"Environmentalists: Wake up! There is a greater and more urgent threat to the climate than even global warming: the threat posed by nuclear weapons." Thus begins a provocative and compelling post by Time.com Ecocentric Blogger Eben Harrell on February 25, 2011 (Why Nukes are the Most Urgent Environmental Threat).
Nuclear weapons, and the phenomenal risks they have always posed to the environment as well as the very survival of humanity, have long been off the radar of the environmental community. Let's face it; they have enough to worry about with major issues like climate change, air and water pollution, ozone depletion, and genetic engineering just to mention a few. The last thing they need on their already loaded plate is NUCLEAR WEAPONS!!!
I think it is safe to say that nuclear weapons ARE an environmental issue, and in fact probably the ultimate one at that. Let's face it, even though global warming and its associated climate change is going to produce some pretty disastrous consequences we CAN (and will have to) deal with them. However, should even a very small percentage of the world's nuclear weapons (think India and Pakistan) detonate all bets are off. We will be helpless to deal with such huge consequences.
If anyone thinks current air pollution problems, ozone depletion, and climate change predictions are bad, just think about the massive (radioactive particulate) air pollution, major ozone depletion and astronomical climate change (think really cold temperatures) that would follow the scenario that scientists have been studying. Scientific studies over the past decade on the effects of limited nuclear war have demonstrated that even a limited nuclear exchange with 100 or less Hiroshima-sized weapons (and that's nothing compared to the size of the warheads in the U.S. and Russian arsenals) would cause unprecedented climate change.
We are talking major cold temperatures, a huge reduction in sunlight reaching the ground, and thanks to the really big hole it would create in the ozone layer most of us would be living in a giant unregulated tanning salon (extreme levels of UV radiation). All this would cause massive agricultural failures and subsequent global famine. Steven Starr has written extensively on this subject. And just one more thing; the survivors would (thanks to all that radioactive fallout) suffer mutations that would produce harmful reproductive effects to subsequent generations.
|Temperature changes due to limited nuclear war (Source: Steven Starr)|
Harrel does an excellent job of discussing probability and statistics, and the fact that no matter how small the probability of such an event is the catastrophic global consequences of nuclear war are so great that it is simply an unacceptable risk!!! And how do we reduce such an unacceptable risk to zero??? Get rid of every nuclear weapon; an astronomical task indeed, but one we have to take on and continue until the job is done.
Harrel's post reminds me that the issue of nuclear weapons affects everyone and everything. They ARE an environmental issue, and in a very real sense they are an even more inconvenient truth than global warming and its associated climate change. If that is the case, perhaps we should all take them more seriously and work together to abolish them.
Click here to learn more about the consequences of nuclear war at Steven Starr's Website.