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Nobel Peace Prize Laureates urge Obama to make the right choice and reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz

Posted April 16, 2014

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Nobel Laureate Ad Faces and Quote Politico April 2014.jpg

As the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline nears the end of its national interest determination process, ten Nobel Peace Prize laureates are urging President Obama to deny the project, 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, landmine activist Jody Williams and others from around the world.

“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.

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. Others joining this letter include Shirin Ebadi, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman, Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, and Betty Williams

In their letter, the Nobel laureates confirm that as the linchpin to driving massive expansion of extraction of the high carbon tar sands from under Canada’s Boreal forest, Keystone XL would add billions of tons of new carbon pollution to the atmosphere and worsen climate change.

Communities around the world are feeling the impacts of climate change on their health, safety and livelihoods. The most recent climate science community report shows a growing threat to our communications, transportation, security and food systems. As leaders struggle with what the need to fight climate change means in terms of energy decisions at home, the voice of moral leaders such as these Nobel Peace laureates becomes more important than ever. And they are sending a clear message that political leadership is essential to stand up to entrenched fossil fuel interests and to take the kinds of decisions that will put us on the path of a cleaner energy future.

“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.”

The Nobel laureates 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. And their letter comes in addition to letters in the past few weeks from more than 200 business leaders, and more than 100 scientists and economists pressing for rejection of the project, as well as an event in Washington, D.C. where voices from indigenous and landowner communities will call for rejection of Keystone XL.

You can let your voice be heard as well at

The Nobel laureates letter also appeared in a full-page ad in Politico and is reprinted here in full:

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

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james ensslinApr 16 2014 10:52 AM

the safety record shows that this is not good for OUR envirenment

AaronApr 16 2014 01:47 PM

I wondered, did Hillary Clinton go on the record with her opinion on Keystone, when it was under her authority? Why would this even be considered at all for a Democrat? Obviously, it's gonna help Koch bros. and they fund Repubs big-time. I bet Jimmy Carter is incredibly disappointed with the party he served for.

Naomi O'Dell Apr 16 2014 03:25 PM

This shouldn't even still be an option.

Bliss AmaroApr 16 2014 04:43 PM

Please help conserve what nature we have left.

paulApr 16 2014 07:40 PM

There's only one solution ,NO KXL !

Susan OrtonApr 16 2014 10:09 PM

No, No,No Keystone XL

marge postonApr 17 2014 04:42 AM

Let us pray this works!!!

JakeApr 17 2014 06:37 AM

Aaron, you ask why this would be considered by a democrat? A recent ABC poll found that 51% of Democrats and 2 of every 3 Americans support building Keystone XL. A major trade union (can't remember the name) recently put all elected Democrats on notice that they will vote them out of office if they do not support Keystone XL. And also just recently, 11 Democrat US Senators recently wrote Obama urging him to approve the pi

Mary RotterApr 17 2014 01:17 PM

Our beautiful earth and waters have suffered enough!!! Please keep Keystone XL out!! The American people say NO!!

Not & R or DApr 17 2014 01:50 PM

Less than 10% of the United States land has been developed and ranchers & farmers are under attack. Big government needs its power taken away, to stop big business influence!

AaronApr 17 2014 03:30 PM

Who are the 11 "Democrats"? Please don't tell me it's Tammy Baldwin. Maybe I'm in denial, but I can't believe 2 of 3 Americans are that dumb, ABC is often full of crap and very right-leaning

KindlyApr 17 2014 04:16 PM

Al gore big oil, George w. big oil, Harry Reid, Nancy Pilosi. You need to open your eyes they are the same. Just dividing us. Your filled with hate. Our earth should not be political. Open your eyes. It makes you look byist and intolerant.

KindlyApr 17 2014 06:23 PM

I guess nobody here has a lawn mower, boat, motor cycle, weed eater, car and ect. Oh that's right you have electric. Take a closer look at the environment that wind mills and solar has become. Educate yourselves about the other side of the coin. Our nature reserves are uthinizing animals everyday. Ignorence is holding us under the power of the wrong side.

KindlyApr 17 2014 11:32 PM

I am scared when organizations like this control the context of our conversation. Are ranches and farmer our enimies? Look at the raw milk war. Please investigate wind and solar intensions.

KindlyApr 17 2014 11:59 PM

Are you more worried about Tammy Baldwin. Please are the shallow? Is the environment more important or your party? This is sad.

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