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Never mind a Brexit recession, Leave voters don't believe in climate change

Leave voters' disregard for the facts extends far beyond the NHS and the economy. 

Last night, lead campaigners from both the Leave and the Remain camps participated in the BBC’s live “Great Debate” on the EU referendum at Wembley Arena.
 
Pounding the table with arguments about unelected Brussels burdening us with regulations, the Leave campaign again did its best to avoid facts. Instead, the appeal was to hard-wired instincts of English exceptionalism  The New York Times refers to this as a campaign “with sharp tones of xenophobia, racism, nativism and Islamophobia.” 
 
How does the Leave campaign get away with this on such a consistent basis?
 
Facts appear not to be a major priority for many Leave voters. That is clear when you look at science. In a ComRes poll of 1,616 prospective voters, Leave supporters were revealed to be much more likely to question science, climate change and evolution.

Vote Leave for climate change denial

Many on the Leave side seem to distrust both the scientific community and British media. Nearly half think scientists and academics have too much influence over British politics. Two in three believe that the media exaggerates the level of scientific consensus on climate change.

This divide is particularly clear when it comes to climate change. One in five Brexit supporters disagree that humans cause climate change. In fact, Leave voters are almost twice as likely as Remain voters to deny manmade climate change. 

And when it comes to a far more well-established scientific theory, evolution, Brexit supporters are even more sceptical. Nearly half of Leave voters agree that those who question evolution “have a point”.
 
This discord does not only pose a challenge for British academics and journalists. Such beliefs also create fertile ground for false claims and emotive statements which are not grounded in reality. And that extends to arbitrary allegations about Europe and immigration.
 
One of the defining moments of the referendum campaign came when Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston loudly quit Leave. She called the claim Brexit would free up £350 million a week for the NHS "simply not true". Yet the Leave campaign continued to plaster the false claim on buses. And with one week to go to the vote, pollsters Ipsos Mori found nearly half of Brits still believed it.

The facts point in one direction

Drawing the line directly from science to the uncomfortable referendum debate we find ourselves in may not be clear cut. 
 
But the case of NHS statistics show the way people choose to judge – or not to judge – facts has everything to do with the referendum debate.
 
After all, there is overwhelming consensus of the damage Britain could do to its economy by leaving the EU. There is evidence from the Bank of England, HM Treasury, the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, PwC, Oxford Economics, the Centre for Economic Performance and others. 
 
The Leave campaign would never have been able to make many of its claims if more voters were prone to fact-checking and less prone to fear-mongering. 
 
It’s also worth asking why climate change isn’t higher on the agenda. This is particularly odd given that immigration has been a main point of discussion. Unless we increase our efforts against climate change significantly, future levels of climate refugees will dwarf what we see in Europe today
 
Serious topics, however, require careful examination of the facts. And these make it clear that remaining in the EU is the best choice for Britain’s future and for the climate.

Assaad W. Razzouk is a Lebanese-British clean energy entrepreneur, investor and commentator. He is Group Chief Executive and Co-Founder of Sindicatum Sustainable Resources.

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The deafening killer - why noise will be the next great pollution scandal

A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. 

Our cities are being poisoned by a toxin that surrounds us day and night. It eats away at our brains, hurts our hearts, clutches at our sleep, and gnaws at the quality of our daily lives.

Hardly a silent killer, it gets short shrift compared to the well-publicised terrors of air pollution and sugars food. It is the dull, thumping, stultifying drum-beat of perpetual noise.

The score that accompanies city life is brutal and constant. It disrupts the everyday: The coffee break ruined by the screech of a line of double decker buses braking at the lights. The lawyer’s conference call broken by drilling as she makes her way to the office. The writer’s struggle to find a quiet corner to pen his latest article.

For city-dwellers, it’s all-consuming and impossible to avoid. Construction, traffic, the whirring of machinery, the neighbour’s stereo. Even at home, the beeps and buzzes made by washing machines, fridges, and phones all serve to distract and unsettle.

But the never-ending noisiness of city life is far more than a problem of aesthetics. A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. Recent studies have linked noise pollution to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart disease, brain development, and even increased risk of dementia.

One research team compared families living on different stories of the same building in Manhattan to isolate the impact of noise on health and education. They found children in lower, noisier floors were worse at reading than their higher-up peers, an effect that was most pronounced for children who had lived in the building for longest.

Those studies have been replicated for the impact of aircraft noise with similar results. Not only does noise cause higher blood pressure and worsens quality of sleep, it also stymies pupils trying to concentrate in class.

As with many forms of pollution, the poorest are typically the hardest hit. The worst-off in any city often live by busy roads in poorly-insulated houses or flats, cheek by jowl with packed-in neighbours.

The US Department of Transport recently mapped road and aircraft noise across the United States. Predictably, the loudest areas overlapped with some of the country’s most deprived. Those included the south side of Atlanta and the lowest-income areas of LA and Seattle.

Yet as noise pollution grows in line with road and air traffic and rising urban density, public policy has turned a blind eye.

Council noise response services, formally a 24-hour defence against neighbourly disputes, have fallen victim to local government cuts. Decisions on airport expansion and road development pay scant regard to their audible impact. Political platforms remain silent on the loudest poison.

This is odd at a time when we have never had more tools at our disposal to deal with the issue. Electric Vehicles are practically noise-less, yet noise rarely features in the arguments for their adoption. Just replacing today’s bus fleet would transform city centres; doing the same for taxis and trucks would amount to a revolution.

Vehicles are just the start. Millions were spent on a programme of “Warm Homes”; what about “Quiet Homes”? How did we value the noise impact in the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, and how do we compensate people now that it’s going ahead?

Construction is a major driver of decibels. Should builders compensate “noise victims” for over-drilling? Or could regulation push equipment manufacturers to find new ways to dampen the sound of their kit?

Of course, none of this addresses the noise pollution we impose on ourselves. The bars and clubs we choose to visit or the music we stick in our ears. Whether pumping dance tracks in spin classes or indie rock in trendy coffee shops, people’s desire to compensate for bad noise out there by playing louder noise in here is hard to control for.

The Clean Air Act of 1956 heralded a new era of city life, one where smog and grime gave way to clear skies and clearer lungs. That fight still goes on today.

But some day, we will turn our attention to our clogged-up airwaves. The decibels will fall. #Twitter will give way to twitter. And every now and again, as we step from our homes into city life, we may just hear the sweetest sound of all. Silence.

Adam Swersky is a councillor in Harrow and is cabinet member for finance. He writes in a personal capacity.