Climate/nuclear news – the week to 15 July

GR: Here’s a list of some of the critical global concerns for the week.

Posted by Christina MacPherson.

It’s a toss-up as to which issue is now the most critical – climate change or nuclear war danger. I’m inclined to think – climate change. Some, like Paul Beckwith, Canadian Climate System Scientist, say that abrupt climate change is already with us, and drastic emergency measures are needed. Others are very concerned, pointing out severe problems – e,g today’s news – Asia faces climate change disaster.

On the nuclear scene, the world could be teetering at the brink of nuclear war, with North Korea ramping up its nuclear weapons, and Donald Trump tweeting belligerently.when what is needed is some new strategic foreign policy thinking

Christina MacPherson Climate/nuclear news – the week to 15 July « nuclear-news

After Midnight, Special Edition, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

After Midnight – Today’s Nuclear Threat

Licorne nuclear test – French Polynesia, 1970

GR: We are destroying the world. Gradually by building, introducing invasive-species, removing forests, and polluting (including such accomplishments as ocean acidification and global warming). Our species is slowly erasing all Earth’s ecosystems from the tiniest million lives of a single cell, to the 100 trillion lives within a tiger, to the billion trillion lives of a forest. We’ve passed the “golden years” of old age and begun the long slide into oblivion. Not without moments of joy, a slow death is preferable to abrupt ends by accident or malice. But now the most powerful human on Earth has asked “Somebody hits us within ISIS — you wouldn’t fight back with a nuke?” (Trump to Chris Matthews, MSNBC, March 30, 2016). Today, Eliot’s Hollow Men could end “Not with a whimper but a bang.”

The piece below is from the introduction to a special edition of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists titled After Midnight. Click for more blog posts on the growing nuclear threat.

“Since its founding more than 70 years ago, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has been dedicated to the proposition that nuclear weapons should never again be used. Over the decades since the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the Bulletin has published countless articles arguing in favor of arms control, disarmament, and policy changes like no-first-use and the de-alerting of missiles that make nuclear warfare less likely. These articles have been premised, generally, on the idea that the limited battlefield use of nuclear weapons is a dangerous fantasy, that any use of nuclear weapons threatens to (and likely will) escalate into a worldwide, civilization-ending thermonuclear war. With the end of the Cold War, this taboo against the use of nuclear weapons appeared to strengthen; the prospect of atomic Armageddon seemed passé.

“In the age of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, however, the possible use of nuclear weapons has, horrifyingly, crawled from the dustbin of history. Leaders in the United States and Russia have rattled their nuclear sabers with extraordinary carelessness and stupidity. North Korea continues to test nuclear warheads and the missiles they might be mated to – and to threaten to use them. India and Pakistan periodically flaunt their ability and willingness to nuke one another, should the need arise, in a war that would likely have worldwide environmental consequences. And the probability that terrorists might acquire and use a nuclear weapon is certainly greater than zero. (Here’s how former Defense Secretary William Perry’s website puts it: “Experts differ on the likelihood of an attack but most believe that it is no longer a matter of if a terrorist attack will occur, but when.”)

“I would prefer to inhabit a more reasonable and safer world, and working toward one is at the center of the Bulletin’s mission. But the world as it actually exists – with its panoply of irrationality and purblind ignorance – demands attention. In this special issue, “After midnight,” top experts examine the ethics and practicalities of preparing a humanitarian response to the use of nuclear weapons, some realistic scenarios that could lead to regional nuclear weapons use – mini-Armageddons, if you will excuse the oxymoron – and various ways in which nuclear warfare might be forestalled or, in the event the unthinkable begins, stopped.

“It is my honest hope that these articles describe the horror of the aftermath of nuclear weapons use in a way that reinforces the taboo, and ensures that horrific aftermath never arrives. It is my honest fear that some world leaders lack the imagination to foresee and head off that horror.” –John Mecklin (Introduction: Into the aftermath: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Vol 73, No 4).

Here are the links for stories within the Journal. Some are free.

Introduction: Into the aftermath

John Mecklin
Free-access article

Interview: NUKEMAP creator Alex Wellerstein puts nuclear risk on the radar

Elisabeth Eaves
Free-access article

US cities are not medically prepared for a nuclear detonation
Jerome M. Hauer
Free-access article

The right planning now will save countless lives after a nuclear attack
Dan Hanfling, Frederick M. Burkle, Jr., and Cham Dallas

After nuclear midnight: The impacts of a nuclear war in India and Pakistan

Karthika Sasikumar

A plausible scenario of nuclear war in Europe, and how to deter it: A perspective from Estonia
Jüri Luik and Tomas Jermalavičius

Nuclear foreboding:  Future shadows cast by nuclear winter
Richard Turco

The N.EX.T. Project: Arms control and disarmament approachesfor a deadlocked age


Introduction: Nuclear disarmament and arms control for the next decade
Ulrich Kühn
Free-access article

Europe’s nuclear woes: Mitigating the challenges of the next years
Ulrich Kühn, Shatabhisha Shetty, and Polina Sinovets

What arguments motivate citizens to demand nuclear disarmament?
Anne I. Harrington, Eliza Gheorghe, and Anya Loukianova Fink

Nuclear disarmament summits: A proposal to break the international impasse
Kelsey Davenport, Jana Puglierin, and Petr Topychkanov

The future of US-Russian nuclear deterrence and arms control

Tatiana Anichkina, Anna Péczeli, Nickolas Roth

Amid high tensions, an urgent need for nuclear restraint
Anastasia Malygina, Sven-Eric Fikenscher, and Jenny Nielsen

Nuclear Notebook

Indian nuclear forces, 2017
Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris
Free-access article

Book Review

Preserving biodiversity, preventing climate disaster: Childish dreams or audacious strategies?
Liam Heneghan

Additional Reading

Bunkers for the 0.003 percent
An interview with Garrett M. Graff
Elisabeth Eaves
Free-access article on the Bulletin website

Let’s end on a lighter note. Here’s a short video you might have missed:

The nuclear industry and the concept of ENOUGH

GR: The grow-or-die business philosophy dominating global commerce leads to overuse of resources, accumulating wastes, plant and animal extinctions, and ecosystem losses. MacPherson writes about the nuclear industry which she finds be as dedicated to growth as all the others.

“To the nuclear industry the concept of ENOUGH is anathema. If you saw their slick advertising film “Pandora’s Promise” you would note that their major theme is endless GROWTH that will perpetually require ENDLESS ENERGY.

“The nuclear industry’s shills, and there are many of them, love to portray the anti-nuclear movement as wanting to send people back to living in a “dark ages” style.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Genuine environmentalists want all people to have a life of more light, of reasonable comfort and leisure time, of enough of the good things of this world, rather than of too much.

“It’s time that governments, bankers, industry leaders woke up to the reality that the world economy is threatened by growth, threatened by the accelerating destruction of this planet’s  air, water, land, and biodiversity. The destroyer is the growing human population and its growing consumption of ever more unnecessary products and unnecessary energy use.

“It’s time that people stepped away from endless individualistic  consumption, and towards a reasonable life of more cooperation, of working less hours. It’s time to move from our suicidal consumer culture, to a conserve culture.” –Christina MacPherson (Continue reading: The nuclear industry and the concept of ENOUGH – theme for June 2017 « Antinuclear.)

How US nuclear force modernization is undermining strategic stability: The burst-height compensating super-fuze | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

GR:  Nuclear war poses a massive threat to life on Earth. In fact, few analysts believe that anyone would survive a nuclear war. The security achieved by mutually assured destruction is madness. However, when madmen control governments nothing and everything is insane.

Members of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists unveil the 2017 time for the “Doomsday Clock” January 26, 2017 in Washington, DC. For the first time in the 70-year history of the Doomsday Clock, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the clock forward 30 seconds to two and a half minutes before midnight, citing “ill-considered” statements by U.S. President Donald Trump on nuclear weapons and climate change, developments in Russia, North Korea, India and Pakistan. From left to right are theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering and retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral David Titley. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Members of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists unveil the 2017 time for the “Doomsday Clock” January 26, 2017 in Washington, DC. For the first time in the 70-year history of the Doomsday Clock, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the clock forward 30 seconds to two and a half minutes before midnight, citing “ill-considered” statements by U.S. President Donald Trump on nuclear weapons and climate change, developments in Russia, North Korea, India and Pakistan. From left to right are theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering and retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral David Titley. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

“The US nuclear forces modernization program has been portrayed to the public as an effort to ensure the reliability and safety of warheads in the US nuclear arsenal, rather than to enhance their military capabilities. In reality, however, that program has implemented revolutionary new technologies that will vastly increase the targeting capability of the US ballistic missile arsenal. This increase in capability is astonishing—boosting the overall killing power of existing US ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three—and it creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.

“Because of improvements in the killing power of US submarine-launched ballistic missiles, those submarines now patrol with more than three times the number of warheads needed to destroy the entire fleet of Russian land-based missiles in their silos. US submarine-based missiles can carry multiple warheads, so hundreds of others, now in storage, could be added to the submarine-based missile force, making it all the more lethal.

“The revolutionary increase in the lethality of submarine-borne US nuclear forces comes from a “super-fuze” device that since 2009 has been incorporated into the Navy’s W76-1/Mk4A warhead as part of a decade-long life-extension program. We estimate that all warheads deployed on US ballistic missile submarines now have this fuzing capability. Because the innovations in the super-fuze appear, to the non-technical eye, to be minor, policymakers outside of the US government (and probably inside the government as well) have completely missed its revolutionary impact on military capabilities and its important implications for global security.

“Before the invention of this new fuzing mechanism, even the most accurate ballistic missile warheads might not detonate close enough to targets hardened against nuclear attack to destroy them. But the new super-fuze is designed to destroy fixed targets by detonating above and around a target in a much more effective way. Warheads that would otherwise overfly a target and land too far away will now, because of the new fuzing system, detonate above the target.

FIGURE 1. The deployment of the new MC4700 arming, fuzing, and firing system on the W76-1/Mk4A significantly increases the number of hard target kill-capable warheads on US ballistic missile submarines.

“The result of this fuzing scheme is a significant increase in the probability that a warhead will explode close enough to destroy the target even though the accuracy of the missile-warhead system has itself not improved.

“As a consequence, the US submarine force today is much more capable than it was previously against hardened targets such as Russian ICBM silos. A decade ago, only about 20 percent of US submarine warheads had hard-target kill capability; today they all do. (See Figure 1.)” Hans M. Kristensen, Matthew McKinzie, and Theodore A. Postol (Continue reading:  How US nuclear force modernization is undermining strategic stability: The burst-height compensating super-fuze | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.)