By Rebecca Shabad - 04/16/14 07:36 AM EDT
Former President Carter came out against the Keystone XL oil pipeline on Wednesday with a group of Nobel laureates.
“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,” Carter and the others wrote in an open letter to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Carter becomes the first former president who has publicly opposed the construction of the northern leg of the pipeline, which would run 1,179 miles from Canada into the United States.
Former President George W. Bush once called the proposal a “no-brainer," The Washington Post notes.
"You know as well as us the power of precedence that this would set,” states the letter, published in Politico. “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.”
Rejecting Keystone XL “would signal a new course for the world’s largest economy," added the group of Nobel laureates, which includes South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and landmine activist Jody Williams.
Obama is expected to make a decision on Keystone in the coming months, but a deadline has not been set.
The pipeline’s southern leg is already in use, and runs from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. TransCanada built that half and began pumping oil into it earlier this year.