Curly-headed lightweight, Rowan Dean, appears in the homophobic, transphobic, racist, denialist corner of the Sky News Australia programming matrix. In the instance which made my bullshit detector go off-scale, Dean ran a session called ‘Rowan’s “weather”’, which says much about his inability to distinguish weather from climate. Furthermore, in the Tweet from Sky News Australia, this is also titled Ice Age watch. This is impossible to satirise.
Dean starts off with a short video of some American washing his car in a rainstorm and uses this to segue into the furphy that the term ‘extreme weather events’ has replaced ‘catastophic climate change’ which itself has replaced ‘anthropogenic global warming’ which itself replaced the ‘greenhouse effect’. This clearly demonstrating that Dean is either a liar, or that he is too stupid to realise the difference between these terms. Extreme weather events are just that; extreme storms. Catastrophic climate change is what we are risking if we do not do something about anthropogenic global warming, which has already taken the average temperature of the planet to 1.0°C above the 1851-1900 baseline. At its current rate of increase we will be exceedingly fortunate to keep it below 1.5°C2.The ‘greenhouse effect’ is the effect the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has; sunlight passes through the atmosphere, heats the surface of the earth which reradiates that energy as infrared radiation, and it is this which is absorbed by greenhouse gases, thereby warming the atmosphere, and then the oceans, more than we would like3. For someone to not understand this is astonishing, as numerous explanations can be found by googling it. There are even some designed for children that Dean could probably understand.
Dean then has a go at Tim Flannery, who he said ‘promised’ that the rain that falls isn’t going to fill dams and rivers’. What Flannery actually said was ‘the rain that falls may not be enough to fill our dams and our river systems’4. This is just Dean twisting words to make it a little lie: how your ‘promise’ something that ‘may happen’ is not something Dean explains. Flannery said this in reference to a decrease in the winter rainfall zone in southern Australia4. Indeed, the trend in Annual Total Rainfall over the years 1900-2009 shows significant decreases in most of Tasmania, central and western Victoria, southern South Australia, eastern Queensland, where the decrease has been about 5-10%, while in southwestern Western Australia, it has been as much as 20%. However, the interval around 1900 was fairly dry, and the trend in Annual Total Rainfall over the years 1950-2009 is even more alarming. In the eastern states and eastern South Australia, rainfall has decreased significantly, in places in eastern Victoria, eastern New South Wales and eastern Queensland by as much as 50%, and by as much as 30% in southwestern Western Australia5. This is in part because the middle of last century was a bit wetter than average.
Dean then puts the boot into Al Gore, who he said predicted that the Icecaps would melt by 2014. This is another Dean lie. Al Gore stated that it was possible that a lack of Summer sea ice could happen as early as 2013; this turned out to be not the case, but it may eventually happen, as the famed ‘northwest passage’ (for a shorter trade route from Europe to Asia) became open to ships in the Summer of 2007 without the need of an icebreaker, something that has not been possible since records began. Dean is either lying or is too stupid to realise that the Arctic Sea Ice is not ‘the icecaps’. There are two large icesheets on the planet; they are on Greenland and Antarctica, and both of these are melting fairly rapidly.
Dean then says that there was some sort of pause or hiatus in global warming, and that the UN had admitted this. This is another straight-out lie, and has been shown time and again to be so7. Dean then reiterates the furphy of the change in terminology, before launching into a silly analogy that Elizabethans believed that bad behaviour had caused the Little Ice Age. Then he rambled on about Britain being set for four months of the ‘coldest winter in a decade’, saying that he is not convinced that this is ‘global warming’ seemingly unaware that the latter term is the average over the entire globe. Such events like Britain’s ‘beast from the east’ of early in 2018 are due, not to a normal low-pressure area, but to a disordering of the polar vortex into central Europe9.
Dean states that climate change is a ‘belief’, when it is precisely not that. It is the considered conclusion of thousands of research scientists who have published many thousands of research papers, the knowledge gleaned having been compiled into the reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change10. Clearly Dean is so ignorant he does not know how science operates. Following this, presumably after trawling Youtube, Dean plays a couple of clips of reporters apparently lying about the weather events upon which they were reporting. The irony is probably lost on Dean.
Denialism, like that spouted by Dean is an odd phenomenon, and has had, and still has, many manifestations around evolution, the holocaust, tobacco, the ozone hole, acid rain, vaccines and AIDS, among others. The motivations are several and include religion, bigotry, self interest (economic or political) or defence mechanisms meant to protect the fragile psyche against mentally disturbing facts11,12. Which of these is the motivation that drives Dean is anybody’s guess, as his appearance on Sky News after dark doesn’t preclude any of them.
I don’t watch Sky News because of idiots like Dean (his silly piece was sent to me), but I presume there are one or two real journalists who work for the organisation. I wonder if they ever watch the drivel put out by their after dark colleagues such as Dean? Do they ever feel embarrassed at being the lead in to such ‘after dark’ idiocy? At social events, do they ever just say they are a journalist, without mentioning for whom they work? If so, you have to feel sorry for them because while apparently doing a job they believe in, their reputations are constantly damaged by the likes of Dean.