UK Legal Professor to Climate Activists: Breaking the Law is OK

Because the COP21 talks in Paris were a flop climate activists should take the law into their own hands and try direct action instead.

So recommends Tara Smith, a lecturer in law at the University of Bangor, Wales, in an article for the Conversation, a website popular with academics.

In a section titled “Playing by the rules isn’t working”, she says:

While necessity is difficult to assert in climate activism trials, the Delta 5 and Greenpeace cases raise a big question: should activists be allowed to take matters into their own hands to prevent global warming and climate change? Given underwhelming results in combating this at the international level to date, arguably they should.

Warming to her revolutionary theme she goes on:

The Paris climate change agreement in December was celebrated as a major achievement in bringing all states together, developed and developing alike, to agree on a common plan to reduce global carbon emissions. However, on closer inspection, it doesn’t seem to be ambitious enough to work as expected. Warming will be limited to 2.7°C, at best, while the agreement isn’t yet legally-binding. Climate change is still likely to have severe effects.

If states are unwilling or unable to sufficiently reduce their carbon emissions in time to make a real difference, shouldn’t people around the world be encouraged to take robust action without fear of being thrown in jail for their efforts to do good?

There is precedent for this, argues Smith, who compares to the situation to disobeying orders in Nazi Germany to transport Jews to concentration camp.

Yes, Tara. Your analogy is tasteful and sensitive and not at all overdone. Bearded, unwashed political activists sabotaging industry in free democracies in order to make a dubious point in assertion of a scientifically bankrupt theory are EXACTLY like the kind of heroes who disobeyed orders to kill Jews in Nazi Germany.

Why on earth did no one think to make this obvious comparison before?

Unless you’re a parent unlikely enough to have a child studying law at Bangor University, probably the most depressing aspect of the article is the accompanying CV.

Dr. Tara Smith joined Bangor Law School from the Law Reform Commission of Ireland. There, she was the principal legal researcher on a project entitled ‘Corporate Offences and Regulatory Enforcement’ which dealt with the legacies of the banking crisis and economic collapse in Ireland in 2008. Prior to that, Dr. Smith was a Policy Advisor with the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, working in the Environment and Climate Change Department of Ireland’s overseas development agency, Irish Aid. Dr. Smith was a member of the Irish Delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations in Doha in 2012 and Warsaw in 2013 as well as a member of the EU Expert Group on Adaptation, developing EU policy on climate change adaptation for the international climate negotiations.

Dr. Smith previously developed and taught on the first undergraduate human rights degree programme in Ireland at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway, and she has previously contributed significant research to the post-conflict and transitional justice work of the International Institute for Higher Studies in Criminal Sciences (ISISC) in Siracusa, Italy. She currently teaches transitional justice, international human rights law, public international law and contract law at Bangor Law School, and is developing new modules on international environmental law and climate change law to run from September 2016. She has previously taught international humanitarian law and legal research methods.

I wonder what the Gaelic for “Would sir like a large fries with that?” is. The world would be so much better off if people like Tara Smith learned it – then used it regularly in the place of employment best suited to their intellectual abilities.

 


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