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23NOV 2014



PND's and the Human Survival Project's nuclear weapons campaigner John
Hallam is attending the Third Conference on Catastrophic Humanitarian
Consequences of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna Dec8-9.

Nuclear weapons -and their possible use- are once more looming as an
issue that, potentially at least, threatens human survival. This is in
spite of global legal commitments to rid the world of them that should
have been fulfilled decades ago.

A series of conferences will be held in Vienna Austria around this
issue in early December. The main conference is the 8-9Dec
intergovernmental 'Third International Conference on Catastrophic
Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons', at which some 155
Governments as well as NGOs and academia are to be represented. It is
hosted by the Government of Austria. In addition, there will be a very
large NGO conference hosted by ICAN (International Campaign for the
Abolition of Nuclear Weapons), and a briefing by the Government of the
Marshall Islands on their legal case against the US, Russia, China,
India, Pakistan, the UK, France, Israel and the DPRK over their
alleged noncompliance with Art VI of the NPT and customary
international law.

More ominous however, have been a number of statements repeatedly
reminding the world of Russia's nuclear capabilities, which are indeed
formidable. Russia currently has just one warhead more than does the
US; However it is arguable that their nuclear forces are in a better
state and that their morale is better, than those of the US, recently
hit by a series of scandals.

Still more worrying are suggestions in the last few days by some that
Russia may think they can 'win' a nuclear exchange.

Nobody – US, Russia, or anyone else – 'wins' a nuclear exchange.
Indeed, analysts of the global climatic effects of large scale nuclear
weapons use speak of 'self – assured destruction', whereby even if one
side of a nuclear exchange were to not retaliate at all, the massive
amounts of smoke released by the burning of cities and military
installations would create such a deep global climatic impact that
even the agriculture of faraway countries including the country that
launched the attack would be ruined for decades. It is complete
nonsense to speak of 'winning' a nuclear exchange.

Nonetheless, recent media commentary on nuclear weapons repeatedly
suggests that there is 'a new cold war' or that 'world-war – III' is
back on the agenda. Indeed it does seem that the apocalypse may indeed
be back from the 1980s.

The derailment of global nuclear disarmament efforts, and their
replacement by massive and costly nuclear upgrades in both the US and
Russia, as well as the rapidly growing Indian and Pakistani (and now
the Chinese) nuclear arsenals, coupled by a rattling of nuclear sabres
ought to be cause for extreme global concern and action to reverse
what could, if enough things go wrong, turn into a civilization-ending

It doesn't have to be this way. The apocalypse doesn't HAVE to be back
on the agenda – it is we who put it there and it is we who can remove
it. These issues will no doubt be talked through at much length in
Vienna, and the hope is that in the elegant Hofburg Palace, once home
to the Hapsburgs, an outbreak of outrageous commonsense at some
plenary or diplomatic reception will replace a drift over the
precipice with genuine progress to the actual elimination of nuclear
arsenals that is mandated by art VI of the NPT.

Yes, the apocalypse IS back on the menu of possibilities. But – like
Ebola – the right menu of sensible actions agreed in Vienna and at the
upcoming 2015 NPT Review conference can remove it. It is up to us.

John Hallam

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Last Updated on Sunday, 08 February 2015 21:55