PNND Co-President’s statement on International Women’s Day for Disarmament, May 24, 2008
The Basel Peace Office highlights the links between climate change and nuclear weapons/security to forge solutions to these two principal threats to human survival. The climate-nuclear nexus manifests itself in a number of ways.
- Climate change-induced weather events can impact on nuclear security and safety
- Nuclear war would create catastrophic climatic and environmental consequences
- Conflicts due to climate change could trigger the use of nuclear weapons
- The funding currently devoted to nuclear weapons is sorely needed to combat climate change
- The nuclear deterrence stand-off prevents the global cooperation required to address climate change
Climate change-induced weather impacts on nuclear security and safety
The nuclear disaster in Fukushima in March 2011 has drawn attention to the possible effects of extreme weather events, environmental degradation and seismic activity on nuclear security and safety.
The wildfires that spread through Russia in the summer of 2010, possibly an effect of climate-change, posed a severe nuclear risk to the country when they were on their way to engulf key nuclear sites. In addition, there was widespread concern that radio-nuclides from land contaminated by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster could rise together with combustion particles, resulting in a new pollution zone.
In the UK, leading geologist Prof. Rob Duck of Dundee University has warned that if climate change continues it may lead to the erosion of Britain’s coast and may even cause tsunamis. This in turn will have critical implications for the safety of Britain’s nuclear power stations, all but one of which lie on the coast.
Climatic and ecological consequences of nuclear war
Recent research has revealed that even a limited regional nuclear exchange would eject so much debris into the atmosphere that it could cool down the planet to temperatures not felt since the ice ages (“nuclear winter”) and significantly disrupt the global climate for years to come. This would have disastrous implications for agriculture, and threaten the food supply for most of the planet. It has been estimated that as a result up to one billion people could die from starvation.
Conflicts due to climate change and the use of nuclear weapons
The UN Security Council and the European Commission have warned that climate change is a threat multiplier which exacerbates existing tensions and instability, and that climate change overburdens states and regions which are already fragile and conflict prone. Nuclear weapons represent a particularly worrying element in this volatile equation. International destabilization resulting from climate change could provoke conflicts, which, in turn, could enhance the chance of a nuclear weapon being used, could create more fertile breeding grounds for terrorism, including the nuclear kind, and could feed the ambitions among some states to acquire nuclear arms.
Nuclear budgets needed to combat climate change
Replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energies requires investments in renewable energy research and development and in infrastructure and financing adjustments to suit renewable energy sources. 20-30% of the US$100 billion global nuclear weapons budget would be sufficient to support such renewable energy investment needs.
Nuclear deterrence stand-off prevents the global cooperation required to address climate change
Global cooperation is vital to the implementation of core measures to address climate change, including the development of universal emmision standards and goals, ensuring the use of appropriate renewable energy technologies, maximising the effectiveness and sharing of research, and ensuring effective grid development and energy 'sharing' to minimize energy wastage. Such global cooperation is difficult, if not impossible, when countries continue to threaten each other with massive retaliation by nuclear weapons - the current core security framework of those countries possessing nuclear weapons and those countries under extended nuclear deterrence doctrines.
For more information see:
- World Future Council: Climate-Nuclear Nexus
- Climate Change, Nuclear Risks and Nuclear Disarmament: From Security Threats to Sustainable Peace, Report by professor Jurgen Scheffran