September 26 is International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, a day designated by the United Nations to draw attention to one of its oldest goals: achieving global nuclear disarmament.
Nuclear weapons make us less, not more, safe. Since their existence, they have posed one of the gravest threats to public health and human survival. According to UN estimates, 14,500 nuclear weapons remain. That’s enough to completely destroy the Earth.
Very few people want a nuclear war to actually occur. We all have a vested interest in preventing one. No nation on Earth would be adequately prepared to address the mass health emergency and humanitarian crisis that would result.
We have come very close to nuclear war in the past. On September 26, 1983, Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov made a split-second decision. He deemed an apparent missile attack from the United States to be an error, refusing to trigger a counterattack and thus averting a potential nuclear war. If Petrov hadn’t made that personal judgment, we might not even be here to advocate for a world free of nuclear weapons.
While it’s difficult to predict for certain what a nuclear war would mean for each nation, scientific and medical studies paint a grim picture. National Geographic recently analysed the impact of a long-lasting wildfire cloud in 2017 to get a sense of what the smoke and soot from a nuclear war might look like. The results confirmed the physics involved in a global nuclear winter. According to analysts, nuclear winter could mean noontime darkness, plummeting global temperatures and the end of life on the planet.
Right now, the risk of nuclear war is the greatest it has been since the height of the Cold War. And once again, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock is set at just two minutes to midnight, the closest it’s ever been to a nuclear apocalypse.
There is now a new nuclear arms race, with US President Trump announcing his intention to “out-innovate” other nuclear-armed nations and withdrawing from critical international arms control treaties.
On August 2, the United States officially withdrew from the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between Russia and the United States, which prohibited an entire class of nuclear missiles while providing procedures to ensure compliance and verify arms reduction. It led to the elimination of more than 2,600 intermediate-range missiles, bringing tangible progress in stabilisation and disarmament efforts between the two countries.
The United States has also withdrawn from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aka the Iran Deal, another crucial international arms control agreement. The New START Treaty, a strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia that provides crucially important verification protocols, is also under threat of US withdrawal.
But there has also been critical progress to address the nuclear weapons threat. The historic UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, known as the nuclear ban treaty, was approved by 122 nations in 2017. To date, 70 nations have signed the treaty, and 26 have ratified it. It will enter into force once 50 nations have ratified it.
September 26 is International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Let’s make this the year when we finally resolve to abolish nuclear weapons for good. – Tribune News Service
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