IN 1912, Alice, Lady Hillingdon, wrote "When I hear my husband’s steps outside my door, I lie down on my bed, close my eyes, open my legs and think of England."

South African business appears to be taking the same approach in addressing the impending carbon tax.

The arguments for the tax are specious in the extreme. There is a belief that we have voluntarily committed to reduce our emissions by 34% by 2020. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We have made an offer provided international funds and technology are made available to pay for this.

As of today, not one brass farthing has appeared. Meanwhile we are already paying an extra 3.5c/kWh for coal-derived electricity. The electricity price is being further inflated by Eskom paying an average of over R2/kWh for "renewable" energy; its own production costs are 32c/kWh.

The idea that we will make any difference to the global carbon dioxide emissions is risible. Worldwide, they have grown 50% in the past 17 years. The annual growth exceeds our total output. Any reduction we made would be invisible against the background of surging fossil fuel use. A 34% reduction would devastate our economy and give nil benefits.

And has rising carbon dioxide had any measurable effect ? No. Global temperatures have been flat for the past 17 years. The evidence for impending disasters is slender in the extreme. The Arctic has shrunk to levels last seen in the 1920s. Glaciers only 400 years old are shrinking again.

But surely a carbon tax will change our behaviour? It is unlikely to reduce our incomes to the point where we starve and turn cannibal, to be sure. But it is equally unlikely to change any other behaviour. Has the government given us any indication of what it intends to do with the billions it will suck out of our economy? No.

The time’s come to reject any notion of a carbon tax. It will bring no benefits, and will damage the economy.

Prof Philip Lloyd

Energy Institute, Cape Peninsula University of Technology.