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End the Nuclear Insanity via Huffington Post

More than four decades ago, the nations with nuclear arsenals and the world’s non-nuclear states entered into the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT); the nuclear states — the US, Russia, UK, France and China — pledged that if the states that did not have nuclear weapons agreed not to develop them, they would enter into good-faith negotiations toward the elimination of their nuclear arsenals. During the ensuing years, the three nations that did not sign the NPT — namely India, Pakistan, and Israel — developed nuclear weapons. All of the non-nuclear weapons states that signed the treaty except North Korea have kept their pledge.

Unfortunately, the nuclear powers have not kept their part of the bargain. While the US and Russia have dismantled many of their nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War, they retain thousands of them, enough to destroy the world many times over.

More importantly, they have made clear that, in defiance of their treaty obligations, they do not intend to eliminate their arsenals. Instead, all of the states that possess nuclear weapons today are engaged in massive upgrades of their nuclear arsenals. The US alone expects to spend $1 trillion on this modernization program over the next three decades.

While the nuclear powers claim that their arsenals only exist to deter the threat of attack from other nuclear states, their actual military doctrines tell a different story. The US refuses to rule out the first use of nuclear weapons, even against states that don’t possess them. Russia plans to use nuclear weapons early on in conventional conflict with NATO. Pakistan similarly threatens to use tactical nuclear weapons against Indian conventional forces. India threatens to retaliate with strategic nuclear forces.

In the face of this intransigence, most of the states that do not possess nuclear weapons have decided that they must act. They are not planning to build nuclear weapons of their own, but are demanding that the nuclear powers honor their obligations.

In 2013 and 2014, more than 150 countries came together — in Oslo, Vienna and Nayarit, Mexico — in a series of historic conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, to focus attention on the actual consequences of nuclear war. These conferences examined the latest scientific findings, that show that even a limited nuclear war, involving less than 0.05% of the world’s nuclear arsenals, would cause catastrophic climate disruption across the planet and lead to a global famine that could put up to 2 billion people at risk of starvation. Other data shows that a large scale war between the US and Russia would cause even more profound climate disruption, producing a nuclear winter that would kill the vast majority of the human race and could cause our extinction as a species.

In response to these warnings from the scientific and medical community, more than 100 nations have met in Geneva over the last five months at an Open Ended Working Group, convened by the UN General Assembly, to consider how to pressure the nuclear powers to disarm.

The recommendation of this OEWG will be presented to the General Assembly this month. A resolution sponsored by Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa calls for the UN to convene a formal negotiating conference in 2017 to conclude a new treaty that prohibits the possession of nuclear weapons.

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