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IPPNW South Asia Webinar on Combating Triple Threat: Covid 19, Climate Change and Nuclear Weapons



The Post Covid Global Scenario

In the previous meeting a few weeks ago, I had suggested that IPPNW and affiliates work toward a post Covid-19 world order. The suggestion was welcomed. In the IPPNW South Asia Webinar today I have been asked to speak on the 'Post Covid19 global scenario.' Coming to think of it, it is an essential prelude to what I had proposed previously.
Warning bells of the disorder awaiting the world due to unchecked growth, both of population and consumption were rung in the 1950s by the Club of Rome followed by the Brandt report, Brundtland Committee, as well as the Canberra Commission of which Dr. Ronald McCoy, President of the IPPNW was a member. Warnings by scientists were also ignored.
Another major tragedy was the collapse of the Soviet Union and the decline if not the demise of Communism.
It liberated market capitalism of its shackles. Unbridled growth leading to hedonistic consumption became the order of the day. It is still the case. The inevitable decline had set in before the onset of Sars-Cov-2. It has made the decline irreversible.

Before considering the post-Covid global scenario, my topic for today, we should consider as to where we are today.
In a nutshell:
Market capitalism continues to be in full cry with no holds barred, Covid or no Covid.
Climate change, global warming, acidification of the oceans, melting of the glaciers and polar ice caps, even in Greenland continue apace;
The same goes for habitat destruction and species decline. The list is long and endless.

Irreversibility: Although these disasters stare everybody in the face, very few have grasped that irreversibility has set in. It means that if by Herculean effort or magic the world was to stop releasing more carbon in the atmosphere and immediately put a stop to all depredation, overnight, so to say, the consequences of the decades of heedlessness will continue to be felt till well into the next century making life for the coming generations 'Hell on Earth.'

At the urging of scientists, mitigation techniques are being considered, it being a survival imperative for humanity.
Carbon sequestration is a possibility. The scale and cost of reducing the levels reached make it a dubious proposition.
Another one relates to giant mirrors in space; the viability and cost need to be studied, most importantly, the likely deleterious effects, for example, what happens to the diurnal rhythms of most life forms that will perish when night and day that govern their lives become indistinguishable.
Many brave attempts, like solar energy among others, considered feasible, will take decades to be put in to practice around the world.

The Nuclear Menace
My interest in nuclear disarmament started in earnest in 1998 when my first book 'Third Millennium Equipoise' was published. From the outset, it had very good reception. It was hailed by university departments dealing with nuclear disarmament, statesmen, scientists and scholars. A Spanish translation followed a decade later and a Chinese electronic translation two decades later. Since there is a speaker who will be covering the subject further on in the afternoon, I would like to make a few general remarks.
The first relates to extinctions on Earth. While there have been many extinctions, during the pre-Cambrian and later during the following eras, the latest extinction took place during the Mesozoic era about 60 million years ago when dinosaurs, reptiles and most other life forms were destroyed up to about 77%.
The effects of nuclear exchange at the level of non-P5 states have been well documented, especially in the paper prepared by Dr. Ira Helfand, which would have been seen by all of you. In brief, the nuclear exchange for example between India and Pakistan that I personally believe is unlikely in spite of it being highlighted by Western powers. The reasons for that have been spelled out in several presentations in Chennai and a few other places. However, in a nuclear exchange between any of the nuclear 5, the extinction could be more severe than even the last one in the Mesozoic. Far more tragically, humans that have been on the planet for less than 10 million years will disappear without a trace.

Nature of infirmity of the human collectivity
I am now reproducing excerpts from a keynote presentation made at the opening plenary session in August 2010 at the 19th IPPNW World Conference in Basel.
William Perry, a former secretary of defense had said that there was an even chance of a nuclear terror strike within the decade. Warning that we're racing toward unprecedented catastrophe Mr. Perry added, "this is preventable, but we're not doing the things that could prevent it." In November 2003, Mr. Bush had observed, "The greatest threat of our age is nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in the hands of terrorists, and the dictators who aid them." However, the White House went on to expend enormous amounts of capital and energy in tackling a non-existent W.M.D. threat, like Iraq, while ignoring or paying lip service to the central threat of nuclear proliferation. In the process the risk that a nuclear explosion will devastate an American city is greater now than it was during the cold war.
The Obama Administration publicly disclosed the (previously classified) total number of operational US nuclear warheads in existence today - which stands at just over 5,000. While this step was a move in the right direction in terms of drawing attention to the United States' massive stockpile, it was cynically pursued alongside a quiet announcement by the Department of Energy (originally made in September 2009) that the US is moving forward with developing a new generation of nuclear weapons, rather than working toward nuclear disarmament as legally required under the NPT. (Associated Press, "US Releases Details of Nuclear Weapons Inventory,", 3 May 2010).
- The amount of plutonium buried at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State is nearly three times what the federal government previously reported, a new analysis indicates, suggesting that a clean up to protect future generations will be far more challenging than planners had assumed. (Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times).

The Brookings Institute in the US made the following statement: "The United States is now fielding a new tactical and strategic nuclear military capability that has already been used to threaten a non-nuclear country. This new capability was certified without nuclear testing, using an existing surrogate testing facility with capabilities much less than those under construction and planned. The weapon was developed and deployed in secret, without public and congressional debate, contrary to domestic and international assurances that no new nuclear weapons were being developed. Other new or 'modified' nuclear weapons, earth-penetrating and otherwise, are planned."
A few years ago U.S media reported that the Pentagon had won Mr. Obama's support for a new generation of conventional strategic weapons that may further upset strategic stability. The Pentagon later tested a new hypersonic winged missile system, the Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicle -2, developed under the Prompt Global Strike project. Launched into the upper atmosphere by a long-range ballistic missile Falcon glides down to its target with pinpoint accuracy. It is the first weapon system since the creation of ballistic missiles that will be capable of hitting a target anywhere around the globe within less than an hour.

In concluding I am appending the closing paragraph of the presentation at the conference referred to above:
The large economies pushing toward very high growth do not seem to be concerned about future generations. The tragedy is compounded by the rest of the world that is undergoing recession pangs pushing for greater consumption by China and India. In short, nobody seems to be concerned about the future of our children or the coming generations. We are heading toward planetary destruction here and now. China and India still want GDP increase in double digits when most of this growth is predicated on higher energy consumption levels based largely on abundant coal reserves, the burning of which is most conducive for global warming and climate change. In fact, the consequences of double digit or very high GDP growth in the case of countries with large populations are such that this high digit growth can be termed as obscene. China, overtaking the world's largest car producer, saw its passenger car vehicle sales zoom 47.5 percent, from 5.7 million units in 2008 to 8.4 million units in 2009, in just one year. India registered 24.5 percent jump in passenger car vehicle sales from 1.5 million units in 2009 to about 1.9 million units in 2010 in the domestic market. Should this trend, egged on by the rest of the world for greater consumption to underpin the global economy continue for just 10 more years these two countries, without even counting USA, Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria would be able to incinerate the planet by their scorching pace of growth, with attendant environmental destruction on a scale not witnessed earlier on the planet, well before the next nuclear related mishap. It is time to take stock. Time is not running out for critical decisions that should have been in place by now; it has already run out. The human race is now running on borrowed time.




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