The Guy That Knows Everything About Climate (but not about valid arguments)

In the comments section of the video on the climate emergency there was a reaction from Paul Beckwith in which he said that he would “mercilessly tear apart” the Washington Post article that criticized his claims “in good time”, “limb by limb”:

beckwith comment WaPo

That seemed promising back then. I was curious how he would counter those arguments.

A couple days ago I looked at his site and found two new posts, from which “Ask Paul, He Knows Everything About Climate” seemed to be the post in which he would “tear apart” that Washington Post article. There were two new videos in which that “tearing apart” was done. This post is about the first video: Ask Paul. He Knows Everything About Climate. part 1. Strange title… No idea what the idea behind this is. Apparently it had something to do with a similar quote by a Canadian Minister.

Watching the video, I was appalled by the very poor reasoning of the Guy-That-Know-Everything-About-Climate in this mercilessly-tearing-apart of the article. At first sight, part 2 seems to be even worse.

The main argument of that tearing apart in part 1 was that he contested the notion that the “climate emergency” he declared, was solely because of the behavior of this one jet stream in this one video. I can understand that. In the last week I saw so many posts, tweets and videos from Beckwith that I start to worry for my mental health 😉 and watching them it became quickly clear that he uses words like “unprecedented” and “emergency” very liberally. For a vast array of things beside the jet stream.

While I can understand that his emergency claim is much wider than that jet stream crossing the equator, this also is not the whole story.

He explained at great lengths that he never claimed that the cross-equatorial jet stream was “unprecedented”. He repeated that there is a “question mark” behind “unprecedented”, meaning he was not really sure whether it was unprecedented or not. He emphasized that no less than six times in part 1, so it seemed to be an important argument. It is even how he started the video after introducing himself:

5 days ago I posted this video: “Unprecedented ¡Question Mark! Jet stream Crosses Equator”

With much emphasis on “Question mark”.

While it is true that currently there is a question mark behind “unprecedented”, it wasn’t there when he published the video… It was added only later, as explained in a comment on his blog:

beckwith comment

The claim went viral, so many people saw the blog post and/or the video without the question mark in the title and then it would have read as a statement, not as something not being sure about. In that case, this argument that they should have looked at the question mark would become quite worthless.

Even more, in his tweet linking to the post, the URL was:

paulbeckwith.net/2016/06/29/unprecedented-jet-stream-crosses-equator/

The title was:

Unprecedented, Jet Stream crosses equator

No question mark, confirming the original title. This link and title was also used at for example the Roy Spencer blog in a post that was made on June 29.

The current URL however is:

paulbeckwith.net/2016/06/29/jet-jet-stream-crosses-equator-is-this-unprecedented/

He apparently had some problem editing the URL slug, resulting in having the word “jet” twice in the slug. So he not only changed the title of his post and that of the YouTube video page, but he also changed the URL slug of his post to reflect that he was not sure that this flow was unprecedented.

I have no problem whatsoever with someone changing the title and/or the URL slug to reflect newly acquired information, but using that changed title as an argument to blame his critics not having paid enough attention, is not exactly honest…

My impression is that he is trying to redefine “unprecedented” or “new behavior” in order to deflect the attention from the fact that he didn’t research the issue properly before broadcasting the story and obviously wasn’t aware of the existence of cross-equatorial flows.

Later in the video came the puzzling statement that “there was little data on crossing the equator at the time of the video”. He illustrated that with … a Google search. In which he found that his original video facilitated a discussion of the crossing of the equator by the jet stream… Indeed, the first pages were all a couple days old and other pages on cross-equatorial flow would probably be buried deep under them.

This was an odd statement to me. First, atmospheric scientists seem to agree that this flow was not unusual, so it would probably not that difficult to find a link to it. Second, when I watched the video about the climate emergency, I also did a Google search and found several mentions of the jet stream crossing the equator. Coming to the conclusion back then that this was not the rare thing that it was presented as. I also looked at the Earth nullschool app and also found several crossings of the equator at 250 mbar. Although not as large as the ones in his video, but crossings nevertheless.

The fact that now there are 10-20 pages with results triggered by his own video, doesn’t necessarily mean that there would be no mentions of a cross-equatorial flow when he would have done the search before he made the video. His search showed 1,100,000 hits. I really doubt that all, or even most of those hits were a reaction on his video.

Then at the end of part 1 it became really weird when he began to criticize the five atmospheric scientists. The way he did that was really despicable and he continued doing that in part 2, but that will be for a next post.

Conclusion from part 1: for a Guy That Knows Everything About Climate, he could better have used actual arguments.

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