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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Will Pope Francis call for Nuclear Abolition?

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on August 30, 2015 at 2:19 am

  • Women participate in a memorial ceremony in Nagasaki, Japan, Aug. 9, the 70th anniversary of the day the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city. (CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Ira Helfand hopes Pope Francis will call for the abolition of all nuclear weapons when he addresses Congress in September and Helfand has reason for cautious optimism.

The Springfield, Mass., physician is co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. It was awarded a Nobel Peace prize in 1985 “for spreading authoritative information and raising awareness of the catastrophic consequences of a nuclear war.”

Helfand has worked for years to raise consciousness regarding the devastating humanitarian impact of nuclear war. In this context, he and John Pastore, a Boston cardiologist, sat down with Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley in June to share details of recent studies that show even a limited nuclear exchange would lead to the starvation of some 2 billion people. By far, the greatest impact of such a nuclear exchange would be on the poorest people of the planet.

Helfand and Pastore said that O’Malley, taken by the findings, said he would pass the information on to Francis whom he was to meet in Rome three days later.

Pastore, a Catholic who has focused on eliminating nuclear weapons his entire adult life, explained: “We are trying to re-introduce moral considerations into the nuclear weapons discussions. They’re almost always viewed strictly as military or technical challenges. But nuclear weapons have enormous moral dimensions. We know this and so does Pope Francis.”

Pastore acknowledges that Francis has made economic disparities and climate change as his top social justice concerns. “Nuclear weapons have to do with both,” he said.

While the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, a non-partisan federation of national medical groups in 63 countries, has attempted to draw attention to the humanitarian impacts of nuclear war, it was in 2012 and 2013 that new climate studies showed that even a limited nuclear exchange, such as one involving 100 relatively small devices between India and Pakistan, would have enormous climate change consequences. Helfand took the conclusions of these studies and put together a report his group has spread across the globe. It is called “Nuclear Famine.”

It takes the work of several peer-reviewed studies done by atmospheric scientists Alan Robock of Rutgers University, Brian Toon of University of Colorado-Boulder, and Richard Turco of University of California, Los Angeles, who have found that if India and Pakistan each exchanged fifty 15 kiloton-size bombs — a tiny fraction of the size of the warheads in the U.S. and Russian arsenals — they would create immense firestorms that would quickly envelope the planet with layers of dense stratospheric smoke.

That black smoke would continue to circle the earth and remain in the stratosphere for a decade or more. It would block and prevent a large fraction of sunlight from reaching the earth’s surface. The sharp reduction of warming sunlight would shorten growing seasons that would reduce food crops, in turn, causing the starvation of up to 2 billion people, mainly those living in the poorest counties.

“The report underscores the urgent need to move with all possible speed to the negotiation of a global agreement to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons and the danger of nuclear war,” Helfand toldNCR.

Helfand spoke in December 2014 in Rome at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. Sitting on stage next to the Dalai Lama and other laureates, he called the consequences of even a limited nuclear exchange “catastrophic.”

Any nuclear exchange involving the major nuclear weapons holding nations, he told the laureates, would send global temperatures plummeting.

“There would not be a frost-free day in the northern hemisphere,” he said. “These conditions have not existed on the planet for the past 18,000 years. Food production would stop and the vast majority of the human race would starve to death. It is possible we would become extinct as a species. This is not some nightmare I have cooked up. This is a danger we face every day that these weapons continue to exist sitting on missiles that can be launched in a few minutes time.”

Describing the impact of a limited nuclear exchange, Helfand told NCR: “This would not be the end of the human species, but it would be the end of civilization as we know it. No civilization has withstood a shock of this magnitude.”

He spoke of his frustrations to wake up the nation to pressing nuclear war issues. He said the “Nuclear Famine” report has faced a virtual “media blackout.”

“If the press talks about nuclear weapons at all, it’s only in the context of Iran and North Korea. I think this is an enormous disrespect to the public.”

“O’Malley appeared very concerned,” Helfand said. “The cardinal said he would return to Rome three days later and would immediately share the information with Pope Francis.”

That’s why Helfand and Pastore are pleased — and moderately hopeful — that Francis will say something about nuclear weapons while in the U.S.

Helfand, Pastore and Robock told NCR they think Francis can make a decisive difference in waking up the American public to the nuclear dangers.

Helfand acknowledges treaties have reduced the number of nuclear weapons in the global arsenals to around 16,000 warheads. Rather than being assured by this, he expresses worry that disarmament efforts have stalled and the nuclear weapons holding nations are moving ahead to modernize their weapons and weapon delivery systems.

“It makes no sense,” he said. “These weapons can never be used. To use them would mean assured self-destruction.”

Robock, a professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences, told NCR that his research reaffirmed his belief that nuclear weapons pose the “greatest and most immediate threat to humanity.”

“As long as we have these weapons they can be used by some irrational person, by some terrorist, by miscalculation, or by accident,” he said. “The threat is real. Only by abolishing them can we rid ourselves of this threat.”

The Vatican has long opposed nuclear weapons, but Francis has made their abolition a key element in his global social concerns.

In December 2014, the Vatican submitted a paper at a conference in Vienna, calling for total nuclear disarmament.

In January, addressing the Vatican diplomatic corps, Francis said nuclear disarmament and combating climate change are at the top of his diplomatic agenda. He has prayed the Iran nuclear weapons agreement would be “a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.”

In August, speaking in St. Peter’s Square, Francis recalled the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 years ago. He said those events still arouse “horror and revulsion” worldwide, adding they serve “as a lasting warning for humanity to reject forever war and ban nuclear weapons.”

Pastore called Francis’ appearance before Congress Sept. 24 an “enormous opportunity,” saying the pontiff can take the issue of nuclear weapons from the level of “an often bloodless academic argument,” to the level of “immediate, pressing moral concern. Once Catholics in the parishes and others wake up, only then can there be a change of course of public policy.”

[Thomas C. Fox is NCR publisher and can be reached at tfox@ncronline.org.]

Marshall Islands seek nuclear abolition

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on August 26, 2015 at 7:47 am

Read Robert Koehler’s inspiring article:  http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/08/13/wedge-nuclear-disarmament

Youth in Afghanistan challenge all on the globe to abolish war

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Peace on August 17, 2015 at 10:05 pm

The group #Enough invites us to agree to  The People’s Agreement to Abolish War

Mikhail Gorbachev on Nuclear Weapons: 70th Anniversary of Hiroshima

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on August 17, 2015 at 2:01 am

Gprbachev , as interviewed by Der Speigel, August 6, 2015. See http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/gorbachev-calls-for-nuclear-free-world-on-hiroshima-day-a-1046900-druck.html

The real nuclear danger isn’t Iran or North Korea

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on August 8, 2015 at 3:11 am

================

The real nuclear danger isn’t Iran or North Korea

Analysis: The most dangerous nuclear nations are the 
U.S. and Russia, the ones with nearly all of the weapons
 

by Joe Cirincione, Al-Jazeera, August 4, 2015

http://tinyurl.com/pbkgyeq

Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness.” — President John F. Kennedy

Seventy years after the first atomic explosion lit up the New Mexican desert and nearly 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, both Russia and the United States retain nuclear postures from the darkest days of their rivalry. There are almost 16,000 nuclear weapons still in the world today, and the U.S. and Russia possess 94 percent of them. Worse, 1,800 of these Russian and American weapons sit atop missiles on hair-trigger alert, ready to launch on a few minutes notice.

Few people are even aware of these dangers. Most have forgotten about the weapons. They think the only nuclear threat is the chance that Iran might get a bomb. Or that plans are in place that effectively prevent or contain nuclear threats. They are wrong. On any given day, we could wake up to a crisis that threatens our country, our region, our very planet.

There is good news. The size of these arsenals has decreased dramatically in the last 30 years. When Ronald Reagan and Leonid Brezhnev squared off in the 1980s, pouring new nuclear missiles into Europe, there were more than 70,000 nuclear weapons in the world. Mass protests and the wisdom of Reagan and his negotiating partner Mikhail Gorbachev, who succeeded Brezhnev as the head of the Soviet Union, led to arms control treaties that slashed arsenals by 50 percent.

The restraint of the two nuclear superpowers rippled to other nuclear aspirants. More countries gave up nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons programs in the past 30 years than tried to get them. And these were tough cases, including Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, the nuclear successor states to the Soviet Union: Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, and Iraq and Libya.

In turn, the American and Russian arsenals were cut 50 percent further under Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. President Barack Obama, early in his term, trimmed them a bit more. And the entire interlocking network of global treaties and security arrangements has gone a long way to providing tougher inspections, more rigorous export controls on nuclear technologies, better security over “loose nukes” and nuclear materials, and more formidable barriers to new states getting weapons.

(For full diagram, see src.adapt.960.high.us-russia-stockpile-final-01.1438698879909.jpg )
 

Indeed, while people talk of “states like Iran and North Korea,” there actually are no states like Iran and North Korea. Apart from the eight countries with established programs there are no other governments racing to get the capability to build nuclear weapons. 

And here, there is more good news. The nuclear agreement with Iran is a major step in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. If we can contain North Korea’s program, or strike a similar deal, it then becomes possible to talk about the end of the wave of proliferation that began 70 years ago. Global intelligence officials are clear: There is no other nation looming on the new-nuclear-state horizon.

Even as proliferation risks decrease, however, the risks of accident, miscalculation or intentional use of one of the existing nuclear weapons is unacceptably high. Indeed, since the end of the Cold War, we have come closer to Armageddon than many realize.

In January 1995, a global nuclear war almost started by mistake. Russian military officials mistook a Norwegian weather rocket for a U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missile. Boris Yeltsin’s senior military officials told him that Russia was under attack and that he had to launch hundreds of nuclear-tipped missiles at America. He became the first Russian president to ever have the “nuclear suitcase” opened in front of him. But Yeltsin trusted U.S. officials, and he was confident that there was no hidden crisis that might prompt a surprise attack by the U.S. With just a few minutes to decide, Yelstin concluded that his radars were in error. The suitcase was closed. 

American nuclear weapons, too, have often come within a hair’s breadth of detonation.

In 1958, a B-47 crew accidentally dropped an H-bomb that exploded near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Luckily, only the weapon’s conventional explosives detonated, but the crater can still be seen.

In 1961, a B-52 carrying two armed weapons broke apart over Goldsboro, North Carolina. Two bombs dropped from the bomb bay. One bomb’s parachute deployed and carried it safely to the ground. The other fell all the way down. All of the weapon’s safety mechanisms failed, save one. A single low-voltage switch, the technical equivalent of a light switch, prevented a hydrogen bomb from destroying a good portion of North Carolina.

(For full diagram, go to  src.adapt.960.high.global-stockpile-final-01.1438698879909.jpg )

As the numbers and deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons declined, accidents also decreased, but they did not end. In 2007, a B-52 flew from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, carrying 12 cruise missiles on its wings. Unbeknownst to the crew, six of the cruise missiles were armed with nuclear warheads.

The missiles traveled across the nation and spent the night sitting on the tarmac guarded by just a few security officers and a barbed wire fence before their true nature was discovered. The really bad news? No one at Minot ever noticed that they had gone missing.

One has to be a true optimist to believe that we can leave 16,000 nuclear bombs in fallible human hands indefinitely and nothing will go wrong.

It could get worse. The world’s nuclear weapons are aging. Bombs, like cars, wear out and eventually have to be replaced. We are now in a generational transition, when the weapons built during the terrifying Cold War rivalry of the 1980’s are ready for retirement. This could be a good time for Russia, the United States and other nations to close down these obsolete arsenals and save billions of dollars.

Instead, the nuclear nations are raiding their treasuries to build an entire new generation of the deadliest weapons ever invented. As Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris point out, “nuclear nations have undertaken ambitious nuclear weapon modernization programs that threaten to prolong the nuclear era indefinitely. … New or improved nuclear weapon programs underway worldwide include at least 27 ballistic missiles, nine cruise missiles, eight naval vessels, five bombers, eight warheads, and eight weapons factories.”

The world doesn’t need more nuclear weapons. Russia currently has the largest nuclear arsenal, with a total of approximately 7,500 warheads. The United States is second, with roughly 7,100 warheads. Other nuclear weapons states have far fewer. France possesses 300, China 260, and Great Britain, 225. Pakistan has about 120 weapons and India 110. Although Israel has never acknowledged its nuclear weapons stockpile, it is estimated to have nearly 80 weapons. North Korea has enough material for less than 10 bombs but has not deployed any. 

Current global nuclear arsenal

Country Warheads
 
Russia     7500
U.S.     7100
France       300
China       260
Great Britain       225
Pakistan       120
India       110
Israel         80
North Korea                <10
 
Sources: US Nuclear forces, 2015, Russian nuclear forces, 2015, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
 
Note: Not counted above: The U.S. has 2,340 warheads awaiting dismantlement; 
Russia has 3,200. Some numbers above are estimates, for example, it is estimated 
North Korea has the material for up to 10 bombs, but has not deployed any.
 

Nuclear weapons are not cheap. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, U.S. nuclear weapons spending alone is estimated to reach $348 billion over the next decade, while arms control experts estimate that it could reach up to $1 trillion over the next 30 years. Russia is also increasing the role of nuclear weapons in its strategy. But why?

It is difficult to think of a military combat mission that requires the use of even one nuclear bomb. There has not been one in 70 years. Perhaps there is a mission that might someday require one bomb. Or ten. Or an arsenal of 500. But the United States has 7,000. This is beyond all logic and military need. Clinging to these obsolete weapons is a vestige of Cold War thinking propped up by contracts and the desire of those with nuclear bases to keep the few thousand jobs they provide. Pandering to these parochial motives and flawed strategies risks catastrophes whose financial and human costs dwarf any conceivable benefits.

Pope Francis told a conference on nuclear threats in Vienna this year that “spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations.” He questioned the morality of maintaining these huge arsenals for any purpose. These horrific weapons, he said, must be “banned once and for all.”

Seventy years after it was born on the sands of Alamogordo, there is a growing global sense that it is time to retire the Bomb. 

Iranian Foreign Minister: Time for U.S., Other Nuclear Powers, to Disarm

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Policy, Peace on August 2, 2015 at 8:00 am

For his remarks, see:  http://commondreams.org/news/2015/07/31/iranian-foreign-minister-time-us-other-nuclear-powers-disarm?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=email_this&utm_source=email

Hans Blix: It’s Time to Ban the Bomb

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on August 1, 2015 at 10:23 pm

Hans Blix, former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was 1st Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission from 2000-2003.

For his remarks, go to http://www.project-syndicate.org/print/time-to-ban-nuclear-weapons-by-hans-blix-2015-07

New Rocky Flats Nuclear Guardianship web site

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Jefferson Parkway, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Plutonium, Public Health, Rocky Flats, Wildlife Refuge on July 28, 2015 at 7:38 am

For the new web site, go to: http://www.rockyflatsnuclearguardianship.org/

If you have questions or comments, contact Chris Allred at <christopher.allred@Colorado.EDU>

Manifesto on the Future of War and Climate Change

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on July 10, 2015 at 9:44 pm

Sixty years ago Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell wrote a manifesto opposing war and calling for abolition of nuclear weapons. Please go to the following and sign the new manifesto on the future of war and climate change:  http://diy.rootsaction.org/petitions/manifesto-on-the-future-of-war-and-climate-change

Please sign this petition for nuclear abolition

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on July 6, 2015 at 10:01 pm

http://org.salsalabs.com/o/161/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=18080#sthash.s5Uvv3zx.dpuf

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