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Climate Hustle

Rejection of experts spreads from Brexit to climate change with 'Clexit'

Posted on 8 August 2016 by dana1981

Brexit support and climate denial have many similarities. Many Brexit Leave campaign leaders also deny the dangers of human-caused climate change. Older generations were more likely to vote for the UK to leave the EU and are more likely to oppose taking action on climate change; younger generations disagree, and will be forced to live with the consequences of those decisions. On both issues there’s also a dangerous strain of anti-intellectualism, in which campaigners mock experts and dismiss their evidence and conclusions.

With Brexit, the Leave campaign won the vote, and the UK economy is already feeling the consequences. As Graham Readfearn reported, a new group called “Clexit” (Climate Exit) has formed in an effort to similarly withdraw countries from the successful international climate treaty forged last year in Paris. As the group describes itself:

Brexit was Britain’s answer to the growing over-reach of EU bureaucracies. Clexit is our answer to the push for global control through climate hysteria.

Clexit leaders are heavily involved in tobacco and fossil fuel-funded organizations, in what’s become known as “the web of denial.” The group’s president is Christopher Monckton, whose extensive misunderstanding of basic climate science was revealed in a thorough debunking by John Abraham, and whoinsists that President Obama was born in Kenya, among his many controversial and conspiratorial public statements. Its vice president is Marc Morano, who began his career working for Rush Limbaugh and is essentially the real-life version of the character Nick Naylor from the film Thank You for Smoking. Its secretary is Viv Forbes, who has been involved with coal industry for over 40 years and is associated with many fossil fuel-funded groups.

With feedback from the rest of the group’s members, Forbes prepared Clexit’s summary statement, which is full of myths and misinformation about economics, energy, laws, and climate science. It includes this expression of compassionate concern over the plight of low-lying island nations that are being engulfed by rising seas:

Some of the biggest supporters of the Paris accord are small oceanic nations seeking welfare through handouts to save them from baseless predictions of rising sea levels, even though actual changes in sea levels are tiny and not unusual.

The fact is that sea level rise in Tuvalu has been effectively zero since accuratemeasurements commenced in 1993, on tide gauges set up by the Australiangovernment

This purported fact is actually a fictionthe tide gauge data show the rate of sea level rise in Tuvalu since 1993 is 4.3 mm per year, which is faster than the global average of 3.4 mm per year. And Tuvalu is only one among the many small island nations facing the loss of their homelands at the hands of global warming-caused sea level rise.

However, when it comes to energy use, Clexit’s compassion for developing countries becomes even clearer yet:

For developing countries, the Paris Treaty would deny them the benefits of reliable low-cost hydrocarbon energy, compelling them to rely on biomass heating and costly weather-dependent and unreliable power supplies, thus prolonging and increasing their dependency on international handouts. They will soon resent being told to remain forever in an energy-deprived wind/solar/wood/bicycle economy.

The problem with energy from burning fossil fuels is that it’s only “low-cost” if we ignore the tremendous costs of the damages its carbon pollution causes via climate change. Poorer countries are particularly vulnerable to those costs, both because they lack the wealth and resources to adapt to them, and because they tend to be located in already-hot geographic regions near the equator. 

There’s a reason why 95% of expert economists agree that we should cut carbon pollution. Of course, the Clexiters deny that carbon dioxide is a pollutant:

Carbon dioxide is NOT a dangerous pollutant – it is a natural, non-toxic and beneficial gas which feeds all life on earth.

However, this was long ago decided in the courts. In 2007, the US Supreme Court ruled that the State of Massachusetts had legal standing to sue the EPA for its refusal to regulate greenhouse gases, specifically because Massachusetts showed that it was being harmed by global warming via sea level rise encroaching on its shores. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide is a pollutant.

In response to the Supreme Court decision, the EPA issued an endangerment finding concluding that, based on the available scientific evidence, carbon dioxide endangers public health and welfare, and must therefore be regulated as a pollutant.

The Clexiters deny that vast body of scientific evidence.

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Comments

Comments 1 to 26:

  1. This is an unfortunate and mistaken post. There are plenty of big business and climate sceptics on the remain side; not everyone who voted leave is a climate change denying  racist nationalist. In fact I would argue that a leave vote which dealt a blow to the neoliberal project is a better friend for climate campaigners than a remain vote which looked to corporations and big business interests in Europe.

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  2. Owen:

    I suggest that you follow the link in the second paragraph ("Graham Readfearn reported..."), which has more details about the specific group that has given themselves the monicker "Clexit". Dana's article doesn't say "everyone" fits the description - it only targets a specific group of self-identified individuals. That particular group clearly has the characteristics that dana has described, and they are firmly in the climate denial camp.

    It is your comment that is unfortunate and mistaken.

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  3. owenmccormack @1

    The article is not mistaken. It never claimed that all climate sceptics or businesses are part of Brexit, simply that there appear to be a disproportionate number of climate sceptics in Brexit. The article also didn't claim all sceptics associate with Clexit, just that some well known ones do.

    Brexit is a complex combination of people often with competing agendas and beliefs. I agree the Brexit supporters do have some very valid concerns about the excesses of neoliberalism, but  some of their concerns are also mistaken. Its a very complex situation.

    The climate sceptics have attached themselves to Brexit as Brexit has taken a critical  stand against EU regulation and EU Parliament, and climate sceptics are sceptical of government regulation. However personally I dont think the things like pedantic rules about food safety mean the EU Parliament is a wrong idea. Regulation is about striking a balance which is always hard, but civilised countries still need regulation.

    Where Brexit has a point is concerns that blue collar workers are being left behind, and immigration has become problematic in some respects. But its an open question as to whether an independent Britain does any better solving these issues.

    But we have this  Clexit group of people and their climate scepticism. This is the main issue.

    Freedom of speeech may give them the right to their inane beliefs, but it becomes more serious when they tell lies about sea level rise in the Pacific Islands. These sorts of statements create confusion and doubt with the public.

    The media have not done a good enough job scrutinising climate denialists especially characters like Moncton, and consistently fail to ask the hard questions. (apart from this website). Politicians are no better, and have been entirely weak and have let an appalling standard of public debate that is full of missinformation gain traction, presumably due to their own lack of intellectual integrity, and pathetic fear of various lobby groups.

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  4. owen is correct. A site like this should not start geting involved in comparisons with Brexit.

    It is worth noting that the UK has shut down all of its coal mines and is shutting down its coal-fired power stations all in the name of climate change whilst other nations are still opening new ones. The UK has cut down its emissions by taxing production so manufacturing moves overseas - there has been no reduction in consumption of carbon by the UK.

    This is why many who supported Brexit are fed-up with hearing about climate change. Because those proposing it are advancing their own personal agendas as world-saving politicians, all paid for by UK workers jobs whilst not making a molecule of difference to global emissions.

    Furthermore anyone who listens to or watches the BBC knows that every time it rains or the wind blows some "expert" pops up saying more extreme weather is a result of global warming. Whilst warming is proven and the link to human generated greenhouse gases is the only realistic explanation on the table, "extreme" weather is much more open to debate unless you are in the BBC in which case its a fact only a neanderthal would question.

    Stick to science please.

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  5. I agree with some of the previous comments that this is post is again somehow unfortunate. Mixing experts on the physical aspects of climate change  and "experts" in economics is not very wise since economics is subject to a lot of politics (I suggest this blog on a ongoing debate on the relevance of mainstream economics: https://rwer.wordpress.com/2015/10/11/key-member-of-swedish-academy-of-sciences-calls-for-immediate-suspension-of-the-nobel-prize-for-economics/ )

    Of course many prominent people on the Brexit side are deniers, but so what? This blog risks to turn away support from people who aren´t deniers but believe that the EU is no better place to defende the fight against climate change.

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  6. Regarding the sea level rise portion of the Clexit argument and this articles rebuttal....  

    Doing the math 1993 is 23 years ago.  4.3mm/yr x 23 yr = 98.9 mm of sea level rise, and rounding up, 10 cm.  Clearly not zero, but this articles rebuttal is a rate measured in millimeters per year and fractionally larger than the global average. That does not come across as alarming or a crisis.  10cm/23yr = X cm/100yr --> X=43.5cm sea level rise per century, less than half a meter.  However, combined with "king tide events lead to flooding of low lying areas, which is compounder when sea levels are further raised  by La Nina effects or local storms and waves. In the future, sea level rise may threaten to submerge the nation entirely as it is estimated that a sea level rise of 20-40 centimeters (8-16 inches) in the next 100 years could make Tuvalu uninhabitable." (1)

    The point then is that current sea level rise is already at half of the 20 cm low end of the estimated uninhabitable range. The current rate of sea level rise exceeds the 40 cm high end of that range sometime this century.

    Perhaps helpful in understanding the flooding concern is the geographic description of Tuvalu as an island group of nine coral atolls northeast of Australia and about halfway to Hawaii.  The total land mass is 26 sq km. The elevation  varies from 0m to 5m.  

    The max elevation occurs in two locations according to different sources. One is near the island of Fanafuti International Airport(2). The other is on the southernmost island of Niulakita (1). Most of the islands are much lower than 5m elevation. Six of the nine island have lagoons open to the ocean.  There are no freshwater rivers or lakes and groundwater is not drinkable (potable).  

    Sources:

    (All) CIA The World Factbook Online, Country Tuvalu, Section: Geography, accessed 8/9/2016. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/tv.html

    (1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_Tuvalu, Geography of Tuvalu section and Environment-climate change issues section, accessed 8/9/2016.

    (2) http://www.peakbagger.com/peak.aspx?pid=11846, Funafati High Point, Tuvalu, accessed 8/9/2016.

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  7. Dipper@4

    Actually it is EU legislation that requires coal fired power stations be taken off line and shut down. Even without UK legislation to cut CO2 emissions, EU legislation would still be closing the power stations.

    It's the Large Combustion Plant Directive.
    It was replaced with the Industrial Emission Directive this year.


    It should also be pointed out that UKIPs policy was to increase the use of coal.

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  8. Dipper@4


    Extreme weather and warmer temperatures are effectively the same thing. It's all about how the energy that is slowed down from leaving the Earth by Green House Gases actually manifests itself around us. Extreme weather is a direct consequence of warming (as is drought). We have rain and winds because of warming and the fact that we have plenty of water around us!

    The BBC is broadcasting facts based on quite simple science.

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  9. Paul D @ 8. Please can you point me to the right places to read up more about extreme weather. I'm naturally sceptical but having read up a bit can't see any viable alternatives to anthropogenic greenhouse gases causing observed warming but I'm still not convinced by extreme weather arguments.

    For instance, the poles are warming more than the equatorial regions so if, as I read, the earth's climate is driven by the difference in temperature between the equator and the pole why wouldn't melting at the ice caps reduce extreme weather?

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  10. ... and just to be really picky can you point to the research that confirms that recent floods in Somerset and the Lake District were caused by global warming and were not just part of the range of weather that naturally occurs?

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Perhaps you would like to first point to where the claim is made that such events were caused by global warming? Because warming increases the moisture capacity of air, the science position as laid out in exhaustive detail in the IPCC report, is that such events will become more likely. Except where sealevel rise is clearly a compounding factor, you cannot easily blame any individual event on global warming.

    The IPCC statement is: "It is likely that the number of heavy precipitation events over land has increased in more regions than it has decreased in since the mid-20th century, and there is medium confidence that anthropogenic forcing has contributed to this increase." The papers that form the basis of this conclusion are discussed in chapter 10.6 of AR5, WG1.

    Please do not derail this topic with an offtopic discussion and please state source of assertions so we dont have pointless discussion of strawman arguments.

  11. Dipper @4,

    1)  The OP made a comparison between Brexit and Clexit because that was a deliberate comparison made by the AGW deniers who have formed the "Clexit" movement, as seen in this press release.  The same AGW deniers, along with others, have welcomed Brexit itself as making action to oppose AGW more difficult.  Given that, it is very appropriate for this site to comment on that relationship.  When you do, some disturbing similarities are to be found, as noted in the first paragraph.  Those similarities commented on are in several instances, limited to some of the leaders of the Brexit campaign.  Presumably they are also found in a large number of people who voted "yes" to Brexit, but there is no implication from the OP that they are found in all, or even the majority of "yes" voters.  The relevance of the comparisons with some of the Brexit leaders is well documented in the OP, and so there is no reason to take exception to it.

    2)  Contrary to your assertion, the UK's consumption based emissions have declined relative to 1990 levels, and as of 2013 were at the fouth lowest level since 1990.  There decline has been nowhere near as sharp as the production based emissions, and until seven years ago, where in fact increasing, but that does not alter the fact that they have declined contrary to your claim:

    3)  While I have sympathy for the "British worker", the British worker has historically been a protected species.  In particular, during the period of the British Empire, the weaving of cotton clothe in India was prohibited by law, thereby forcing the cotton grown in India to be processed at greater expense in British factories.  The increase in employment for British workers that resulted came at a direct expense to Indian workers who were thereby impoverished.

    People who campaign against action on AGW out of similar concerns for "workers" are trying for a similar bargain.  In particular they are attempting to preserve an advantageous per capita emissions advantage for Western nations at the expense of workers in India and China and third world nations in general.

    If that were not the case, they would note that the same trade that is sustaining British consumption based emissions is rapidly driving down consumption based emissions in India and, especially China:

    That means the total global emissions change would be negative were it not for the strong growth in consumption world wide, including in the UK.  Economically, the UK as a whole is not being harmed by the change in emissions, and any disproportionate effects within the UK for a given social group are due to policital decisions within the UK and will not be harmed by tackling AGW (nor helped by Brexit).

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  12. Dipper @10, the study in question was in Nature Climate Change.  The study found that the probability of once in a century flooding such as happened in Somerset, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall in 2014 had increased by 43% as a result of global warming.  Some reporters (but not the scientists) misreported that as AGW causing the floods.  The study found that due to the heightened risk from AGW, probably the peak river flows in 2014 were 21% higher then they would have been absent global warming, with a thousand houses at risk that would not have been.  Both values come with high uncertainties.

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  13. To nitpick: "This purported fact [of zero rise]... is actually a fiction: the tide gauge data show [a rise]..."  Fictions can usefully entertain, broaden, teach or moralize more directly than nonfictions, so we've been telling them since caveman days.  But a lie has a sole purpose, to mislead.  It should be acceptable, especially this late in the game, to call Clexit's claim what it really is.  To do less out of courtesy may further confuse already confused readers brainwashed on fossil-fueled misinformation.

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  14. thanks all for the references and data.

    I strongly suggest that scientists on this site do not equate themselves with economists, which is the implication of the original headline. There is a long history of economists proven to have been on the wrong side of the argument and it is a very bad idea for scientists to claim common cause with them.

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  15. The Clexit group expression of concern for the suffering of poorer people if fossil fuel burning is targetted for rapid reduction is misleading.

    A fundamental concept of Kyoto was that the already wealthy and fortunate are to terminate their pursuit of benefit from burning fossil fuels first and fastest, and assist the less fortunate to rapidly transition to a sustainable better circumstance.

    If it makes sense for the poorest to temporarily benefit from burning fossil fuels as a stage of their development transition then that burning should obviously provide no benefit for anyone already more fortunate. However, in many cases it makes no sense to have burning of fossil fuels be a step in the advancement of circumstances of the least fortunate to a lasting better future.

    The ultimate criticism of the Clexit group is that their desires are not justified in light of the developed best understanding of what is going on and the changes required to advance humanity to a lasting improved future for all. They are clearly trying to appeal to people who are willing to be easily impressed into a belief the is not justified, people who resist understanding that the advancement of humanity to a lasting better future for all is the definition of the Common Good that is the only way to evaluate the legitimacy or acceptability of a desire.

    Clearly, any socio political economic system that encourages people to allow their personal desires to trump the understood requirement to focus on limiting their actions to things that will advance humanity to a lasting better is a barrier to the advancement of humanity. And demands that people participating in efforts to advance the understanding of what is going on should 'stick to the science' can also be understood to be part of the problem.

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  16. "On both issues there’s also a dangerous strain of anti-intellectualism, in which campaigners mock experts and dismiss their evidence and conclusions."

    Do you have some evidence to put forward that economics forecasts have some accuracy?

    "The Signal and the Noise" by Nate Silver (2012) summarizes forecasting accuracy. It's a book, not a peer-reviewed article, but I recommend reading it. Here is p.181-182:

    "In figure 6-4, I've plotted the forecasts of GDP growth from the Survey of Professional Forecasters for the 18 years between 1993 and 2010. The bars in the chart represent the 90 percent prediction intervals as stated by the economists.

    ..If the economists' forecasts were as accurate as they claimed, we'd expect the actual value for GDP to fall within their prediction interval nine times out of ten, or all but about twice in eighteen years.

    In fact the actual value for GDP fell outside the economists' prediction interval six times in eighteen years, or fully one-third of the time. Another study, which ran these numbers back to the beginnings of the Survey of Professional Forecasters in 1968, found even worse results: the actual figure for GDP fell outside the prediction interval almost half the time. There is almost no chance that the economists have simply been unlucky; they fundamentally overstate the reliability of their predictions."

    I haven't kept my old copies of The Economist that I subscribed to from 1992 to 2007 but from time to time they also covered the woeful inaccuracy of economics' forecasters.

    Well, I ask the article writer to justify their confidence in economics forecasts with actual data on the accuracy of economists forecasts vs what transpired.

    Otherwise, mocking "experts" in economics forecasting seems like a very defensible intellectual activity. Accepting "experts" in economics forecasting seems like hopeless gullibility. I was originally drawn to this blog by its title. Skeptical means questioning. 

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  17. stevecarsonr@16

    I have a BSc in Engineering and an MBA. Both were obtained in the 1980s. Since then as a Professional Engineer in Canada I have been pursuing the best understanding of things with the objective of ensuring that the desired actions of a pursuer personal benefit are restricted to acceptable activity.

    I whole heartedly agree with you that economists can be wrong because many of them fail to acknowledge that success can be obtained by people who are willing to dismiss or ignore better understanding that is contrary to their personal desires.

    However, a leader of the Brexit side famously declared in an interview the people are fed up with experts. He did not get specific. It was a piece of propaganda hoped to appeal to people who preferred not to have to understand information that would be contrary to their preferred beliefs. An example would be expert opinion that Britain would not actually save the amount boldly declared on the side of the Leave campaign bus.

    so your request for proof of the accuracy of economist predictions is missing the point.

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  18. One Planet Only Forever

    I agree climate sceptics expressing concern for suffering of poor people is missleading. I would go further and say in my experience many (but not all) climate sceptics couldn't care less about poor people.

    There seems to be a strong anti social welfare and anti income support agenda with many climate sceptics in my experience. Climate scepticism is driven by certain world views, as well as a sense of entitlement as you have noted.

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  19. Regarding experts, economics and Brexit.

    Economics is called the dismal science, because it deals with dismal things. One could also say it has a truly dismal record at forecasting anything. But we cant just totally ignore economists. There are parts of economics that are reasonably soundly proven. It's the best we have.

    Brexit had a lot of lies and scaremongering on both sides of the debate, especially on costs. The truth is likely in the middle. Look at it logically. Britain is leaving a free trade zone so there must be costs in this. But look at what Britain actually exports and the costs should not be large.

    Brexit was an ideological war and a very confused one. The first casualty of war is truth.

    I think Brexit happened because certain problems with the EU and immigration, etc, etc were left unresolved and even ignored, and things boiled over. Im not sure if Brexit was wise but I certainly see why it happened. The  "establishment and governing elite" only has itself to blame for ignoring reasonable concerns by the general population.

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  20. nigelj,

    "One could also say it has a truly dismal record at forecasting anything. But we cant just totally ignore economists. There are parts of economics that are reasonably soundly proven. It's the best we have."

    Yes, there are parts of economics that are reasonably sound. Microeconomics, for example. Macroeconomics, not so much consensus. So what? I don't ignore microeconomics or macroeconomics. I'm fascinated by the subject.

    The actual question is, "Is it anti-intellectual to ignore the forecasts of people who have been just as much wrong as right with their forecasts?"

    I say, no.

    You say, yes, because they are "the best we have". Sounds hopelessly fluffy to me. 

    Back when doctors used leeches to cure people, there was a crowd saying "well, it's the best we have". Applying reason to problems is what I believe in rather than fluffy optimism.

    Critical thinking is why there has been so much progress in science, medicine and economics. Accepting rubbish from inappropriately-titled "experts" because "it's the best we have" is - my unproven hypothesis - one of the ways that has held back much progress. 

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  21. stevecarsonr @20:

    As can be seen below, economic forecasts can be accurate.

    "Looking at Table 3, we can see that in 455 out of 567 observations, the forecasted relative growth differential was the same as the outturn differential. This means that considering the aggregate forecasts, the OECD’s forecasts of the relative growth of G7 countries was correct on over 80% of occasions. The statistic for Table 3 is 207.5 – significantly above the 1% critical value of 10.83 – and indicating that we can reject the null hypothesis that the forecasts and observations are independent. There is therefore a statistically significant link between forecasts of relative growth and the outturn growth differential. This indicates overwhelming evidence that the OECD’s forecast of the relative annual growth of G7 countries over the sample period can be useful to users of these forecasts seeking to understand countries’ relative growth prospects over the horizon we have used."

    (Source)

    This is a particularly relevent study, as it studies the ability of economists to forecast which of two economies will perform better.  That is equivalent to forecasting under which policy an economy will perform better given particular choices in policy.  Based on that, when economists universally predict that the UK economy will perform worse under Brexit, there is a significantly better than chance that it will perform worse under Brexit.  Based on the study above, they have a 1 in 5 chance of being wrong, but that is significantly better than the predictive accuracy of wishfull thinking (the alternative to economic forecasts in this area).

    Personally, I believe the fundamental economic issues for Brexit are sufficiently clear that the forecasts for worse growth with Brexit are more likely to be true than that study indicates.  That is not guarantteed.  The UK may enter a Norway like agreement with Europe werein it retains the same favourable trade arrangements as members of the EU on condition of maintaining compliance with EU regulations, in which case the Brexit impact will be negative in the short term due to uncertainty, but otherwise irrelevant.  Such an agreement, however, is politically unlikely given the reasons for the "yes" vote to Brexit; and that being the case the downside of more expensive exports to and imports from the largest nearby trading block are pretty much a foregone conclusion.  Couple that with the fact that Brexit removes the major reason for London to be the financial capital of Europe and the downside starts looming very large.

    Further, even in the example from Nate Silver you provide, forecast accuracy is significantly better than chance; and that    It is not that the experts are proven worthless, but that they are proven less accurate then they think they are.  In the mean time, the nonexpert predictions in economics do tend to be worthless, and to the extent that they are better than that, it is based on their relative expertise in economics.

    Given this, if all economists think Brexit will be an economic negative for Britain, odds on it will be.  Therefore it should be of concern that the Brexit campaign was not conducted on the basis that there would be an economic cost, but that it would be worth it for "increased sovereignty" (although even that later claim is dubious).  That it was instead conducted in denial of the economic advice and on the basis that "people in this country have had enough of experts" certainly shows the Brexit campaign was based on a rejection of expertise as a guide to policy, just as is the Clexit campaign.

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  22. stevecarsonr @20

    I just meant that we can have some faith in economists in terms of microeconomics and supply demand curves etc.

    I agree we should certainly be very suspicious of any economic "forecasts"and I certainly am, especially gdp growth or wage growth. The record in this area is very poor. Macroeconomics certainly has some grey areas that are not convincingly resolved.

    I'm not an economist but find it pretty interesting. If you are interested in forecasting and macroeconomis in general I suggest the book "Post Capitalism" by Paul Mason. This book clearly suggests capitalism is evolving into a new form of capitalism, but it also goes over economic history and economic cycles, and analyses why predictions often haven't worked. I think the book also touches on climate change in the later chapters and how capitalism relates to this. The book is not promoting communism or anything so dont be put off.

    One of the big problems is that economics is based on a set of assumptions on how people behave as I'm sure you would be aware of. But people simply dont behave rationally. However incorporating human behaviour in economic modelling is hard, but there are some good recent attempts to do this.

    However some of the problem is politicians. Economists are right about some things, but politicians ignore their findings when it suits.

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  23. Tom Curtis @ 21

    There's a lot of sense in what you are saying about economists and Brexit, in general terms. 

    However you make the point economists are predicting that with Brexit Britian will have reduced gdp growth. Even a trained ape should be able to see Brexit will hurt Britain economically in terms of raw gdp performance. Whats concerning is that economists cant really put a reasonably accurate, proven figure on this. They can only really claim it will hurt . Sure I agree with you that what economists say is better than nothing, but it just isn't very good either.

    However commonsense suggests Brexit may not hurt that much. Plenty of other countries are not part of the EU and do well economically, especially in Asia.

    However it appears to me the economists kind of got drowned out in the Brexit debate. It was politicians on both sides of the debate making blatantly outrageous claims about economic aspects of Brexit, and I think they just made it up as they went along, probably ignoring the advice of their own economists! 

    Regarding frustration with "economic experts". The economics community has promoted an ideology of neoliberalism that promotes very free markets, privatisation and deregulation, etc. The economists and politicians told us all that it would lead to higher wages and a trickle down effect. This clearly hasn't happened in places like America and this is proven by hard data discussed in the Economist Journal. I'm not sure about Britain but I suspect maybe it hasn't happened much. People are understandably frustrated and have lost faith in the experts.

    Neoliberalism also promotes very free immigration and we were all told everything would be marvellous. However this has produced at least some downsides, so again can you understand why people loose faith in the experts?

    Free markets are fine in many cases and immigration obviously has value, but I think a borderless world is a fantasy with huge problems. There have to be at least some controls. Brexit was caused by a failure of the ruling establishment to acknowledge this sort of thing.

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  24. nigelj @23, I would not trust your common sense too much on this issue.  First, the countries in Asia that do very well economically are those with low wages which give them an advantage in manufacturing.  Unless Britain is prepared to follow that low wage route the comparison is not apt.  Admitedly Australia is also doing reasonably well at the moment, but that is based on a vast resource base being sold cheaply to Asia.  As Britain does not have that resource base, again the comparison is not relevant.

    Personally, I don't think anybody can exactly predict the economic impact of Brexit, and I doubt serious economists will try.  It will almost certainly be negative, but how negative depends on:

    1)  To what extent some city within the EU supplants London as the financial capital of Europe.  London has been the financial capital in part, at least because it has been a convenient, English speaking location through which the US has channelled its European investments.  With the UK's withdrawal from the EU, it is not clear it can continue to serve that role, and almost certainly not as well.  Further, the ability to speak English is now sufficiently widespread on the continent that the UK provides the US no particular advantage in terms of communication anymore.

    2)  The nature of the final exit agreement.  Those which will preserve close economic ties will also preserve the European regulatory structure (as with Norway).  That will result in little negative impact, but great political cost to a government pursuing it.  The alternative will be terms of trade no better than, for example, Australia or Canada, which will come at a moderate economic cost.

    3)  Can the UK preserve its unity.  It is all very well for May to claim that no new referendum on Scottish independence is required or appropriate, but given the Brexit vote was (if anything positive) a vote for sovereignty, it would be hypocritical to not likewise allow sovereignty to the Scots - something the Scottish nationalists will be keenly aware of.  Refusing a second referendum on Scottish independence is likely to greatly reduce cooperation between the Scotish parliament and the British government.  Allowing it, on the other hand may result is Scexit which again would have a large negative impact on the English economy.

    So, while there may only be a small to moderate negative impact, there is plenty of room for a very large negative impact.

    With regard to economic experts, I think you will find that experts obtaining media exposure are filtered in the sameway as are climate "experts".  They are almost certainly more representative of actual economic expertise, but they are by no means a fair sample.  A large proportion of macroeconomists are not fans of neo-liberalism in any form.  What proportion I could not say, but there is certainly no consensus of macroeconomists in favour of it.

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  25. Tom Curtis @24

    Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong are all high wage asian economies, most  with strong manufacturing bases.

    Will London really lose its financial capital status? I thought this came mainly from strength in insurance etc and Brexit won't change that much.

    It's probably pointless to speculate on what form of Brexit will prevail. However regarding free trade, most of Europes tariffs are on farm products. Britian doesn't export significant agricultural products. Britian exports some manufactures but the EU tariffs on non member countries are not large for manufactured products. Ditto for services.

    Don't get me wrong,  Brexit will hurt financially, but maybe not that much longer term. Britain could join the TPPA as an alternative fta.

    I agree "scexit" is a worry. Theres a further possibility that the entire EU could unravel.

    However Britain does gain some things. They can run a tighter immigration policy, and there are some monetary savings. I have grown sceptical about immigration, although I basically lean liberal. The OECD did a huge study on past  immigration in Europe and concluded it hasn't given any real economic benefits as below:

    www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/10844765/Mass-immigration-not-the-secret-to-economic-growth-says-OECD.html


    I don't know exacly what economists think, and havent seen a poll, but certainly in my country of NZ, the predominant opinion of economists in the media and treasury and reserve bank is in favour of free markets, privatisation etc. It's like a religion.

    However a couple of comments in favour of economists. They do recognise some regulation is required to correct market failures, and the IMF has recently recognised that "neoliberalism" hasn't worked in some respects. To some extent it's politicians that make a mess of economic policy, or get captive to lobby groups wanting regulations removed etc. I half agree with you. It's not a simple issue.

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  26. Tom,

    Thanks for the paper. It doesn't look like it made it through peer-review - well, I can't find it published anywhere. I was looking so I could see the figures referenced (that don't appear in the draft online paper).

    Interesting paper. The question posed is an good one, but more interesting would be the comparison with a naive forecast, i.e. the skill. So, for example, if the UK has outperformed Germany for 5-years in a row, then the sensible naive forecast is to say "UK will outperform Germany this year". When you win, you get a tick. As far as I can see the paper says "yes, win = tick". But like with the naive forecast which says "the weather tomorrow will be the same as today" you don't get a tick for skill unless you beat the naive forecast. That is, you need to have skill.

    My weather forecasting has a brilliant track record, but it has no skill over the naive forecast.

    How good are forecasts at predicting a change? For example, when we look at forecasts of GDP growth, the "forecasts" are great when the economy has been growing at 1-3% each year and the next year the growth is 1-3%. Hurray for the forecast!

    When last year was 2% and next year is -1%, the forecasts (mostly) turn out to be rubbish. Likewise, when last 3 years were -1%, -2%, -3% and next year is +5% the forecasts turn out to be (mostly) rubbish. Not all of them though. A few are always right. Like many people visting the casino, there are always a minority that make money. Just different ones each time.

    How were the forecasts of the UK not joining the Euro vs the countries that did join the Euro? 

    UK was predicted to do worse than the Euro block. How did that one turn out? 

    Some papers predicted very large growth in "intra-Euro" trade based on economic fundamentals. The results were basically - slight improvement vs the past. Compared with forecast, awful.

    I'm happy to learn more here about economics forecasting: i) the comparison with reality; ii) the skill. A few more papers, even ones that are published in peer-reviewed economics journals will be appreciated.

    1. Some examples of predictions of gloom in the midst of hope that were right - economy tracking up, majority of economists said "it's going to be real bad next year" and they were correct.

    2. Some examples of predictions of hope in the midst of gloom that were right - economy in recession, majority of economists said "next year will be great" and they were correct.

    But I'm sure my anti-intellectual bias in not placing faith in economics forecasting will be easy to demonstrate.

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