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Dollar peg, climate scam and rain in June? ‘Silly season’ is upon us

Welcome to the time of year when news outlets serve up their wackiest stories

Rain in Dubai in June? You must be joking! But news outlets know clickbait stories when they see them Dubai Tourism
Rain in Dubai in June? You must be joking! Even unlikely silly season stories can draw attention

Eid Al Adha holidays, temperatures in the Gulf hitting 49 degrees centigrade, and many UAE residents deciding to hit the summer exodus trail earlier than usual.

These are perfect conditions for the media “silly season”, when news organisations, anxious to fill space in an increasing dearth of real news, take the opportunity of their readers’ distraction to spin “news” out of the most dubious of “facts”. There have been some great examples over the past few days.

Take, for example, the revived speculation over the peg to the US dollar which many GCC currencies have kept in place for decades.

This bubbled away again just before the Eid holiday began on the back of a story that gained wide coverage in some of the more conspiracist websites, based on a supposed “fact” that Saudi Arabia had cancelled a “secret” pact with the US to deal only in dollars in the huge global oil market.

This is the kind of story the cryptoverse simply loves. If the greenback’s days are numbered, it must be good news for all the wacky digital currencies crypto-enthusiasts believe are the future.

And I suppose it would be – if there were any truth in the original story at all. But closer inspection shows it to be “silly season” madness.

Saudi Arabia and the US arrived at a deal in 1974, after the chaos in global oil markets caused by the oil crisis the previous year. Essentially it committed the kingdom to use its growing petrodollar reserves to buy US Treasury bonds, in return for security guarantees and defence equipment.

But, according to several eminent historians and experts quoted last week after the dollar peg stories broke, there was no secret pact for the Saudis to price oil in dollars in perpetuity. Saudi media didn’t even bother denying it. End of story.

Wall Street climate change deniers

The second thing that was brought to my attention last week was less “silly season” than a spiky recycling of the old debate about climate change.

A few weeks back the video Climate: The Movie was released on YouTube and was immediately propagated by some dubious right-wing websites and chatrooms as “the truth” about climate change – the great challenge of our time.

I wouldn’t normally watch such stuff, but because of the source who shared it with me (more on this later) I decided to give it a go.

The 80-minute movie states bluntly from the outset that the climate change “crisis” is all a huge scam perpetrated by the global establishment in order to extend its control over every aspect of our daily lives.

A common charge of all internet conspiracists, you may think, but before the movie descends into a nutty populist conclusion, it does actually wheel out an impressive array of real experts – Nobel prize winners, professors of physics and US government specialists – to back up the argument that the Earth is actually pretty cool at the moment, measured by geological records of aeons.

It’s worth a sceptical watch.

Is there now a wider debate among the blue bloods about the basic notion of climate change as a threat to mankind?

But what was more interesting for me – and the reason I spent the viewing time in the first place – was the identity of the person who tipped me off in the first place: a senior analyst at one of the biggest investment banks in the world (who shall remain necessarily nameless here).

We know that many big financial institutions are having second thoughts about some of the sillier dogmas of the ESG investment cult – but is there now a wider debate among the blue bloods about the basic notion of climate change as a threat to mankind?

Breaking news! Summer deluge in Dubai!

Finally, a really silly climate idea: it’s going to rain in Dubai in June.

I know it’s not impossible, and after the deluges of April the authorities have to be on the alert to warn us of any impending threat. And – to be fair – the news sites that recently reported the bizarre idea of rain in June did attribute the fact to official sources.

But statistically it is a very remote possibility. According to the Dubai Meteorological Office, rain falls on only 25 days a year in the UAE, and very, very seldom in June – the historical average for the month is 0.02 inches.

But some news organisations certainly know clickbait when they see it, so a headline that screams “rain forecast for UAE” will certainly pull in the punters, especially after the traumas of earlier this year.

Nonetheless, I kept a careful eye on the sky over the past week, and did actually see a couple of wispy clouds one day. But actual real, wet rain?

Not a chance, as was confirmed by the satellite imagery on my Zoom Earth app – by far the most reliable source of climate information I’ve found.

But if the notion of a rainy day in June drives a few more gullible readers to a website, what’s the harm?

Frank Kane is Editor-at-Large of AGBI and an award-winning business journalist. He acts as a consultant to the Ministry of Energy of Saudi Arabia and is a media adviser to First Abu Dhabi Bank of the UAE

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