Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reactions to Court Ruling: Green is a Religion

Green is a Religion: A court ruling sparking hot debate against climate change

Nov. 3, 2009: Justice Michael Burton ruled that those acting on beliefs that climate change is a problem and needs to be morally acted upon are members of a belief system equivalent to other traditional religions. Because being Green was deemed a religion it affords its membership protection against discrimination in the workplace.

The case began when plaintiff Tim Nicholson, was "made redundant" (fired, in layman's terms) by Grainger plc, Britain's leading residential property company. Nicholson believes he was fired because of his beliefs in climate change, which motivates him to passionately reduce his carbon emissions. In their defense Grainger asserts: "That Mr. Nicholson's redundancy was driven solely by the operational needs of the company." Nicholson points out his quarrel with senior staff in regards to green practices and especially brings up one instance where he objected to Grainger boss, Rupert Dickinsons, having his assistant personally deliver his BlackBerry via airplane. Nicholson: "The employment appeal tribunal ruled in my favor that a belief in man-made climate change and the moral imperative to do something about it can be classed as a philosophical belief under British employment regulations. This means that individuals who genuinely hold such a belief can benefit from legal protection against discrimination." Although labeled a victory for anti-discrimination, others believe the ruling to be a step backwards for climate change.

The cons outnumber and outweigh the pros of this outcome, as most of the Guardian blogs report. Public reactions to this case are astonishing. Many condemn the association of climate science with religion as disgusting setback. One such person is Myles Allen, one of the authors of the paramount IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (climate change). Mr. Allen's response to the Green Religion case was scornful for non-scientists labeling his profession as a religion: "The scientific case for human influence on climate is not a political opinion, made stronger simply by lots of people signing up. Nor is it a religious conviction, made stronger, in Mr. Justice Burton's phrase, if it is "genuinely held". It is based on evidence and understanding that has withstood some of the most intense scrutiny in the history of science." Karen McVeigh has another popular concern: "The judgment could open the door for people to take their employers to tribunals over their stance on a range of issues, from animal rights to feminism." Perhaps the most damning effect to climate change is the support the ruling will have for pundits against climate change agreements, Michael White shares this concern: "[The ruling] will have the anti-climate change lobby laughing their socks of. It's just what they contend everyday."

Climate change is clearly no laughing matter. It is certainly not a religion, it's merely a problem that must summon the courage of an entire planet to coordinate and collaborate to do good work. Scientific papers, religious texts, and court rulings don't mean anything if they don't enable meaningful action. So it is written, perhaps it will be done.

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