“Shall we call it
The Beginning of the End or
The End of the Beginning?”
— David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Only nine countries own the entirety of the roughly 14,500 nuclear weapons on Earth. That’s down from a peak of about 70,300 in 1986, according to an estimate by Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris of the Federation of American Scientists.
Two countries account for the rise and fall in the global nuclear stockpile: Russia and the United States. They currently possess 93% of all nuclear weapons, with Russia holding 6,850 and the United States another 6,450.
Joseph Cirincione, the head of the Ploughshares Fund, has said that the risk of nuclear war is increasing because of one factor: President Donald Trump.
“He is the greatest nuclear risk in the world, more than any person, any group or any nation. The policies he is pursuing are making most of our nuclear risks worse, and he is tearing down the global institutions that have reduced and restrained nuclear risks over the last few decades.”
The Nuclear Posture Review is a process to determine what the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security strategy should be. The Trump administration released one in February 2018. It lowers the threshold for dropping a bomb on an enemy. Basically, the U.S. has said that it would launch low-yield nuclear weapons — smaller, less deadly bombs — in response to non-nuclear strikes such as a major cyberattack. That was in contrast with previous U.S. administrations, which said they would respond with a nuclear weapon only in the event of the most egregious threats against the U.S., like the possible use of a biological weapon.
“There would be a bright flash of light,” Brian Toon, a scientist and expert on nuclear disasters on the faculty at the University of Colorado Boulder, has said about when the bomb goes off. “Those exposed to the light, which would stretch for miles, would get burned if their skin were exposed. The light would also easily ignite fires with flammable objects like leaves, twigs, paper, or your clothing,” he added.
According to Toon, the absolute doomsday scenario is a nuclear winter. For that to happen, the U.S. and Russia would have to use about 2,000 nukes each and destroy major cities and targets. Each country would effectively take out the other and likely bring down most of humanity as well.
According to Alan Robock, the roughly 150 million tons of black smoke rising from burning cities and other areas would spread around most of the planet over a period of weeks.
There is only one certain way to stop the future use of nuclear weapons: Get rid of them all. Start with supporting HR 921 and SB 272 to establish the policy of the U.S. to have no first use of nuclear weapons. Thirteen states have resolutions calling for No First Use. Let’s have such a resolution in Colorado!
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.