The carbon revolt

In the face of huge power price rises, resistance to Australia's carbon tax is growing – and triggering unprecedented scientific scepticism.

Corporate leaders ranging from Jeanne Pratt and Gina Rinehart to David Murray are now starting to galvanise the business community's opposition to the carbon tax.

When a government looks silly by making a really badly timed decision like the current carbon tax it can have community ramifications, far beyond the issue.

In the case of carbon the bad decision is causing people to challenge the carbon science, in a way that we have not seen before.

Paradoxically, the federal government is able to slash its climate change staff, and the new Queensland government plus the Victorian government are taking a very different attitude to carbon than their predecessors. Their actions are being given wide public support despite the normal green protests. Former ABC chairman Maurice Newman is a vocal opponent of wind farms.

When John Howard and Kevin Rudd proposed a carbon tax there was real sense to it and the carbon theories were not widely challenged. But the Gillard carbon tax comes when power prices are set to rise about 30 per cent over in the next two years. To lump a carbon tax on top of those rises brings the expected increase to 37 per cent.

The overall power price rise makes it a dangerous tax which will galvanise many people against climate change caused by carbon and make further measures harder to implement – especially as one of the forces causing the price rise is the investment in renewables (Gillard's perfect power storm, March 28).

I must emphasise that I do not have the knowledge to make a judgement about atmospheric climate science, but last week I found myself in the company of one of Australia’s leading academic geologists, Professor Ian Plimer. His argument is simple – climate change has been occurring for thousands of years and geologists study past global warming and cooling to help them discover minerals.

Professor Plimer says that if you go back far enough there were periods when there was greater carbon intensity than now, yet the world was cooler. Plimer believes the study of geology shows that while changes in the atmosphere can affect global climate, it is activity on the sun and the tilt of the earth that have a much greater impact.

Plimer is a professor of mining geology at the University of Adelaide and yet as a scientific academic when he expresses his views in public he often faces green protests. Whether his scientific conclusions are right or wrong he should be free to express them.

Meanwhile, despite the protests, the anti-carbon forces are set to gain great momentum as the cost of power rises.

NB: Plimer may be occupied on non-carbon matters in the next few months. He is on the board of Ivanhoe Australia (Rio chalks up a Mongolian play, April 2). He is also a director of several companies owned by Gina Rinehart.

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