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Nobel Laureates: Reject the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline and "Be on the Right Side of History"

Danielle Droitsch

Posted June 18, 2013

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Recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize are calling for the rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.  A letter from 10 Nobel Peace Prize winners addressed to both the President and Secretary of State Kerry announced by the Nobel Women's Initiative was inspired by the Laureates’ concern for the rapidly expanding Canadian tar sands. As wildfires burn out of control in Colorado adding to record breaking weather across the nation, the Laureates said “as leaders who have spoken out strongly on these issues, we urge you, once again, to be on the right side of history and send a clear message that you are serious about moving beyond dirty oil.” The letter sent today followed an earlier letter sent in 2011 also calling for a rejection of Keystone XL. When the great moral leaders of our time, including Archbishop Tutu, call for a rejection of tar sands in the face of catastrophic climate change, it is time for the U.S. to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, a linchpin enabling the tripling of expansion of this dirty oil. 


Nobel Laureates Letter Advertisement, September 2011

Nobel Laureates including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama sent a previous letter to President Obama in September 2011. A copy of the advertisement in the Washington Post featuring the letter is above.


"Like millions of others, we were buoyed by words in the President’s second inaugural address: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”  Mr. President and Secretary Kerry, this is an opportunity to begin to fulfil that promise. While there is no one policy or action that will avoid dangerous climate change, saying ‘no’ to the Keystone XL pipeline is a critical step in the right direction. Now is the time for unwavering leadership." - Nobel Laureates Letter, 2013

The climate impacts of a world that accommodates tar sands expansion are unimaginable. If industry and the Canadian and Albertan governments had their way we would be on track for (6 degrees Centigrade) of global warming – triple the two degree limit that the President has promised to avoid.

 “The International Energy Agency, among many other respected bodies, has found that in order to prevent catastrophic global warming of over two degrees centigrade we must leave two thirds of fossil fuels in the ground.” – Nobel Laureates Letter, 2013

In addition to the climate pollution, the tar sands are doing irreversible damage to water, air, land, animals and communities in Northern Alberta and along their pipeline routes where the question of a spill is not if, but when.

“Recent tar sands oil spills in Kalamazo, MI and Mayflower AR have served as a harsh reminder that shipping the world’s dirtiest oil will never likely be safe enough for human health and the environment.” – Nobel Laureates Letter, 2013

President Obama and Senator Kerry have both been clear about the urgency and importance of dealing with climate change, and recognizing that as the world’s largest polluter, the U.S. is a critical player in ensuring a safe future for generations to come. The Keystone XL tar sand pipeline debate has illustrated the two pathways we face as a country. One that locks us into decades of dirty fossil fuels taking us down a path of negatively affecting millions of lives and livelihoods. And the other pathway, where we build real energy security based on clean and renewable energy that will protect our economy, our people, and future generations.

The Laureates acknowledged the President was under pressure to approve Keystone XL especially by big oil interests. 

“We also recognize the pressure from forces in your own country.  The Keystone XL pipeline will not benefit or improve the lives of Americans, but nevertheless we understand that the politics of action on climate are not easy.  We believe you are the kind of leaders who can stand up to those interests when necessary, to do what is right for the world and for future generations.” – Nobel Laureates Letter

The decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has emerged as an issue of international interest.  It is about standing up to big oil and rejecting the expansion of some of the dirtiest oil on earth.  President Obama and Secretary Kerry: it is time to say no to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline once and for all.

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Warren ClarkJun 18 2013 02:57 PM

Desmond Tutu's own country produces enough coal to create 750 million metric tonnes of CO2. Compared to 42 million tonnes from the production of bitumen in Canada. And Mr Lama arrived by jet the last time he was here. I'd say that qualifies as hypocracy.

Dana PilleJun 18 2013 07:55 PM

Please sign my petition to tell Congress to pass a law not allowing the piping of Tar Sands Oil.

Mark DonnerJun 18 2013 09:22 PM

The tar sands are an environmental holocaust, the dirtiest source of oil in the world located in an area the size of Florida. Alberta tar sands are a blackened treeless moonscape that can be seen by satellite, in what used to be pristine and old growth boreal forest and wetlands. Spewing lakes of toxic sludge which routinely kills thousands of wildlife, by 2020 they are expected to emit more than 141 million tons of greenhouse gases – more than double that currently produced by all the cars and trucks in Canada. Alberta has the world’s largest dam built to hold the toxic waste and sludge from just one tar sands operation. 350 million cubic metres is the volume of water currently allocated to the tar sands, the equivalent to the water required by a city of two million people. Alberta is now the industrial air pollution capital of Canada, with over one billion kilograms of emissions. Alberta wildlife and fish is being devastated and First Nation communities downstream of tar sands operation have been experiencing unprecedented rates of bile and colon cancer, lupus and other diseases from tar sands. This is what that renegade Harper is extorting and bribing other countries to accept. Environmental renegade doesn’t begin to describe the Harper tyrant, he’s sabotaged climate talks, massively polluted air and water, clearcut Canada, and engaged in horrific bloodbath massacres of wildlife. The pipeline would only make a few corporate billionaires in Canada and the US rich, create a total of 35 permanent jobs, people are being kicked off their properties because of it from Canadian companies using eminent domain on Americans, they can slide by with hundreds of thousands of gallons of unreported “spillage” into American lakes, streams and aquifers and the oil from that pipeline would be shipped off to China after being refined by Texas refineries..aside from the Harper government’s continuing destruction of Canada there is virtually no benefit to the American public from that insane pipeline, only massive harm.

John RobinsonJul 17 2013 05:52 PM

Yasser Arafat, recipient Nobel Peace Prize, give me a break. You can't be serious by printing this nonsense nor should the Nobel Peace Prize winners, devoid of scientific credentials be taken seriously in any venue.

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