In his parting interview with The Chronicle, Jerry Brown ticked off a list of projects he will take on now that he’s left the governor’s office.
After a decades when nonproliferation dominated global nuclear weapon discussions, we are now in a period of aggressive nuclear rearming. Brown has joined as executive chair the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the organization that keeps the Doomsday Clock. Its mission is timely, he said. “With Trump, we’re seeing some unexpected political actions.” Its work is essential, he said, because blundering into a nuclear war or initiating a nuclear incident could, “in a matter of hours, end human civilization.”
In 1992, five nations acknowledged having a nuclear arsenal. Today, there are nine nuclear powers (Israel, India, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, China, France, the U.S., Russia, plus North Korea). Iran is thought to have or be close to having the bomb. The U.S. and Russia possess the vast majority of the weapons. and now the Trump administration has called for production of a new nuclear bomb and study of another new bomb.
President Trump set off global alarms in October when he threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. In December, the administration set the timeline to walk away from the agreement. The unique treaty, signed in 1987, had led to the two nations dismantling 2,600 land-based missiles with ranges of 310 to 3,420 miles.
Nuclear power shapes foreign and domestic policy in many ways. Brown notes that few, if any, political objectives were worth the costs of nuclear war.
Brown is dedicating his time to the issue in hopes of bringing about the longer and deeper discussions needed to move back the hands of the Doomsday Clock. He fears public discussion of important issues is getting lost in “the desert of tweets.”