Nuclear weapons: the greatest threat to the environment

by Thomas C. Fox

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As the Vatican gets set to roll out its highly anticipated encyclical on the environment, it is wise to recall the greatest signal threat to the global environment is the explosion of a nuclear weapon. Even one such explosion would significantly alter the world's environment, as the radiation cloud would drift around the planet. An exchange of nuclear weapons -- nearly all such weapons in the arsenals of the nuclear-weapon-possessing nations are many times more powerful than those dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan -- could eradicate most human life on the planet. 

The Vatican is aware of this and has spoken to this issue repeatedly. But with the likelihood growing that the ongoing Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, now wrapping up at the U.N., will end in pessimism and failure to move the nuclear disarmament agenda forward, it becomes imperative that global moral voices speak out against the stockpiling of these weapons. NCR courageously has condemned the possession of these weapons. The U.S. and Russia, meanwhile, have an estimated 2,500 on "launch-on-warning" alert. (This is human madness 25 years after the end of the Cold War.) 

Nuclear disarmament has almost stopped. There are no nuclear disarmament talks between Washington and Moscow. Congress is strongly opposed to nuclear disarmament. So is the U.S. arms industry. Instead of making cuts, the nuclear-weapons-possessing nations are now involved in a new arms race to "modernize" their arsenals, meaning that they are upgrading and replacing warheads with more "precise" weaponry. This is lunacy. This is suicide. The U.S. is spending $350 billion to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal in the next 10 years, nearly $1 trillion in the next 30 years.

While the U.S., Russia, England, France and China cling to their nuclear weapons, their cries to non-nuclear nations to maintain their non-nuclear postures ring increasingly hollow.

Many arms critics say the continued possession of nuclear weapons will eventually lead to their use, by intent or accident. It is only a matter of time -- unless stringent efforts are made to outlaw and remove these weapons from the planet. To say it cannot be done is to give up and passively give in to the idea of their eventual use.

The world community has outlawed chemical and biological weapons. It is time now time to outlaw and ban nuclear weapons.

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