Published on November 11th, 2009 | by Guest Contributor1
Was UK Man Fired for Belief in Climate Change?
Tim Nicholson, former Director of Sustainability at UK real estate firm Grainger PLC, is suing his former employer, charging that they discriminated against him because of his belief in climate change. According to reports, the rift between Nicholson and Grainger management began when Rupert Dickenson, chief executive at Grainger, left his Blackberry in the office during a business trip to Ireland. Dickenson had someone fly the Blackberry to him. For Nicholson, this act of indulgence was also representative of the contempt management showed for Nicholson’s role as Director of Sustainability. When his position was made redundant last year, he began legal proceedings against Grainger.
Is believing in man-made climate change the same kind of conviction as believing in religion? Are there moral imperatives from believing in man-made climate change that can be protected by law? These kinds of questions hang like smog over the court battle between Nicholson and Grainger.
British Justice Michael Burton decided in the employment appeals court that:
“A belief in man-made climate change, and the alleged resulting moral imperatives, is capable if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations.”
Those regulations hold that it is “unlawful to discriminate against a person on the grounds of their religious or philosophical beliefs,” which sounds similar to the way religion is treated in U.S. Now the case will go to a full tribunal for a decision on whether Grainger did, in fact, discriminate against Nicholson for his belief in climate change, or if Nicholson was a casualty of tough economic times.
For their part, Grainger says: “A philosophical belief must be one based on a philosophy of life, not a scientific belief, not a political belief or opinion, not a lifestyle choice, not an environmental belief and not an assertion of disputed facts.”
The UK Guardian published commentary from a scientist who argued that belieiving in man-made climate change is not the same as religious belief or philosophical position because climate change is backed by overwhelming scientific fact.
“I do not subscribe to a religious faith, but I do share a concern for the welfare of other human beings, and it is this that motivates me to take action on climate change. How could I continue to live in a way that would increase the already dangerously high levels of CO2? I hope that in practice it will encourage people who share my beliefs to speak up about climate change in their workplace and seek practical measures to cut emissions.”
said Nicholson in a personal statement published by the UK Guardian. In the statement, Nicholson quotes Dr. Seuss’ Lorax as inspiration and talks about a trip from Oxford, England to Oxford, New Zealand that exposed him to many climate change issues.
The implications of and questions around Burton’s ruling will define how the world acts over the coming decades.
What do you think?