One of the most striking facts of today’s world is that young people do not seem to worry very much about nuclear war. Climate change is by far the larger concern, while nuclear war is seen as a threat of the past. As Chapin Boyer, who is in his late 20s, wrote in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists a few years ago: “I cannot remember a time when the threat of nuclear weapons seemed real. … My generation grew up believing that the problem of nuclear weapons had been solved.”
In contrast, I am inclined to think that the risk of nuclear war remains the world’s No. 1 problem, even if that risk does not seem so pressing on any particular day.
In the early years of nuclear research, some scientists feared breaking open atoms might start a chain reaction that would destroy Earth.
Russia’s war in Ukraine shows that global warming has distracted us from more important threats.
Russian leader’s speech marks biggest escalation of Ukraine war, and raises fears of unprecedented disaster.
The Russian leader’s actions have opened our eyes to how dependent we all are on the whims of one man and his nuclear arsenal.
Disaster does not seem imminent but it does seem disturbingly possible.
Concern about these smaller arms has soared as Vladimir V. Putin, in the Ukraine war, has warned of his nuclear might, has put his atomic forces on alert and has had his military carry out risky attacks on nuclear power plants. The fear is that if Mr. Putin feels cornered in the conflict, he might choose to detonate one of his lesser nuclear arms — breaking the taboo set 76 years ago after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Civil defense and other “right of boom” approaches could help mitigate the toll of a nuclear war — at least somewhat.
As more nations seek the bomb, and as the United States and Russia expand their nuclear arsenals, veterans of the Cold War say the public is too complacent about the risk of nuclear catastrophe.
Here we are again, trying to make our way around nuclear terms and concepts as war rages in the middle of Europe.
The Ukraine crisis isn’t as dangerous as the darkest moments of the Cold War, but the potential for mistakes and miscalculations means the risks are still high.
Mr. Putin has presented strategists with a situation they haven’t really confronted: a rogue actor employing the threat of nuclear weapons for conquest rather than regime survival — the latter being a primary reason for countries like Iran, North Korea and Pakistan to build or deploy nuclear weapons.
The ethical polarity between those dreaming of conquering space and those hoping to defend Earth from global heating and a nuclear calamity could not be greater.
The greatest concern derives from relatively new research which has modelled the indirect effects of nuclear detonations on the environment and climate. The most-studied scenario is a limited regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan, involving 100 Hiroshima-sized warheads (small by modern standards) detonated mostly over urban areas. Many analysts suggest that this is a plausible scenario in the event of an all-out war between the two states, whose combined arsenals amount to more than 220 nuclear warheads.
In this event, an estimated 20m people could die within a week from the direct effects of the explosions, fire, and local radiation. That alone is catastrophic – more deaths than in the entire of World War I.
But nuclear explosions are also extremely likely to ignite fires over a large area, which coalesce and inject large volumes of soot and debris into the stratosphere.
These are the best and worst depictions of modern nuclear weapons in film and television.
The casualties would be unlike any other conflict in human history.
The bad news rolls in ad infinitum. The dangers are real and tangible. It would simply be remiss to accuse the bulletin of scaremongering, but the Doomsday Clock is an increasingly inadequate tool for raising public and political awareness of the most pressing global challenges. It may even be dangerous.
In April of 2012 we released the report Nuclear Famine: A
Billion People at Risk which examined the climatic and agricultural consequences of a limited, regional nuclear war.
The report looked specifically at the declines in US maize
and Chinese rice production that would result from the predicted climate disruption and concluded that even a limited
nuclear conflict would cause extensive famine, mainly in the
developing world, and put more than one billion people at
risk of starvation.
Since then new research by Lili Xia and Alan Robock has
shown that the climate change caused by a limited nuclear
war would affect Chinese maize production as severely as
rice production and it would affect wheat production much
more severely than rice output.
How an appendix to an obscure government report helped launch a blockbuster and push back the possibility of atomic war.
What happened to this piece of Cold War arcana? And would it have worked?
This is how the world ends — not with a bang, but with a lot of really big bombs.
This is advice I hope you never need but should know anyway. A nuclear attack is everybody’s worst nightmare, and the immediate aftermath is just as bad, if not worse, than the explosion itself. Here’s what you should do if you survive the initial blast.
So let's say one of the worst-case scenarios from one of those government models did happen, and somehow a 10 KT nuclear bomb was detonated without the US having advance warning. Here's a timeline of how that nightmare would likely play out in a major city like New York or Washington DC—and your odds of making it out alive.
It’s OK, and even logical, to be afraid. But don’t give in to panic.
But few know what the people—those who don’t die in the blast or the immediate fallout—will do. Will they riot? Flee? Panic? Chris Barrett, though, he knows.
In the wake of nuclear threats from North Korea and Russia, NPR's Ayesha Rascoe talks about the future of deterrence with Ankit Panda of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The threat of nuclear weapons never went away. But Putin’s invasion of Ukraine makes it visible again.
Even a “minor” skirmish would wreck the planet.
The prepper community has grown quickly through the strife of the last few years, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has only accelerated that trend.
The U.S. must re-engage with Russia to ensure the ultimate weapon doesn’t spread and is never used.
Both Russia and the U.S. have thousands of nuclear weapons, most of which are five or more times more powerful than the atomic bombs that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. These include about 1,600 weapons on standby on each side that are capable of hitting targets across the globe.
America confronts a long list of critical problems and they all require urgent attention. But among them, two issues stand out: catastrophic climate change and nuclear war are unique in the threat they pose to the very survival of human civilization. The enormity and imminence of these twin existential threats cannot be overstated...
The current system makes nuclear war easier to start than to avoid; there’s precious little room for reflection. The first ICBMs will leave their silos just four minutes after a presidential order; once they launch, there’s no mechanism to stop them. No country on the planet possesses the capability to shoot down an incoming strike.
Today’s Doomsday Clock announcement offers a critical reminder that continuing Eisenhower’s dictum that he “kept the peace” requires the continuation of active, steady leadership throughout the world.
So would Putin drop the bomb if he thought it was necessary to protect his vital interests? Maybe. If he thought that he was about to lose a war to NATO or the United States, unless he took drastic measures? Quite possibly.
When our children’s children look back, it will be noted and remembered what side of history we were on when our planet was threatened. The choice is ours.
Congress and President Biden now have a narrow window to restrict the ability of any future president to launch nuclear weapons.
The very existence of nuclear weapons is a threat to future generations, and indeed to the survival of humanity.
If it came to a choice between legal niceties and saving humanity from extinction, there wouldn’t be much of a choice at all: law shouldn’t be a global suicide pact. Indeed, one nuclear power, Russia, has already indicated that – if that asteroid appeared – it likely would opt for “launch first, litigate second”.
But ignoring the law is always a dangerous business, and it’s not hard to envisage nuclear powers using the vague threat of “asteroids” as a pretext for developing new warheads, or even for launching nukes into space.
A growing number of movements are dedicated to making sure they’re banned.
Nuclear weapons created severe distress for elites who had for centuries sent the children of the lower classes to fight wars abroad with little fear that they might suffer the consequences.
Over the following decades, hawks and doves tried to resolve their atomic anxieties in different ways. Conservatives advocated the creation of weapons capable of knocking out an enemy’s arsenal before he could use it. Liberals advocated world government control over nuclear energy.
Both efforts were doomed to fail. The nature of nuclear weapons makes it impossible to either ban the bomb or wipe out an enemy’s arsenal. Nuclear deterrence was unavoidable.
When survival is something you’re thinking about every day of your life, apocalypse is not a newly emerging threat but an ongoing existential condition. And perhaps the best way to learn how to survive cataclysm while retaining your humanity is by listening to the stories of those who have already been doing it for centuries.
What to know about smaller nuclear weapons, and how they fit into what's known as an "escalation ladder."
Like Dr. Strangelove, we learned to stop worrying and to love the bomb. Let us not forget that the bomb never will love us.
While only two nuclear weapons have been used in war so far – at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II – and nuclear stockpiles are down from their the peak they reached in the Cold War, it is a mistake to think that nuclear war is impossible. In fact, it might not be improbable.
Don't Bank on the Bomb investigates and challenges global private investments in nuclear weapons producers.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a coalition of non-governmental organizations in one hundred countries promoting adherence to and implementation of the United Nations nuclear weapon ban treaty. This landmark global agreement was adopted in New York on 7 July 2017.
Back from the Brink: The Call to Prevent Nuclear War is a national grassroots initiative seeking to fundamentally change U.S. nuclear weapons policy and lead us away from the dangerous path we are on.
If Putin authorizes the use of a nuclear weapon to seek better terms, he will transmogrify into the devil incarnate. This would be a desperate move, not a smart one. So, as long as supporters of Ukraine hold steady to a strategy that’s working, Putin will most likely lose ground without resorting to a mushroom cloud.