Twinned Threats: The Climate-Nuclear Nexus

Twinned Threats: The Climate-Nuclear Nexus

Over the past few years, tackling climate change and the nuclear has gotten closely associated that a nexus approach has been developed. What few seem to realise though, is that the nuclear aspect of this nexus is about more than the idea that nuclear energy will help reduce the dependency on coal, oil and gas. And thus supposedly having a positive effect on the global carbon footprint and carbon emissions. Currently, climate issues are completely overshadowing the threat of nuclear war, which seems largely ignored. This is a complete reversal of the situation in the 80s, which is an interesting notion as we seem to again move toward a new cold war 1.

According to recent estimates, the ability to produce enough food to feed the world’s population relies on increasing the energy consumption with 50% over the next 30 to 40 years 2. With our strong focus on the carbon-based energy sources, and the intent to decrease dependence on them, it is expected that nuclear energy, partly, will have to take its place. This poses a real security risk. Nuclear facilities and operators show very little interest in accepting the seriousness of their business and keep their facilities under tight security and protecting nuclear materials and waste 3. Non-violent campaigns, such as the trident ploughshare, have uncovered the weaknesses at such facilities for years already. And with the growing threat of terrorism globally, introducing even more sources of materials seems to be an unnecessary risk. Renewable sources such as wind and solar are much better suited to take over from fossil, carbon-based energy sources. However, investment in theses energy sources does not match stated goals in regards to reducing the effects of climate change. A symbolic switch is attempted and between 2004 to 2014 the European union has doubled its energy from renewable sources from 8% to 16% 4. Their stated goal is having 20% of energy production be from renewable sources by 2020. This still leaves 80%, but it is most definitely a step in the right direction. 5

However, going deeper into this topic, we uncover that there is more to the nexus than the direct link of increasing the amount of nuclear power results in a decrease the dependence on carbon-based energy sources. Though this might initially seem like a positive thing, there are serious side effects in making such a shift in energy sources. As mention in the previous paragraph, the increasing of nuclear waste increases the possibility and potential for dirty bombs. Moreover, nuclear energy can also be viewed as a prohibiting factor of nuclear disarmament and proliferation. As long as there is nuclear energy technology available and in use, the road to nuclear weapons is short, in relative terms.

Another consequence worth taking into the consideration is that of the rapid change in climate and climatically and seismic cycles. Though debated, there has been an increase of destructive weather patterns and serious earthquakes over the past few decades. Tropical storms, hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis have left cities and even countries in ruins, and seems occur more frequently in recent years. Adding nuclear facilities in the path of such uncontrollable weather systems can have truly fatal consequences. This is perhaps best exemplified with the Fukushima facility in Japan and the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that disrupted the country in 2011. The uncontrolled release of radioactive materials in the atmosphere, ocean and groundwater could escalade the climate change manyfold and increase the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons.

Climate change image

This leads me to, in my opinion, the most crucial element and connection between climate change and the nuclear theat. A catastrophe at a nuclear facility could have dire consequences for people far away from the accident site, but this is still nothing compared to the effects a nuclear bomb would have. There are approximately 15,500 weapons remaining in the world, 6, spread across more countries than ever before. The modern bombs are many times more powerful than those used against Japan at the end of 2WW. It is also important to factor in that a nuclear bomb sent tomorrow would not be sent on its own. Multiple bombs would be sent simultaneously and would be answered almost immediately by one or more nuclear nation. This alone is more than enough to spiral global warming out of control, ensure a nuclear winter, and the destruction of the world a s we know it. 7

There can be many reasons behind the potential use of nuclear weapons. Historically, this was associated with the fear of a new large scale war with many participants, or a clash between nuclear superpower. Today rouge or nuclear ambitious states, terrorist organisations, internal instability and climate change induced instability have been added as potential causes, and are perhaps more probable causes as well. Internal and climate change induced instability are especially closely linked. We have already witnessed how internal migration within EU and external migration from countries at war have been with hostility. This is not true only for UK, but is a trend spreading through lot of the western world. As floods and droughts making even more people displace, and we have not yet seen the implications of climate change induced migration. For our own part, we could expect increased hostility towards certain nations and people, and a demand for a solution. For the countries experiencing the changing weather systems, this could lead to further destabilisation of already fragile countries. Which in turn could create even more fertile breeding ground for terror organisation, organisations who are inclined to try to get their hands on a nuclear or dirty bomb. 8

Therefore, CND and their allied organisations works are more important than ever. The destruction, killing and impact of conventional weapons are horrible enough if we are not to have nuclear weapons in the mix. And as we continue in our failure to accept climate change, we are moving ever closer to a situation when nuclear weapons inevitable will be used.

We now have 3 of the biggest nuclear countries, all permanent members of the security council, all threaten directly and indirectly to respond with nuclear weapons if provoked. A 4th permanent member just renewed their nuclear weapons program for a minimum of 30 more years, and with a prime minister whom publicly proclaims her willingness to use nuclear weapons. And of course, there is North Korea, who are more active than ever, and even closer to missiles powerful enough to reach far away targets.

The nuclear deterrence has clearly failed when the threat of using nuclear weapons has become a means to set conditions for international negotiation. Nuclear weapons have been reintroduced to Kaliningrad for the since the end of cold war. China is building new military bases with nuclear capabilities. USA have elected a president who might be too impulsive and irrational to have his fingers on the red button. UK are have chosen to continue their dependence on obsolete nuclear submarine s, and North Korea seem as unpredictable as ever. Who will be the first to launch a missile? Or will restart serious disarmament talks before it is too late?

 

Written By

Eivind Alexander Havnerås

  1. Ware, A. and Van Reit, R. – The climate-nuclear nexus – Pacifist Ecologist, 2013 (Summer). Stockholm Environment Institute, (SEI), – Understanding the Nexus: Background paper for the Bonn2011 nexus conference – Stockholm Environment Institute, 2011. and World Future Council, (WFC), – The climate-nuclear nexus; Exploring the linkages between climate change and nuclear threats – World Future Council, 2012, www.worldfuturecouncil.com
  2. World Future Council, (WFC), – The climate-nuclear nexus; Exploring the linkages between climate change and nuclear threats – World Future Council, 2012, www.worldfuturecouncil.com
  3. Stockholm Environment Institute, (SEI), – Understanding the Nexus: Background paper for the Bonn2011 nexus conference – Stockholm Environment Institute, 2011 and World Future Council, (WFC), – The climate-nuclear nexus; Exploring the linkages between climate change and nuclear threats – World Future Council, 2012, www.worldfuturecouncil.com
  4. European Environment Agency, (EEA), – Renewable energy in Europe 2016: Recent growth and knock-on effects – European Environment Agency, 2016
  5. European Environment Agency, (EEA), – Renewable energy in Europe 2016: Recent growth and knock-on effects – European Environment Agency, (2016). Ware, A. and Van Reit, R. – The climate-nuclear nexus – Pacifist Ecologist, 2013 (Summer), Stockholm Environment Institute, (SEI), – Understanding the Nexus: Background paper for the Bonn2011 nexus conference – Stockholm Environment Institute, 2011. and World Future Council, (WFC), – The climate-nuclear nexus; Exploring the linkages between climate change and nuclear threats – World Future Council, 2012, www.worldfuturecouncil.com
  6. World Future Council, (WFC), – The climate-nuclear nexus; Exploring the linkages between climate change and nuclear threats – World Future Council, 2012, www.worldfuturecouncil.com
  7. Stockholm Environment Institute, (SEI), – Understanding the Nexus: Background paper for the Bonn2011 nexus conference – Stockholm Environment Institute, 2011 and World Future Council, (WFC), – The climate-nuclear nexus; Exploring the linkages between climate change and nuclear threats – World Future Council, 2012, www.worldfuturecouncil.com
  8. Stockholm Environment Institute, (SEI), – Underst anding the Nexus: Background paper for the Bonn2011 nexus conference – Stockholm Environment Institute, 2011 and World Future Council, (WFC), – The climate-nuclear nexus; Exploring the linkages between climate change and nuclear threats – World Future Council, 2012, www.worldfuturecouncil.com