A Message to Today’s Young People: Put an End to the Nuclear Weapons Era

1. Nuclear weapons were created to kill indiscriminately. That means women, men, children – everyone. Even during war, under the rules of international law, that kind of mass killing is illegal. It is also immoral.

2. The nuclear weapons that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II were small by comparison with today’s far more powerful nuclear weapons.

3. There are currently about 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world. The use of just a tiny fraction of these is more than enough to kill most, if not all, humans on the planet. Nuclear weapons make human beings an endangered species.

4. The U.S. and Russia have more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. The other seven countries that have them are: the UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea.

5. Atmospheric scientists say that a “small” nuclear war, in which each side used 50 nuclear weapons on the other side’s cities, would result in putting enough soot into the stratosphere to limit sunlight from reaching the earth, shorten growing seasons and cause crop failures. That translates into some two billion people dying globally from starvation related to diminished food production.

6. A “major” nuclear war, using only some 300 nuclear weapons, would be even worse. It could send the world spiraling into a cold, dark ice age that would destroy civilization and lead to the death of most complex life on the planet.

7. A nuclear war could be started by malice, madness, mistake or miscalculation. Nuclear deterrence – the threat of nuclear retaliation – can’t protect against malice with any degree of certainty, nor can it protect at all against madness, mistake or miscalculation.

8. Nuclear weapons put us all in jeopardy. There hasn’t been a nuclear attack since the end of World War II, but there have been many close calls. The world may not be so fortunate going forward.

9. Each generation has a responsibility to pass the world on intact to the next. It’s time for your generation to step up and deal with the nuclear dangers that continue to threaten all humanity.

10. As young people, you have a unique ability to influence today’s political and military leaders throughout the world to put an end to the nuclear era. For your own future, and that of all humanity, will you accept the challenge and join in advocating for a Nuclear Zero world?

David Krieger is president emeritus of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org).