Experts say a sustainable world requires nuclear weapon elimination

Nuclear weapons still pose a threat to human civilization and their elimination should be the world's highest priority to present future generations with a sustainable world, three nuclear disarmament experts said on Wednesday.

Andrew Kanter, a co-regional vice president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War for North America, Ira Helfand, co-president of IPPNW, and John Burroughs, the director of the U.N. Office of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, said that the 20,000 nuclear warheads left in the world must be eliminated.

The officials presented data showing that even a very limited nuclear war could cause a catastrophe for the entire human race.

"A report issued last year by Physicians for Social Responsibility and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War summarized the recent studies on limited nuclear war," Kanter, Helfand and Burroughs said. "The scenario considered assumed that India and Pakistan each use 50 Hiroshima-sized bombs. The scenario shows that immediate effects include the death of over 20 million people by the explosions, firestorms and prompt radiation effects, and much of South Asia is contaminated with radiation."

When the South Asian radiation contamination is coupled with the global climate disruption caused by soot pollution, the depletion of food crops like corn, spring wheat and winter wheat could result in the starvation of at least 870 million people.

Kanter, Helfand and Burroughs also pointed out that if 300 nuclear warheads from Russia reached targets in the U.S., 75 million to 100 million people would die in the first half hour and the entire U.S. economic infrastructure would collapse. In addition, the climate disruption from the nuclear warheads could throw part of the world into an ice age.

"A war involving only those warheads still allowed to the U.S. and Russia when New START is fully implemented in 2018 would loft 150 million tons of soot into the atmosphere dropping global temperatures an average of eight degrees Celsius," Kanter, Helfand and Burroughs said. "In the interior of North America and Eurasia, temperatures would drop 25 degrees to 30 degrees Celsius producing conditions not seen on Earth in 18,000 years (since the coldest point in the last ice age). In the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, there would be at least two years without a single day free of frost. All agriculture would stop and the vast majority of the human race would starve. This recent data confirms earlier simulations in the 1980s that prompted the name 'nuclear winter,' but this would be a winter that the human race would not survive."

Kanter, Helfand and Burroughs said there is now enough momentum to finally abolish nuclear weapons and that the only sustainable future for humankind involves a nuclear weapon-free world.