By Robert F. Dodge, MD
“Nuclear weapons present an unacceptable danger to humanity. The only real way to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons is to eliminate nuclear weapons.”¾UN Secretary-General António Guterres
Today is the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Recognizing the growing concerns over the catastrophic humanitarian effects of even a single nuclear weapon and the findings of the “Nuclear Famine” scientific studies, the U.N. General Assembly declared the International Day in 2013 as part of a series of efforts to raise public awareness and to seek deeper engagement on nuclear disarmament matters.
The opening theme of the U.N. this year starting with the International Day of Peace is “Climate Action for Peace.” There is significant hope this year as people around the world are mobilizing and demanding action by their governments on the two interconnected existential threats facing our world, nuclear war and climate change. This past week’s international youth climate actions have drawn attention to their demands for action by world leaders.
The climate crisis also increases the risk of nuclear war. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock, stands at 2 minutes to midnight, where midnight represents nuclear apocalypse, the closest since 1947. This is mainly due to three factors: 1. unstable political leadership in the nuclear states, 2. increased risk of accidental nuclear detonation or cyberterrorism due to the vulnerability of the high and growing reliance on automated systems, and 3. climate change.
Climate change multiplies the potential for conflict over scarce resources such as land, drinking water and food reserves, increasing the pressure to migrate. Political collapse, in turn, leads to extremist leaders gaining control over nuclear weapons, which poses a risk in vulnerable regions around the world where there already is political tension. This is being seen in the war in Syria which many call the first climate war, bringing the U.S. and Russia, the two largest nuclear countries into direct conflict more than any time in history.
As the nuclear nations of the world continue to threaten our future, they are losing their leadership voice. They continue with their addiction to fossil fuels and nuclear weapons as a means of maintaining these codependencies. The world’s voice of reason is shifting to the non-nuclear nations who have made the connection between the environment and nuclear war demonstrating a comprehension and determination to rid the world of nuclear weapons through the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This Treaty with 27 nation states ratified as this day begins will see more ratifications today as it moves towards the necessary 50 nations to become international law and enter into force. This effort to abolish nuclear weapons is moving faster than any previous weapon of mass destruction (WMD) ban including biologic, chemical and landmine treaties.
Grassroots efforts are occurring in each of the nuclear nations to push their governments to support the Treaty. In the United States there is a rapidly growing movement called “Back from the Brink” which endorses, as a key component, negotiations among the nuclear nations to abolish their weapons and support the Treaty while simultaneously taking immediate precautionary measures to prevent nuclear war. These include:
- Renounce the option of using nuclear weapons first.
- Ending the sole, unchecked authority of any U.S. president to launch a nuclear attack.
- Taking U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert.
- Cancelling the plan to replace its entire nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons at an estimated cost of $1.7 trillion over the next 30 years.
- Actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear nations to negotiate a verifiable complete abolition of all nuclear weapons.
This movement grows every day. Most recently the Sierra Club has endorsed it identifying nuclear war among the greatest environmental threats we face, joining over 260 groups including 350.org, Indivisible, Union of Concerned Scientists, Federation of American Scientists, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation among a myriad of scientific, peace, and virtually every faith group in the nation. Also, 35 cities, 4 states have joined the Call-in demanding action now. Just this week the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates endorsed the initiative. Individuals are encouraged to endorse as well at www.preventnuclearwar.org.
This year alone, the United States is spending over $61 Billion on nuclear weapons programs. These doomsday expenditures could be spent alternatively to fund the Green New Deal developing sustainable energy technologies and providing jobs for the future.
Ultimately there cannot be peace on the planet without peace with the planet.
Vaclav Havel said, “hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” Inaction is not an option.
Making the connection between the environment, nuclear war, peace and the survival of our world is critical. Supporting, informing and engaging the work of young and old alike will make the difference. Join this effort and demand action now at this critical time.
Ask yourself, “What is my role?”, for each of us does have a role to play in bringing forth a peaceful and sustainable world. It is not necessarily a big role or small role. It is your role.