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What do global warming and the law have to do with each other? Quite a lot, it turns out. And the Keystone XL pipeline has brought many of these shared issues to the fore, from the legal logistics of projects that cross the U.S. border to the importance of environmental impact reports to the real-world effects felt by First Nations peoples.

For the New England Law Review, environmental law expert and New England Law Professor Peter Manus writes about the latest Keystone XL decision and what it means for the law—and the planet.

This is a story that begins and ends with global warming.

That global warming is happening and that human activities contribute to it is the overwhelming consensus of the science community, decades-deep in studies and expertise. That is a fact.

I’ve heard and considered the proposition that all the scientists could be wrong—doggedly fixed on conclusions preordained by their funding sources, or maybe seduced by the drama of an end-of-days scenario. I’ve also heard the argument that the best minds of the sixteenth century insisted that the earth sits at the center of the solar system. And then there’s the one about Aristotle asserting that men have more teeth than women. All this I translate as warnings to receive all “scientific truths” with skepticism. Fair enough. But when I see global warming portrayed as nothing more than a sociocultural scrimmage being played out in the media, the audacity awes me—and not in a good way.

Like questions about whether the air we breathe gives us asthma or our drinking water leads to dysentery, I have some serious difficulty with the idea that anthropogenic global warming is nothing more than a political personality test: if you believe, you’re a preachy liberal, and if you don’t you’re a me-first conservative. It seems more appropriate to characterize serious environmental concerns as what they are: apolitical survival matters. Global warming is a survival issue that has been trivialized by politics. We start with that problem.

Read the rest of Professor Manus’s post on the New England Law Review website.