Monday, 24 April 2017

Conservatives' nuclear WMD first strike threat highly irresponsible and suicidal

At eight minutes to eight this morning on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, the Conservative so-called “Defence” secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, made the most dangerous and inflammatory intervention in the 2017 General Election, when he told presenter Nick Robinson that Prime Minister May would be prepared to launch a pre-emptive nuclear WMD strike.

When pressed to outline the circumstances, he refused to give details.

Any cabinet member holding his post should be fully aware of the consequences of such an action. If not, he is thoroughly incompetent and unsuited to hold high ministerial office. All the published evidence is it would be national suicide.

Below I have set out the publicly accessible reasons, using some of the world’s most experienced and expert independent scientists. Sir Michael should surely have been aware of this. The only logical conclusion is he is playing very dangerous and highly irresponsible party polictics with Britain’s national security,

This one outrageous remark alone makes the Conservatives dangerously unsuitable and incompetent to   run the Government of the United Kingdom


Climate threat from nuclear bombs

Alok Jha in San Francisco

The Guardian, Tuesday 12 December 2006 12.22 GMT

Nuclear weapons pose the single biggest threat to the Earth's environment, scientists have warned.

In a new study of the potential global impacts of nuclear blasts, an American team found even a small-scale war would quickly devastate the world's climate and ecosystems, causing damage that would last for more than a decade.

Speaking at the American Geophysical Union's meeting in San Francisco yesterday, Richard Turco of UCLA said detonating between 50 and 100 bombs - just 0.03% of the world's arsenal - would throw enough soot into the atmosphere to create climactic anomalies unprecedented in human history.

He said the effects would be "much greater than what we're talking about with global warming and anything that's happened in history with regards volcanic eruptions".

According to the research, tens of millions of people would die, global temperatures would crash and most of the world would be unable to grow crops for more than five years after a conflict.

In addition, the ozone layer, which protects the surface of the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation, would be depleted by 40% over many inhabited areas and up to 70% at the poles.

Alan Robock, the co-author of the study, told Guardian Unlimited: "Nuclear weapons are the greatest environmental danger to the planet from humans, not global warming or ozone depletion."

There are around 30,000 nuclear warheads worldwide, 95% of which are held by the US and Russia.

In addition, there is enough unrefined nuclear material to make a further 100,000 weapons.

Human costs

It was Prof Turco who coined the phrase "nuclear winter" in the 1980s to describe the potential apocalyptic global consequence of all-out nuclear war.

In this study he and Prof Robock led research teams to create models of the impacts from nuclear blasts.

They examined an exchange of 100 Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs (15 kilotons each) between two countries, a conflict they argued was well within the ability of many emerging nuclear states.

The results showed that the most densely packed countries would fare worst in the aftermath of a nuclear war. India and Pakistan could face 12m and 9m immediate deaths respectively, while an attack on the UK would cause almost 3m immediate deaths.

A single nuclear blast in a major urban area would kill more than 125,000 people in the UK, injuring a further 100,000.

"Most of the human population is moving into very concentrated cities. At the same time, nuclear proliferation is accelerating again: we have Pakistan and India, Iran and North Korea," said Profe Turco.

While human losses would be constrained by geography, the environmental impacts of the bombs would spread worldwide.

Black smoke
In the 100 warhead scenario, more than 5m tonnes of sooty black smoke would spew from the resulting firestorms. This smoke would float to the upper atmosphere, get heated by the sun and end up being carried around the world.

The particles would absorb sunlight, preventing it from reaching the surface, which would result in a rapid cooling of the Earth by an average of 1.25C.


"This would be colder than the little ice age, the largest climate change in human history," said Prof Robock.

The model also showed that the smoke would stay in the upper atmosphere far longer than anyone had previously thought.

Older models had assumed that the smoke would linger for around a year, as has been observed with the dust from volcanic eruptions. However, using improved atmospheric data the new study showed that the climate would still be suffering a decade on from the initial conflict.

"Far removed from the conflict, there would be large impacts on agriculture - there would be less precipitation and less sunlight; it would be a huge shock to agriculture everywhere," said Prof Robock.

There is a precedent for this sort of climactic change: major volcanic eruptions in the past have thrown global ecosystems into temporary turmoil.

The eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 was the biggest such event on record. The resulting cloud of ash spread around the world and caused crops to fail the following year in North America and Europe, resulting in the worst famine of the century.

Shock to the system
The scientists said a sudden change to the Earth's ecosystem because of nuclear blasts would be worse than any of the effects predicted by global warming due to greenhouse gases.

"Global warming is a problem and we certainly should address it but in 20 years, the temperature might go up by a few tenths of a degree and it will be gradual," said Prof Robock.

"We'll be able to adapt from some of it. But the climate change from even the small nuclear war we postulated would be instantaneous and such a shock to the system"

He said that the results should act as a warning to the international community.

"Proliferation is very dangerous - even using a couple of weapons is so much worse than anyone can imagine. I think the world should be much more concerned about proliferation than we are."

Prof Turco said that the end of the cold war had taken people's minds focus off the potential dangers of nuclear war.

"Look at 9/11 - there were 3,000 fatalities in that attack and that's considered a watershed in terms of terror that can be inflicted on a country. But in fact that's really a minor event to what's possible," he said.

"I can't imagine what would happen if there was a detonation in London: people would head to the countryside, there would be fallout everywhere, the country would shut down."

Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons



The Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons was the result of a decisive development within the nuclear disarmament regime. Since the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the international community has refocused its attention to the humanitarian dimension of and the risks associated with nuclear weapons. This evolution was reflected trough cross-regional humanitarian statements in UN fora and culminated in the organisation of three Conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Oslo (March 2013), Nayarit (February 2014) and Vienna (December 2014).

The Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons was attended by 158 States, a broad spectrum of international organisations from the UN system, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, many academics and experts and several hundred representatives of civil society. The Conference was opened by Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz; the UN Secretary General, the President of the ICRC and Pope Francis addressed the Conference though important statements and messages. Victims of nuclear explosions gave testimonies of their harrowing experiences. In four sessions, experts from various fields addressed the short and long-term consequences of nuclear weapons, the impact of nuclear testing, the risk drivers for deliberate or inadvertent nuclear weapons use, scenarios of nuclear weapons use and the associated challenges as well as an overview of the norms under existing international law pertaining to the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons explosions.  

The scientific results and the discussions which emerged in the Vienna Conference underscored that the humanitarian consequences and risks associated with nuclear weapons are far higher and graver than previously assumed, and that they should thus be at the center of global efforts related to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Austria attempted to reflect the breadth of views that exist in the international community on the way forward in the Chair’s Summary, which was presented in her sole responsibility. The Chair’s Summary contains eight key substantive conclusions that have emerged in the humanitarian initiative of the past three years and the international conferences in Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna. In addition, Austria issued a national pledge that goes beyond the Chair’s Summary that contains the conclusions that Austria drew from the humanitarian arguments.

The Vienna Conference, thus, consolidated the substantive discussions that had taken place in the three Conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons into a set of substantive and strong conclusions with respect to the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, the risks associated with the existence of these weapons, as well as the legal and moral dimension of this weaponry. This was intended to provide key input for future work on nuclear disarmament, including at the 2015 Review Conference of NPT. Moreover, the Vienna Conference presented – through the line of argument contained in the “Austrian Pledge” – a set of conclusions that States could draw as a result of the humanitarian initiative and the new evidence that has emerged in this context.

#HINW14vienna – Presentations

Session I

·         PDF: War of Human Consequences: Health Consequences of the use of nuclear weaponsMary Olson, Senior Radioactive Waste Policy Specialist with Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS)

·         PDF: Global Famine after a Regional Nuclear War: Overview of recent ResearchDr. Michael J. Mills, National Centre for Atmospheric Research

·         PDF: Calculating the Effects of a Nuclear Explosion at a European Military BaseMatthew McKinzie Ph.D., Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

·         PDF: Overview of the History of Nuclear Testing 1945 until todayMartin Kalinowski Ph.D., Chief, Capacity Building and Training Section, International Data Centre Division, CTBTO Preparatory Commission

·         PDF: Assessing the Harm from Nuclear Weapons Testing and ProductionArjun Makhijani Ph.D. Institute for Energy and Environmental Research

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