The formal debates for the 2020 Democratic nomination for President have begun this week. While there are many substantive topics that need to be covered, there are two existential threats that demand to be addressed. The threat of climate change has been discussed nominally though hardly with the urgency that it requires to stop our steady drift to ever greater catastrophic climate events. The other threat is that of nuclear war which increases as environmental degradation, resource depletion and its associated conflict follows. Yet the threat of nuclear weapons and the concept of nuclear deterrence has not and is not likely to be discussed. Despite growing scientific evidence of the increasing vulnerability and threat posed by these weapons, we seem incapable of having a national dialogue on why they should even exist. Ultimately, they threaten every single thing we care about every moment of every day.
At a time when the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists calculates that we are closer to nuclear war either by intent, cyberattack or accident than at any time since the height of the cold war, we would be well advised to take note so as to take appropriate action and educate our citizenry to eliminate these risks. In keeping their 2019 Doomsday Clock at 2 Minutes to Midnight, the Bulletin's advisory board noted the close interplay of climate crises with growing international conflict, and the risk of nuclear war.
Our nation and the world need a virtual IQ test to understand the risk we face from these weapons. Each of us and every presidential candidate should be required to take this test and respond to these questions so we can have a greater understanding of the devastating risks we face.
Such an IQ assessment might go as follows:
1. Do you support the concept of “usable“ nuclear weapons for a “limited“ nuclear war? Yes = 0 pt, No = 1 pt
2. In the case of armed conflict, do you subscribe to the concept that “all options are on the table” including the use of nuclear weapons? Yes = 0 pt, No = 1 pt
3. Do you support the U.S. plan for a 30 year $1.7 trillion new nuclear arms race? Yes = 0 pt, No = 1 pt
4. Do you feel there is a safe or acceptable level of radiation exposure? Yes = 0 pt, No = 1 pt
5. Most candidates now see and discuss the urgency and seriousness of climate change. Do you plan to confront the existential threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons with the same level of seriousness and urgency? Yes = 1 pt, No = 0 pt
6. Are you familiar with the concept of nuclear famine where possibly 1/4 of the world’s population would be at risk of starvation and death following a small limited regional nuclear war using less than 1/2% of the global nuclear arsenals? Yes = 1 pt, No = 0 pt
If yours or any presidential candidates’ Nuclear IQ is less than 6, the risk of nuclear war increases. A person with a Nuclear IQ of 6 indicates a clear grasp of the facts necessary to safeguard our nation and world. Fortunately, with increased awareness and understanding everyone can improve their Nuclear IQ.
The risk of nuclear war remains with us as long as these weapons exist. The only way to eliminate this risk is by the complete abolition of these weapons. The non-nuclear nations of the world, refusing to be held hostage by the nuclear states, are moving forward in the process of making these weapons illegal by international law and norms in the same way every other weapon of mass destruction has been dealt with before.
Ultimately, nuclear weapons are not a political issue but rather a survival issue. The understanding of this fact by our next president may very well determine our future.