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
Interview: NUKEMAP creator Alex Wellerstein puts nuclear risk on the radar
US cities are not medically prepared for a nuclear detonation
Jerome M. Hauer
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
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
The N.EX.T. Project: Arms control and disarmament approachesfor a deadlocked age
Introduction: Nuclear disarmament and arms control for the next decade
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
Indian nuclear forces, 2017
Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris
Preserving biodiversity, preventing climate disaster: Childish dreams or audacious strategies?
Bunkers for the 0.003 percent
An interview with Garrett M. Graff
Free-access article on the Bulletin website
Let’s end on a lighter note. Here’s a short video you might have missed: