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In Ad and Letter, Nobel Laureates Urge Obama to Deny Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline
“Climate crisis is already a daily struggle for so many”

WASHINGTON (April 16, 2014) – Ten Nobel Peace Prize laureates today are urging President Obama to deny the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, citing the moral imperative of protecting some of the world’s most vulnerable populations from the devastating effects of climate change. The laureates include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter, and landmine activist Jody Williams.

“You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced – climate change,” the Nobel laureates write in a letter sent to Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. “History will reflect on this moment and it will be clear to our children and grandchildren if you made the right choice.... We urge you to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.”

Their letter also appears today in a full-page ad in Politico.

Nobel peace prize winners—including Williams and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa— have previously written to Obama urging him to reject the controversial pipeline. This is the first time Carter, U.S. President from 1977-1981, and 2002 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, has also raised his voice in opposition.

In their letter and ad, the Nobel laureates assert that Keystone XL is the linchpin to driving massive expansion of tar sands oil, some of the dirtiest oil on the planet. That, in turn, would add billions of tons of new carbon pollution to the atmosphere and worsen climate change.

For that reason, rejecting Keystone XL would have a significant and meaningful impact on reducing carbon pollution because tar sands oil won’t necessarily be developed without this pipeline, they write.  It also would send a powerful message to the world.

“As you near a decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, please do not underestimate its importance. A rejection would signal a new course for the world’s largest economy. You know as well as us the power of precedence that this would set,” the letter states. “This leadership by example would usher in a new era where climate change and pollution is given the urgent attention and focus it deserves in a world where the climate crisis is already a daily struggle for so many.”

They note they stand in solidarity with the two million voices who have sent comments to the U.S. State Department in opposition to Keystone XL. In addition, this month more than 200 business owners, and more than 100 scientists and economists, also have sent letters to Obama and Kerry pressing for rejection of the project.

For more information on the letter, see Susan Casey-Lefkowitz’s blog: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/sclefkowitz/nobel_peace_prize_laureates_ur.html

To see the Politico Ad: http://docs.nrdc.org/energy/files/ene_14041501b.pdf

The full text of the Nobel laureates’ letter follows:

April 15, 2014

Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry,

You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced – climate change. As you deliberate the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, you are poised to make a decision that will signal either a dangerous commitment to the status quo, or bold leadership that will inspire millions counting on you to do the right thing for our shared climate. We stand with the 2,000,000 voices who submitted their comments in the national interest determination process rejecting the pipeline and ask you once again to stop Keystone XL.

The tar sands are among the world’s most polluting oil and their growth in Northern Alberta has costs not only for our shared climate, but for the First Nations communities whose air, water, land, and human rights are being devastated by rapid expansion of tar sands production and related infrastructure.  

The rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline would have meaningful and significant impacts in reducing carbon pollution. The myth that tar sands development is inevitable and will find its way to market by rail if not pipeline is a red herring. Oil industry projections are clear that to reach their production goals they would need all current pipeline proposals as well as rail; not either or. Industry experts agree that the Keystone XL project is the linchpin for tar sands expansion and the increased pollution that will follow, triggering more climate upheaval with impacts felt around the world.

This letter marks the third time that many of us have written to you to urge a rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Let this reflect the growing urgency we feel for the hundreds of millions of people globally whose lives and livelihoods are being threatened and lost as a result of the changing climate and environmental damage caused by our dangerous addiction to oil. 

You are among the first generation of leaders that knows better - leaders that have the knowledge, tools, and opportunity to pivot our societies away from fossil fuels and towards smarter, safer and cleaner energy. History will reflect on this moment and it will be clear to our children and grandchildren if you made the right choice.

As we have said in our previous letters, we have found hope in your words and promises to work to ensure a safer climate. We continue to be inspired by the millions of people who have made this an intergenerational movement of climate defenders with a goal of holding you accountable to these words.  As recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, we feel we have a moral obligation to raise our voices in support and solidarity for those across North America and the world that are fighting not only for impacted people and communities today, but for the generations to come that will bear the ultimate consequences of a failure to act. 

As you near a decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, please do not underestimate its importance. While the climate crisis will require increasingly ambitious efforts to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, this moment has the potential to empower a generation that needs affirmation that their leaders are listening and care about their future. A rejection would signal a new course for the world’s largest economy. You know as well as we do the powerful precedent that this would set. This leadership by example would usher in a new era where climate change and pollution is given the urgent attention and focus it deserves in a world where the climate crisis is already a daily struggle for so many.

We thank you again for your attention and we sincerely hope our next communication is to congratulate you on a significant step towards a safer climate.

Yours sincerely,

Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States, Nobel Peace Laureate (2002) — USA

Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate (2003) — Iran

Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate (2011) — Liberia

Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Laureate (2011) — Yemen

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) — Northern Ireland

Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Laureate (1992) — Guatemala

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Laureate (1980) — Argentina

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate (1984) —South Africa

Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) — Northern Ireland

Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1997) — USA


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.


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