been proven to be right (Alfred Wegener and continental drift) but many more, less notable examples where they have been shown to be wrong and, in time, will be forgotten (remember Peter Duesberg or Andrew Wakefield?). So it was in the light of your heretical stance on climate science that I’d like to know why we should believe a few lone heretics – albeit eminent ones such as yourself – rather than the vast body of scientists who have a plethora of published work to back up their claims? It’s an important question because it’s about who we, the public, should believe on scientific matters and why?
From: Freeman Dyson
To: Steve Connor
When I was in high-school in England in the 1930s, we learned that continents had been drifting according to the evidence collected by Wegener. It was a great mystery to understand how this happened, but not much doubt that it happened. So it came as a surprise to me later to learn that there had been a consensus against Wegener. If there was a consensus, it was among a small group of experts rather than among the broader public. I think that the situation today with global warming is similar. Among my friends, I do not find much of a consensus. Most of us are sceptical and do not pretend to be experts. My impression is that the experts are deluded because they have been studying the details of climate models for 30 years and they come to believe the models are real. After 30 years they lose the ability to think outside the models. And it is normal for experts in a narrow area to think alike and develop a settled dogma. The dogma is sometimes right and sometimes wrong. In astronomy this happens all the time, and it is great fun to see new observations that prove the old dogmas wrong.
Unfortunately things are different in climate science because the arguments have become heavily politicised. To say that the dogmas are wrong has become politically incorrect. As a result, the media generally exaggerate the degree of consensus and also exaggerate the importance of the questions.
I am glad we are now talking about more general issues and not about technical details. I do not pretend to be an expert about the details.
From: Steve Connor
To: Freeman Dyson
Well, I’ll try to keep it general, but it may involve talking specifics. One of my own academic mentors once explained to me that science is really just a very useful intellectual tool for teaching us about the world, just as philosophy teaches us how to think. The trouble for non-scientists is that we have to rely on professional scientists to tell us what they are finding out. But as you say yourself, it is even difficult sometimes for scientists in one field of endeavour to truly get to grips with the details in a different discipline. So, as a layman, I look at the wealth of evidence being presented to me on climate change, and the qualifications and track record of those presenting their results in the peer-reviewed literature, and I make a judgement. Do I believe in the small minority of mavericks, many of whom do not have a published track record, or the vast majority who do? Do I go with the heterodox or the orthodox?
Politicians of course have to do the same but they have to make important decisions, or not as the case may be. And the problem with climate change, as you know, is that if we wait until we are absolutely certain beyond any doubt whatsover that global temperatures are rising dangerously as a result of carbon dioxide emissions, it will be too late to do anything about it because of the in-built inertia of the climate system. Even if we stopped carbon dioxide emissions overnight immediately, temperatures would still be expected to increase for some years to come before they stabilise.
So I guess my question would be, what if you are wrong? What if all the other scientists connected with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UK Met Office, NASA, NOAA, the World Meteorological Organisation, and just about every reputable university and institute doing research on climate science, happen to be right? Isn’t it a bit risky for me and the rest of the general public to dismiss this vast canon of climate science as just “fuss” about global warming when all I’ve got to go on is a minority opinion?
From: Freeman Dyson
To: Steve Connor
I have this unfortunate habit of answering email immediately, which is in the long run not sustainable. So I will answer this one and then remain silent for three days.
Of course I am not expecting you to agree with me. The most I expect is that you might listen to what I am saying. I am saying that all predictions concerning climate are highly uncertain. On the other hand, the remedies proposed by the experts are enormously costly and damaging, especially to China and other developing countries. On a smaller scale, we have seen great harm done to poor people around the world by the conversion of maize from a food crop to an energy crop. This harm resulted directly from the political alliance between American farmers and global-warming politicians. Unfortunately the global warming hysteria, as I see it, is driven by politics more than by science. If it happens that I am wrong and the climate experts are right, it is still true that the remedies are far worse than the disease that they claim to cure.
I wish that The Independent would live up to its name and present a less one-sided view of the issues.
From: Steve Connor
To: Freeman Dyson
Just to return to Alfred Wegener for one moment. Although he wasn’t the first to note that the continents seem to slot together like a jigsaw, such as the west coast of Africa and the east coast of South America, he was a visionary who actually went out to find the geological evidence to support his idea of continental drift. However, as you say, he didn’t have a mechanism for how this “drift” happened. So it is perhaps understandable that many of his peers dismissed his theory in the 1930s. It was only with the discovery of plate tectonics 30 years later that everyone could agree on the true mechanism, which replaced Wegener’s discredited theory of the continents somehow forging their way through the crust of the ocean basins. This doesn’t in any way undermine his heroic contribution to science, and I say heroic in the true sense of the word given that he died in 1930 on his 50th birthday while trekking across Greenland – his body was never recovered and is now presumably encased in ice and moving slowly to the sea.
The point I want to make is that it may well have been right for the scientific “establishment” of the 1930s to be sceptical of Wegener’s theory until more convincing evidence emerged, which it eventually did. The experts, rather than the public, could see the flaws in Wegener’s argument which is why there was a scientific consensus against him. You are saying that the situation today with global warming is similar. However, surely an important difference this time is that it is the scientific consensus that is warning us of the dangers of continuing emissions of carbon dioxide, and that this consensus is saying quite categorically that if we wait until utterly definitive evidence emerges of dangerous climate change it will be too late to do anything about it.
One of the problems I have with the climate “sceptics” is that they keep changing their arguments. First they say that there is no such thing as global warming, thereby dismissing all the many thousands of records of land and sea temperatures over the past century or so. Then they say that carbon dioxide emissions are not causing the Earth to warm up, thereby defying basic physics. If that fails, they say that a bit of extra heat or carbon dioxide might not be that bad – it may be true that more people die from cold than heat, but how many die of drought and famine? And true, carbon dioxide boosts plant growth, but did you see the recent research suggesting a possible link between two atypical droughts in the Amazon in 2005 and 2010, when the rainforest became a net emitter of carbon dioxide, with higher sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic? Plants need water, not just carbon dioxide.
And if all else seems to fail, the final line of argument of the “climate sceptics” is that, “OK, carbon dioxide may have something to do with rising temperatures but what the heck, we can’t do anything about it because the cure is worse than the disease”. It seems to me that although there are still many uncertainties, much of the science of climate change is pretty settled, more so than you will admit to. To continue to report on “both sides” as you suggest is rather like ringing up the Flat Earth Society and asking them to comment on new discoveries in plate tectonics.
From: Freeman Dyson
To: Steve Connor
My three days of silence are over, and I decided I have no wish to continue this discussion. Your last message just repeats the same old party line that we have many good reasons to distrust. You complain that people who are sceptical about the party line do not agree about other things. Why should we agree? The whole point of science is to encourage disagreement and keep an open mind. That is why I blame The Independent for seriously misleading your readers. You give them the party line and discourage them from disagreeing.
With all due respect, I say good-bye and express the hope that you will one day join the sceptics. Scepticism is as important for a good journalist as it is for a good scientist.
Yours sincerely, Freeman Dyson
From: Steve Connor
To: Freeman Dyson
Sorry you feel that way. Thank you anyway.
Freeman Dyson website
More climate change discussions
Developing nations accuse West of intransigence, as corruption is cited as obstacle to progress
Amid growing anger at the lack of political action, several thousand people marched to Parliament in London yesterday to demand that Britain become “zero carbon” by 2030.
Environment ministers from around the world flew in to Mexico yesterday for the final days of the climate-change talks in Cancun, which threatened to fracture over Chinese-led demands for concessions from the West. Campaigners marched in London yesterday to demand action. As a sign of the work still to be done, only 170 words out of 1,300 on two pages of a key text were undisputed on the “shared vision” of what delegates hoped to accomplish.However, a further issue is now being cited as a significant obstacle in the fight against climate change – corruption. The extent of the problem could see any agreements doomed to failure, according to leading global risks analysts. New research to be released this week shows that among the countries most at risk from climate change are also to be found those that are most corrupt – making it difficult to counter the effects of flooding, desertification and deforestation.”Our mapping research shows that the countries which are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are often those that are the most corrupt,” said Professor Alyson Warhurst, chief executive of global risk analysts Maplecroft, which will release its Business Integrity and Corruption Index this Thursday. She warned that endemic corruption “results in money being diverted away from critical infrastructure projects and towards personal gain of individuals”, adding that schemes to combat climate change are at particular risk of being compromised.Generally, bribery is more prevalent in developing economies with weak legal systems and low pay scales, meaning both that there is a greater temptation to engage in corruption and it is easier to do so with impunity. Of the world’s leading emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China, Russia is cited as the most corrupt due to the “systemic nature of corruption in the country and its prevalence throughout all tiers of government”. India is categorised as an “extreme risk” country, while China and Brazil are labelled as being at “high risk” of corruption. Mexico, Saudi Arabia and South Africa are among the other countries that fall into this category. Bangladesh, Nigeria and Pakistan are among those deemed at “extreme risk”.The findings come as the outcome of the Cancun negotiations, which end this Friday, are “in the balance”, according to Todd Stern, head of the US delegation. And the mood among delegates will not have been lifted by the news yesterday that the talks had been dismissed as doomed to failure by the European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy, according to a leaked US embassy cable. The document, recording a discussion last December between Mr Van Rompuy and the US ambassador to Belgium, claimed the EC President said he had “given up” on the negotiations.The chances of any deals being struck this week are remote, with a continuing row over the future of the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012. In essence, representatives of developing countries want it to be extended, while rich countries do not. Existing tensions were exacerbated on Friday by China’s accusation that Western countries were trying to “kill off” the protocol signed 13 years ago, which obliges only developed nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions.Amid growing anger at the lack of political action, several thousand people marched to Parliament in London yesterday to demand that Britain become “zero carbon” by 2030.
From The Independent on Sunday…
As world leaders meet in Mexico, people in poor countries fear little will be done
MY VIEW: We have enough hard visual evidence, we have a very clear picture of the worst case scenario(s). Surely, past is the time for more talk; now it’s onwards to action!…?
Chris Huhne: Cancun needs realism, not blind hope
No one expects a binding deal on climate change in Cancun next month, but we can make real progress – just as we did in the past on key international agreements. The Montreal Protocol on the ozone layer – the only international environmental agreement that every country in the world is party to – is more than 20 years old, and has steadily improved with age. It was described by Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the UN, as the world’s most successful treaty, and it is working. The concentration of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere is decreasing, and there are early signs that the ozone layer is recovering. Over the next fortnight, much airtime will be given to sceptics – not just about climate change, but about the very process of international negotiations. Next time an armchair theorist holds forth on the impossibility of global agreements, remember the lessons of Montreal.
The UK’s position on climate change is ambitious: a legally binding global deal is firmly in our national interest – and in the planet’s interest too. It is our best chance of keeping global temperatures within two degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels, without which we will increasingly face dangerous and extreme weather. Achieving a deal will not be easy. Success will demand careful negotiation, compromise – and time. To properly judge progress, we need to put the negotiations into the historical context of other negotiations that were both complex and dealt with powerful economic interests.In the European Union, when a process is particularly complicated, you must make incremental progress. Countries wishing to join the EU must clear a number of separate hurdles. You have to make solid progress on chapter after chapter, knowing that you are nowhere until everything has been agreed. In their complexity, the climate change negotiations are similar to the trade agreements that have defined modern commerce and shaped the global system of trade. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was agreed in 1949, yet it would take four and a half decades of evolution before the World Trade Organisation and its legally binding disputes procedures were born. Of course, we do not have half a century to get to grips with climate change: the situation is far too urgent for that. But we should not expect an instant-coffee deal – just add water and stir. Rome was not built in a week, or even a year. It takes time to get negotiations right.This time round, in Cancun, our expectations will be different. The search is for a renewed sense of momentum, not the finished product. But we are not starting from scratch. Twenty years ago this week, the UN General Assembly commenced negotiations on what became the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It would be another seven years before the Kyoto Protocol was agreed, and a further eight before it came into force. Establishing a worthy successor to Kyoto – with a legal framework encompassing all – will be the culmination of a process that started just two months after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Like the trade or environmental agreements that preceded them, the UN climate change negotiations are also complex, multilateral and deal with powerful vested interests. They will take a number of years to fully conclude. The key test of the negotiations is whether they are making enough progress each year, not whether they produce the polished, final deal this year or even next. Progress toward a binding global agreement will be painstaking. Yet there are reasons to be confident that it will ultimately be successful. First, concern about economic development and objections from industry are consistently overwrought – and over-reported. From the Clean Air Act of 1956 to the Montreal Protocol of 1987, there have always been voices willing to claim that the cost of action far outweighs the benefits. Yet, in a recent paper for the Institute for Economic Modelling, the Oxford economist David F Hendry argues that “in no case has there been a notable impact on any country’s gross national product from solving these problems”. My own department commissioned a study to examine the risk of a competitive threat to our businesses under an emissions trading scheme. Contrary to popular belief, it found a tougher EU emissions reduction target would have a minimal effect on output. Second, we have to see the flexibility needed today alongside agreements we have already made. The commitment we seek on the measurement, reporting and verification of progress on cutting carbon emissions does not infringe on national sovereignty as much as Article IV of the International Monetary Fund agreement, which provides for detailed annual surveillance of the economies and finances of member states.If we accept that economic success is collective, surely we should also accept that global climate change is a threat to us all? The Montreal Protocol showed that, when credible scientific evidence identifies a common threat, the international community can come together to secure an equitable agreement that restricts pollution and protects a common natural resource. We are realistic about prospects for Cancun. We seek progress, but don’t expect finality. The difficult political conditions and the complexity of the task cannot be underestimated, but the Mexicans who are leading the process have learned lessons from Copenhagen last year. Ministers will have a shorter and more manageable list of decisions to take. From deforestation to long-term climate finance, we can reach our destination in the only way anyone ever did: one step after another. We can regain momentum, and send a clear and vital signal to the world that international environmental agreements are achievable, workable and effective. They just need a little time.
Chris Huhne MP is Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
The article in full: Progress towards an agreement to limit climate change is possible at talks in Mexico this week. But it will be slow
As government ministers from more than 190 countries gather today in the Mexican city of Cancun for the start of talks aimed at minimising the impact of climate change, the need for a deal could scarcely be more pressing. The stakes are high, the expectations are low. There is scant sign of the dramatic cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases needed to stop global warming exceeding 2C and devastating vast areas of the planet.Failure to achieve meaningful progress could seal the fate of hundreds of millions of people living in some of the poorest parts of the world and in greatest danger from rising sea levels, drought and famine.
After recently viewing the dramatic – and very unscientific/’hollywood’ – movie ’2010′, I have to ask: What IF humans continue on present course? Now there is nore talk… but what of national and global action …?
The United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Cancun, Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December 2010, encompasses the sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP) and the sixth Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), as well as the thirty-third sessions of both the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), and the fifteenth session of the AWG-KP and thirteenth session of the AWG-LCA.
To discuss future commitments for industrialized countries under the Kyoto Protocol, the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) established a working group in December 2005 called the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP). In Copenhagen, at its fifth session, the CMP requested the AWG-KP to deliver the results of its work for adoption by CMP 6 in Cancun.
At its thirteenth session in Bali, the Conference of the Parties launched a comprehensive process to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action, now, up to and beyond 2010, in order to reach an agreed outcome and adopt a decision at its fifteenth session in Copenhagen. This process has been conducted under the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA). In Copenhagen, the COP decided to extend the mandate of the AWG-LCA to enable it to continue its work with a view to presenting the outcome to COP 16 for adoption.
In The Independent on Sunday: A decade after the first legal moves to protect them, they are still under attack – and now they could fall victim to spending cuts
They are the living seams that have typified the British countryside for centuries. But now hedgerows are disappearing fast, and a report published tomorrow will say we are not doing enough to protect them.
Although “important” hedgerows are protected by law, the majority can be taken down if a landowner wishes, which has resulted in many being dug up to create larger fields that are easier to harvest. For the past 20 years, the Government has provided financial help to landowners to restore and manage hedgerows. But most have still been left unmanaged, sometimes growing into larger trees offering fewer benefits to wildlife because they are less dense at ground level.
The CPRE study focused on England, but the picture nationwide is similarly grim.
Nigel Adams, vice-chairman of the National Hedgelaying Society, said: “The hedgerow is the unsung hero of our countryside. It’s often overlooked, but visitors to England say it’s what makes it so special. The majority are not used for their original purpose [as an animal barrier], but people recognise their importance in terms of wildlife and history.”
Since 1998, the number of legally protected hedgerows has risen by 18 per cent. Currently, 42 per cent of the UK’s hedgerows are protected, but the CPRE fears that the narrow criteria required to register a stretch of hedge as “important” will mean many more are lost.
To qualify for legal protection, a hedge must be at least 20 metres long, 30 years old and meet strict criteria on heritage and numbers of animals and plants relying on it. Some hedges were easy to register, such as Judith’s Head in Cambridgeshire, which is Britain’s oldest, having stood for more than 900 years. But for non-celebrity hedges, the future is dicey. More than two-thirds of local authorities surveyed by CPRE said that the current Hedgerow Regulations needed to be simplified to make them more effective.
Emma Marrington, author of the report, said: “The length of hedgerows in the country is declining, which is worrying. They’re a part of our heritage, but they also offer huge benefits to wildlife and the environment in general. It’s over a decade since the introduction of the Hedgerows Regulations, and the time is ripe for the Government to make improvements that give local authorities the power they need to better protect the great diversity of England’s hedgerows.”
The CPRE is concerned that hedgerow protection programmes could be at risk when the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) makes spending cuts in the autumn. “The Defra spending cuts could affect the money for schemes like this,” Ms Marrington said. “I can see how hedgerows could be overlooked; they’re taken for granted as being a part of the English countryside, and people don’t realise how much they’re at risk.”
If hedgerows in Britain decline further, so too will those species that depend on them. Jim Jones of the People’s Trust for Endangered Species is running a study of the impact of disappearing hedgerows on dormice, a species whose population has declined by 40 per cent in 20 years. “Dormice have disappeared from seven counties where they existed in the 1800s, at the same time as hedgerows have declined,” he said. “Hedgerow corridors are crucial because they allow them to forage and move around.”
Species in peril: An ecosystem teeming with life
Dormice, harvest mice, hedgehogs, six species of bat, and polecats are all at risk as hedgerows decline. They rely on the covered corridors that allow them to move around.
The copse bindweed and the Plymouth pear are among the plants that flourish in hedgerows.
Fungi and lichens
From the sandy stilt puffball to the weather earthstar fungus, many fungi do particularly well in hedgerows. Lichens such as the orange-fruited elm lichen and the beard lichen are also at risk.
Stag beetles, brown-banded carder bees and large garden bumblebees are among those at risk. More than 20 of Britain’s lowland butterfly species breed in hedgerows, including the brown hairstreak and the white-letter hairstreak butterfly.
Reptiles and amphibians
Hedgerows connecting with ponds are vital for great crested newts to move through the countryside. The common toad, grass snake, slow worm and common lizard are also at risk.
Many woodland birds rely on taller hedges for breeding. The turtle dove, grey partridge, cuckoo, lesser spotted woodpecker, song thrush, red-backed shrike and yellowhammer are all in danger.
Research from the Campaign to Protect Rural England has found that though hedgerows enjoy more protection than ever before, in England their overall length fell by 26,000 kilometres between 1998 and 2007. The study, England’s Hedgerows: Don’t Cut Them Out!, calls for current legislation to be strengthened.
As well as having a nostalgic place in the aesthetics of the countryside, hedgerows are a vital part of the ecosystem. Research by Hedgelink, a network of British hedge conservation groups, shows that without them some 130 species – from the hedgehog and the dormouse to stag beetles and the cuckoo – would be under threat.