The Twin Existential Threats

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Climate Action and Nuclear Disarmament United: Addressing the Twin Existential Threats of Climate Change and Nuclear Weapons

The twin existential threats inherent in catastrophic climate change and nuclear weapons proliferation are intimately connected.

The Extinction Competition: Both threats are in a way “competing” to instigate the extinction of humankind — they both have the distinct ability to destroy life as we know it via affecting the extensive loss of human life as well as the annihilation of environments essential to survival. Primarily because of these two threats, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved their iconic Doomsday Clock from 100 seconds to midnight to only 90 seconds — the closest to the global apocalypse we have ever been. 

Mutually Destructive Influence: Both threats contribute to the causes of the other. Climate change increases the risk and magnitude of conflicts across the globe as a result of the environmental and humanitarian destruction caused by its long list of consequences such as extreme weather events, flooding, wildfires, rising sea levels, etc. Any increase in or intensification of conflict, as we know, inherently increases the risk of nuclear war. In the same vein, the production of nuclear weapons (their extraction, construction, and testing) and its associated militarism contribute to climate change via excessive greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and other aspects of military activities that harm the environment. Further, each threat exacerbates the environmental harm associated with the other. For instance, certain direct effects of climate change (such as flooding and rising sea levels) increase the pre-existing risk of nuclear contamination from nuclear materials production sites — this has the potential to cause mass harm to human health and the environment. 

Linked Funding & Focus: The financiers of one threat are often also financiers of the other. Some of the biggest financial institutions funding the fossil fuel industry are also helping fund the production of nuclear weapons. These include JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Black Rock, among others. As such, many of those who are banking on the nuclear bomb are also banking on climate chaos — and they will continue to profit from causing immense environmental and humanitarian destruction until they are stopped. The funding of nuclear weapons and overall militarism also distracts from the urgent need to implement climate solutions. According to recent estimates, the U.S. will spend $756 billion over the next ten years (2023-2032) on its nuclear forces. In contrast, clean energy investments are set to be about half of that under the Inflation Reduction Act at $400 billion

Conflict to Climate Meltdown: A prominent fear is that climate change and its trail of destruction will bring us to nuclear warfare before climate change itself can fully play out human extinction. The consequences of the deployment of today’s nuclear weapons goes far beyond those witnessed during their first and only use in WWII against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Not only would the blasts from these modern weapons instantly obliterate the lives of millions, but millions more would perish later on from excessive burns, radiation, etc. But worst of all, even a limited exchange of these weapons would result in a firestorm so large that sunlight would be obstructed. Global warming would revert to a nuclear winter wherein the planet’s vegetation as well as crops and harvests across the globe would fail, instigating mass famine and the extensive loss of human life.

The Same in Nature: Both threats are anthropogenic (born out of human behavior) with origins in an illicit alliance between: 1) an extreme form of extractive patriarchy that has created an economic system that prioritizes profit for the very few, protected and advanced by aggressive militarism and dependent on relentless exploitation of the earth’s resources, and 2) an overriding of matriarchy in which empathy, compassion, and ethical sensitivity have been repressed. Otherwise known as the Military-Industrial Complex that fuels conflict for profit with environmental and climate harm as a byproduct. 

Don’t Panic, Take Action!

Tell Congress: US Must Fight Climate Change and Nuclear Weapons

Contact Your Reps about supporting the Nuclear Weapons and [Climate] Conversion Act (known as H.R.2775) as well as the Back from the Brink Resolution (known as H.Res.77), which both call on the President to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The Nuclear and Climate Conversion Act, also known as the Norton Bill, goes a step beyond eliminating nuclear weapons by redirecting those funds specifically to addressing the climate crisis and implementing climate solutions.