Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

Honduras has became the 50th country to ratify the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, the treaty will now become international law making nuclear weapons illegal. An Australian NGO, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has been critical in building the case for a ban treaty with a focus on the humanitarian harm of nuclear weapons. You can track the development of the treaty coming into law through ICAN.

Nuclear weapons cause devastating humanitarian harm in so many different ways. Professor Tilman Ruff writes about the effects of nuclear weapons on climate demonstrating diverse and complex ways that nuclear weapons would impact life on earth:

less than 0.5% of the global nuclear arsenal,
targeted on cities in just one region of the world, would
ignite massive firestorms that would loft millions of tons
of smoke high into the atmosphere, beyond the reach of
rain and snow. This smoke would blanket the entire globe
within a few weeks, and cool, dry and darken the world
beneath for more than two decades. The dark smoke in
the stratosphere and above would be warmed by the sun,
heating the upper atmosphere by more than 50℃, and
rapidly depleting the ozone which protects us from the
Sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.1

Professor Tilman Ruff, “Nuclear Weapons and our Climate”.

The link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons is inextricable. Al Gore, former US Vice President made an important connection between nuclear power and weapons in the context of addressing climate change:

“For eight years in the White House, every weapons-proliferation problem we dealt with was connected to a civilian reactor program. And if we ever got to the point where we wanted to use nuclear reactors to back out a lot of coal … then we’d have to put them in so many places we’d run that proliferation risk right off the reasonability scale.”

Al Gore, former US Vice President

Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, in his final years became a strong advocate for the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty. Like many others he wrote about nuclear weapons and climate change being the greatest existential threat the world faces. In one essay he wrote:

Like preventing rampant climate change, abolishing nuclear weapons is a paramount challenge for people and leaders the world over; a precondition for survival, sustainability and health for our planet and future generations. Both in the scale of the indiscriminate devastation they cause, and in their uniquely persistent, spreading, genetically damaging radioactive fallout, nuclear weapons are unlike any other ‘weapons’. They cannot be used for any legitimate military purpose. Any use, or threat of use, should be a violation of international humanitarian law

Malcolm Fraser, former Prime Minister of Australia.

The Australian Labor Party, has released a statement in response to the 50th ratification of the nuclear weapons ban treaty. It says the ALP is committed to sign and ratify the treaty, pending a suite of pre-requisites. The Australian Greens have unequivocally supported the Treaty and are calling for the immediate signing and ratification of the Treaty. The Liberal Government has been as silent as they can be, but in UN forums the Australian Government have actively sought to derail the treaty.

Dr Mark Diesendorf and Richard Broinowski AO have written recently on the nuclear power push in Australia and make links to conversations and some public debate about Australia developing a nuclear weapons program under the guise of “nuclear deterrence.”

The two greatest threats to our survival on earth are climate change and nuclear weapons, reflected in the Doomsday Clock, set by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Proposing nuclear power as a solution to climate change is folly. You cannot address one by exacerbating the other.

This treaty sets, for the first time, a pathway to the elimination of nuclear weapons. Congratulations to ICAN and the countries who have ratified the treaty – thankyou.