Meet Alan Gibbs, builder of amphibious HumVees and “climate science” coalitions

In my first post on the ongoing McLean et al (2009) kerfuffle, I discussed the role of the various lobby groups in promoting and exaggerating the findings of this abysmal paper. Chief among these, of course, are the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition (New Zealand CSC) and its “big brother”, the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC).

Today I’ll focus on various connections between the New Zealand CSC, the ICSC, and ACT New Zealand, a staunchly libertarian and anti-science political party with five seats in the New Zealand legislature.

And it turns out those links lead straight back to none other than Alan Gibbs, one of New Zealand’s wealthiest and most famous businessmen. All of this, of course, raises fundamental questions and concerns about the sources of Coalition funding.

Of course, there are myriad links between the two CSCs:

And that’s where today’s story really starts: with the May 2006 founding of the New Zealand CSC, the first of the “climate science coalition” brand. (There are now no fewer than four of these coalitions, including the brand new Climate Science Coalition of America, under the chairmanship of Roy Spencer, of which more another time).

In a brilliant and sardonic piece, Scoop columnist Kevin List described the advent of the New Zealand group:

This week saw the birth of an entirely new lobby group aimed at easing the public’s fears about a climate change apocalypse.

The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition is a group of scientists who have nobly taken it upon themselves to make certain SUV drivers, coal-fired power station owners and dairy farmers feel good about potentially frying the earth.

List went on to point out an interesting connection between New Zealand CSC founder Owen McShane and the famous industrialist Alan Gibbs:

When not assisting right-thinking scientists to engage in climate change denying discourse, Mr McShane is also the director of the Centre for Resource Management Studies(CRMS), a small think tank aimed primarily at making the Resource Management Act more ‘business friendly’.

The chairperson of the CRMS and one of two trustees is a Mr Alan Gibbs. Scoop asked Mr McShane if that was the same kiwi entrepreneur Alan Gibbs that was recently famous for inventing the Aquada – a car that runs on both land and water. Mr McShane confirmed to Scoop that it was indeed the very same Alan Gibbs.

Of course, an amphibious car manufacturer who would like to demonstrate complete and utter contempt for the AGW scientific consensus, could do a lot better than that. And Alan Gibbs did not disappoint:

Interestingly it turns out that Mr Gibbs is not only the man behind the Aquada but has set his sights on creating something with a little more grunt, namely the Humdinga. According to promotional material the Humdiga is an SUV/4WD amphibious vehicle powered by a 350 BHP V8 engine, capable of 160 kmh on land and on water.

A Week of It reckons it’s just the sought of vehicle a Climate Science Coalition member would feel happy to own given that even if the climate is changing it’s probably caused by sun spots.

Gibbs is also clearly passionate (not to mention generous), in support of his political beliefs. In 2008, Gibbs donated $200,000 to ACT, and gushed about the party’s great future in an April 2008 press release:

“ACT is the only Party with the guts to do what’s right for New Zealand, and I think it’s fantastic that the Hon Sir Roger Douglas is coming back into active politics,” Mr Gibbs said….

“To those who say ACT can’t do much good under MMP, I say look at what the Progressive Democrats did in Ireland. A small ACT-like Party in a similar political system had a major role in transforming the Irish economy from the ‘poor man’ of Europe to the envy of the world.”

ACT Leader Rodney Hide welcomed the donation….

“Alan Gibb’s donation will help ACT get the message out and do well this election,” Mr Hide said.

Before 2008, ACT New Zealand appeared moribund, and was down to one seat. But what a difference a year (and $200,000) can make. The party won five seats, and even more importantly, was given two ministerial level posts by the new minority National Party government.

A similar beefing up of ACT’s environmental program was also in evidence in 2008. Gone was the namby-pamby conciliatory “Smart Green” rhetoric of 2007 with its talk of “intelligent policies for today’s mounting environmental and conservation issues” and its characterization of climate change as a “justifiable concern”. In its stead was a  much more forthright declaration of “principles”, such as:

Distinguish between real pollutants and carbon dioxide carbon dioxide is a vital and necessary greenhouse gas crucial for plant growth and human survival.

Make decisions based on sound science not on blind belief or ideology which is increasingly divorced from reason.

A commonsense approach to Climate Change would recognise that:

  • There is no point destroying our economy in pursuit of ‘carbon neutrality’ if carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are not driving global warming.
  • Any carbon trading scheme is prone to fraud – and indeed invites fraud

In the run up to the 2008 election, the New Zealand CSC featured three long “news” items. The first and third items are  actually ACT press releases authorized by party agent Nick Kearney and all three items focus on speeches by ACT leader Rodney Hide, espousing ACT’s new hardcore climate skepticism:

Hide’s “Global Warming Hoax” speeches seem  little more than a rehash of talking points from Bob Carter (or was it the other way around):

Here’s Hide (from his September 2008 speech):

All official measures of global temperature show that temperature peaked in 1998 and has been declining since at least 2002, and this is in the face of an almost five percent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since 1998.

And now Carter in a December 2008 piece in the Australian:

Global atmospheric temperature reached a peak in 1998, has not warmed since 1995 and, has been cooling since 2002.

Or if one prefers empty debating points couched as rhetorical questions, here is the same “5 percent” meme, also in the Australian, this time from June 2009:

Is it the case that CO2 increased by 5 percent since 1998 while global temperature cooled during the same period? If so, why did the temperature not increase, and how can human emissions be to blame for dangerous levels of warming?

Hind, of course, then gets to the real point – attacking what anti-AGW Australian and New Zealand politicians call “emission trading schemes”, or the dreaded ETS:

The science doesn’t justify it, the costs are large and there are no benefits.

And Carter, never one to shy away from boldly stating the political implications of his “scientific” findings, was a little more verbose in the first McLean et al press release:

“Our paper confirms what many scientists already know: which is that no scientific justification exists for emissions regulation, and that, irrespective of the severity of the cuts proposed, ETS (emission trading scheme) will exert no measurable effect on future climate.”

I trust that the national pride of New Zealand readers will not be offended that arguments first used against their “ETS”, have now been regurgitated to attack the Australian version.

Recently, Alan Gibbs has remained in the background. And his name does not even appear anywhere on the New Zealand CSC website. But the Gibbs family makes up for that with a double appearance on the ICSC list of personnel. There Gibbs is listed as the first “policy advisor”. And his daughter, neuroscientist Emma Gibbs, is one of three directors on the administrative team.

No doubt, Alan Gibbs has donated the wisdom of his advice pro bono, generous soul that he is. And, surely it would not be impertinent to suggest that one so generous to ACT New Zealand may also have had some NZ dollars to spare in support of the hard work of the phalanx of other Coalition advisors and administrators.  But that’s a question best put to ICSC Executive Director Tom Harris or New Zealand CSC Honourary Secretary Terry Dunleavey. Or else to Alan Gibbs himself.


10 responses to “Meet Alan Gibbs, builder of amphibious HumVees and “climate science” coalitions

  1. Looks like “climatescienceamerica” is just another denialist blog. Same small coterie of *other* denialist blogs… These guys need a new act.

  2. Oh snap.

    I’m book-marking this, I knew ACT was dodgy, but damn.

    Though being a Kiwi, I’d argue that ACT’s performance last election was more due to public disillusionment with the Labour coalition and riding on National’s coat tails.

    [DC: I defer to your obviously superior knowledge of NZ politics.

    But another question does occur to me – has no one in the NZ press looked at these connections before? ]

  3. Not to my knowledge DC, though since I’ve only just started following Hot Topic and a few other kiwi blogs, so not fully in the know on what’s been dug up on ACT/National links to climate change denial groups. And I don’t recall ever hearing about this stuff on the only investigative journalism show Sunday, or the major news-papers unfortunately.

  4. Pingback: The price of a policy — Hot Topic

  5. The discovery of the 7-month lag is useful data that can improve measurement of retrospective trends. The excess claims are of no consequence in the long run.

    [DC: A lag of approximately a half year between ENSO and various temperature indices has been well documented in the scientific literature and is hardly a scientific “discovery”. For example:

    Lag correlations (Fig. 6) suggest that the maximum influence of ENSO on land surface conditions lags the ENSO index in the tropical Pacific by about 6 months.

    (A Dai, KE Trenberth, T Qian – Journal of Hydrometeorology, 2004)]

  6. A pithy comment on McLean et al has been submitted to JGR by a number of big names: details and abstract here.

  7. To say that the political party ACT “won five seats” in the New Zealand parliament may mislead those not familiar with our unfortunate, relatively new, electoral system.
    ACT won one seat – Remuera, a territory ceded to them in effect by the National Party member Richard Worth (who, in the light of his much more recent victimisation in the media, may have been blackmailed into doing so). Winning this one electorate entitled ACT to a fraction of the MPs implied by the votes they’d got in the 2nd (list) votes. Meanwhile, another party which got treble their vote but won zero electorates got no MPs. That’s the version of proportional representation we now have (based on one contrived for Germany soon after W2 by USA academics to prevent any party gaining control).


  8. Pingback: Here Be the Braindead: NZCSC Tries Science by Court, Instead of Actually Doing Science « The Standard

  9. Here are some excerpts from the history of the ICSC as a U.K. corporation (found by searching at UK’s corporate registry, Companies House):

    Status: Dissolved 28/09/2010
    Date of Incorporation: 24/10/2007

  10. Pingback: Tom Harris, Heartland and the 2007 Bali open letter to the U.N. | Deep Climate