In the public policy debates over climate change, critics of strong action to mitigate global warming have often described proponents as “religious zealots”, and vice-versa. Moreover, since the concern over global warming has entered the mainstream consciousness, religious groups have been increasingly drawn to the discussion. Now, in the UK, a recent decision by an employment tribunal has actually equivocated belief in global warming with religious belief, for the purposes of workplace discrimination.
The case centers around Tim Nicholson, whose position as Head of Sustainability at Grainger, plc was terminated over what he claims was “contempt” for his beliefs about anthropogenic global warming. Nicholson alleged that his termination was due to his beliefs – which he argued should be protected from discrimination by the UK’s Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations of 2003.
In its decision this week, the employment tribunal ruled Nicholson would be allowed to bring his discrimination claim because Nicholson’s beliefs in global warming passed the tests formulated for “philosophical belief” for the purposes of the regulations:
From the tribunal’s ruling:
• The belief must be genuinely held.
• It must be a belief and not an opinion or view based on the present state of information available.
• It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life.
• It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.
• It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.
Grainger Plc & Ors v. Nicholson  UKEAT 0219_09_0311 (3 November 2009)
In no way could this ever be taken out of context by anybody on either side of the larger debate…