On the Brink: The Climate and Nature Crisis and Risks of Nuclear War
Keywords:nuclear power, war, atomic energy, radiation, climate change, nature crisis, global warming, planetary health, global health emergency
The Russian military invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, and Hamas’ terror attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, signaled the beginning of two of the most recent wars to make international headlines. To date, over 110 armed conflicts are taking place: over 45 in the Middle East and North Africa (Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, Western Sahara); over 35 in Africa (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan); 21 in Asia (Afghanistan, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines); seven in Europe (Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan); and six in Latin America (three each in Mexico and Colombia); with two more international armed conflicts (between India and Pakistan, and between India and China) in Asia.1 This list does not even include such problematic situations as those involving China and the South East Asia region.
As though these situations of armed violence were not enough, mankind has already passed or is on the verge of passing several climate tipping points – a recent review lists nine Global core tipping elements (and their tipping points) - the Greenland Ice Sheet (collapse); West Antarctic Ice Sheet (collapse); Labrador-Irminger Seas / SPG Convection (collapse); East Antarctic Subglacial Basins (collapse); Amazon Rainforest (dieback); Boreal Permafrost (collapse); Atlantic M.O. Circulation (collapse); Arctic Winter Sea Ice (collapse); and East Antarctic Ice Sheet (collapse); and seven Regional impact tipping elements (and their tipping points) – Low-latitude Coral Reefs (die-off); Boreal Permafrost (abrupt thaw); Barents Sea Ice (abrupt loss); Mountain Glaciers (loss); Sahel and W. African Monsoon (greening); Boreal Forest (southern dieback); and Boreal Forest (northern expansion).2 Closer to home, how can we forget the disaster and devastation wrought by Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) 10 years ago to date?
Whether international or non-international, armed conflicts raise the risk of nuclear war. Russia has already “rehearsed its ability to deliver a ‘massive’ nuclear strike,” conducting “practical launches of ballistic and cruise missiles,” and stationed a first batch of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus,3 and the possibility of nuclear escalation in Ukraine cannot be overestimated.4 Meanwhile, in a rare public announcement, the U.S. Central Command revealed that an Ohio- class submarine (560 feet long, 18,750 tons submerged and carrying as many as 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles) had arrived in the Middle East on November 5, 2023.5 Indeed, “the danger is great and growing,” as “any use of nuclear weapons would be catastrophic for humanity.”6
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