In a monumental ruling, a British jury acquitted six Greenpeace activists of criminal damage charges stemming from what the activists said was an attempt to shut down a coal-fired power plant. The jury decided that the activists’ action was justifiable because the plant, which emits 20,000 tons of CO2 every day, will hold some blame for immense damage caused by global warming in the future.
The ruling goes against years of convictions for similar actions and essentially praised the activists for their help in preventing global warming. To make their case, the defense argued that much of the lower-altitude areas that surround the plant could eventually be submerged in water from the effects of climate change.
The court allowed scientific experts to present the case, including a NASA climate expert, the British Conservative Party’s environmental adviser, and an Inuit leader from Greenland. James Hanson, the NASA representative, told the jury that global warming would cause the extinction of one million species worldwide and that the Kent power plant’s emissions would be responsible for 400 of the extinctions.
Five of the six activists scaled the plant’s 650-foot smokestack in October last year to paint “Gordon” on the exterior wall. Prime Minister Gordon Brown plans to build new coal-fired plants across England, including another in Kent.
“This verdict marks a tipping point for the climate change movement,” said Ben Stewart, one of the Greenpeace activists. “If jurors from the heart of Middle England say it’s legitimate for a direct action group to shut down a coal-fired power station because of the harm it does to our planet, then where does that leave government energy policy?”