UK tribunal rules climate change is a "philosophical belief"

Tim Nicholson

Tim Nicholson

A UK employment tribunal has ruled that an employee can take his employer to an unfair dismissal tribunal on the grounds that he was discriminated against because of his views on climate change.

The relevant regulations, the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003 state the following:

3. – (1) For the purposes of these Regulations, a person (“A”) discriminates against another person (“B”) if –

(a) on grounds of religion or belief, A treats B less favourably than he treats or would treat other persons; (source)

“Religion or belief” is defined as “any religion, religious belief, or similar philosophical belief” and it is the last part of this definition that is important here, as the judgment confirms that belief in AGW is a belief system, as opposed to an opinion or viewpoint. The BBC manages to report it without drawing any such conclusions, buried in the darkest corner of their website:

Tim Nicholson, 42, of Oxford, was made redundant in 2008 by Grainger Plc in Didcot, as head of sustainability.

He said his beliefs had contributed to his dismissal and in March a judge ruled he could use employment equality laws to claim it was unfair.

But the firm appealed against this as it believed his views were political.

After the hearing on Monday, Mr Nicholson said he was delighted by the judgement for himself and other people who may feel they are discriminated against because of their views on climate change. (source)

To be honest, I hardly think that those who believe in climate change are the ones who can claim to be discriminated against. After all, they are not called flat earthers or Holocaust deniers every day of the week.

Unfortunately, reading the judgment, it is pretty clear that the judge was looking for a way to allow the appellant to fall within the scope of the Regulations:

30. In my judgment, if a person can establish that he holds a philosophical belief which is based on science, as opposed, for example, to religion, then there is no reason to disqualify it from protection by the Regulations. The Employment Judge drew attention to the existence of empiricist philosophers, no doubt such as Hume and Locke. The best example, as it seems to me, which was canvassed during the course of the hearing, is by reference to the clash of two such philosophies, exemplified in the play Inherit the Wind, i.e. one not simply between those who supported Creationism and those who did not, but between those who positively supported, and wished to teach, only Creationism and those who positively supported, and wished to teach, only Darwinism. Darwinism must plainly be capable of being a philosophical belief, albeit that it may be based entirely on scientific conclusions (not all of which may be uncontroversial). (source – Word document)

But the judge did say one very interesting thing, when setting out the criteria for a philosophical belief (my emphasis):

It must be a belief and not … an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available.

That just about sums up the present state of the climate debate!

%d bloggers like this: