Zero is the only option: IPPNW brings science to the NPT
As another couple of dozen states made their opening statements to the 2010 NPT Review Conference, IPPNW held an expert panel on the medical and environmental consequences of nuclear war and launched its new publication, “Zero Is the Only Option.” The panel, chaired by former IPPNW co-president Vic Sidel, included Dr. James Yamazaki of PSR-Los Angeles, Prof. Brian Toon of the University of Colorado, long-time PSR and IPPNW leader Ira Helfand, science and policy consultant Steven Starr, and Peter Herby, head of the arms unit of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Dr. Yamazaki, at 93, is an articulate and enormously resilient man who was assigned to the first team that went into Nagasaki under the auspices of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission. He focused this afternoon on the kinds of illnesses that have afflicted not only survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but also the victims of fallout from nuclear testing in the Pacific region. His talk was a vivid reminder that the human suffering caused by nuclear explosions lasts for decades.
Something else that could last for a decade or more is the sudden global cooling that would result from even a relatively small nuclear war involving arsenals of only 100 weapons. Prof. Toon described how massive amounts of smoke and soot from urban firestorms would block sunlight and reduce rainfall over much of the Earth, shortening growing seasons by as much as a month each year for many years to come. Dr. Helfand explained the impact on global food supplies and nutrition, warning that a billion people or more who already live on the edge of starvation would likely die from a nuclear-war-induced famine.
One member of the audience, a grassroots activist from Philadelphia, told Prof. Toon afterwards that she could not clap for such a terrible message, but deeply appreciated the work done by the messenger. She wondered if we could produce a webinar around these talks to get the information out to as many people as possible. Not a bad idea. What we were able to arrange on the spot was for Brian and Ira to film interviews with some young videographers from the Ban All Nukes generation (BANg). I’ll post links as soon as those videos are online.
Steven Starr bridged the gap between science and policy by explaining that the only possible response to these scientific findings is a crash program to eliminate nuclear weapons by commencing work on a Nuclear Weapons Convention as soon as possible. Steven has created a great website based on the work of Prof. Toon and more than half a dozen other scientists who have been studying the climate effects of nuclear war for more than 20 years.
Peter Herby distributed a major statement about nuclear weapons from ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger — the first and most important the organization has made since the end of the Cold War — and said that after reviewing its past positions and the current threat, the ICRC had felt compelled to issue an unequivocal condemnation of nuclear weapons on humanitarian grounds, and to call for their elimination as the only way to ensure that they are never used again. He noted that IPPNW and the ICRC are talking essentially the same language, and suggested that we explore ways to work together — an idea that was received warmly by the IPPNW members in the room.