The facts: 10 things you should know about nuclear weapons
1️⃣ The consequences of nuclear weapons are catastrophic.
Nuclear weapons are not like other weapons, they are designed to mass murder civilians, wipe out entire cities and cause irreversible harm to the environment. First responders like the Red Cross have warned that they would have no capacity to deal with a nuclear detonation, and if the conflict were to escalate into nuclear war, recent studies show over 5 billion people could die from the famine that follows. There are a lot of resources to learn about the unacceptable harm nuclear weapons cause, you can get started here or by watching this powerful explainer by Kurzgesagt and the Red Cross
2️⃣ There are no safe hands for nuclear weapons, all 9 nuclear armed states put the entire world at risk.
There are 9 nuclear armed states: Russia, United States, China, France, United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, Israel, North Korea (by size of their nuclear arsenals). Between them they have almost 13000 nuclear warheads. While this is a much smaller number than there were during the Cold War, many are more destructive and nuclear armed states are all planning to build new and possibly more usable weapons. The reality is that we will not be safe until all nuclear weapons are completely eliminated for good.
It’s time to stop the madness. Join the movement.
3️⃣ The risk of nuclear weapons use is higher than ever
Even before the war in Ukraine began, the UN was warning that "the risk that nuclear weapons will be used is higher now than at any point since the duck-and-cover drills and fallout shelters of the Cold War." Analysts for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists calculated that a child born today is unlikely to live out their natural lives without seeing nuclear devastation.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the barrage of nuclear threats and retaliatory statements that have followed, those risks have only gotten higher. The terrifying but true reality is that we cannot know for certain if Putin - or any leader of a nuclear-armed state - will use nuclear weapons at any time. What we do know is that nuclear weapons pose unacceptable humanitarian consequences - and that there is no response capacity to help survivors in the aftermath.
4️⃣ It’s ok to feel anxious about all of this.
This is a lot, and you are not alone in feeling worried. If you are struggling to not get overwhelmed with the fear, please check out our guide to dealing with nuclear anxiety before continuing.
5️⃣ Nuclear weapons are a giant waste of public resources.
While facing a global pandemic and a climate crisis, the 9 nuclear nations are spending more than ever on maintaining, increasing and modernising their nuclear arsenals. In 2022 they wasted $82.9 billion on their nuclear weapons, more than $157,000 per minute.
6️⃣ Nuclear threats increase the risk of nuclear weapons use and must be condemned.
Nuclear weapons are not normal, and we must not allow the idea of their use to become “normal.” The decades-long nuclear taboo is being dangerously eroded: just look at Russia’s explicit threats to use nuclear weapons in connection with its invasion of Ukraine, responses from the US and NATO implying retaliation, or North Korea’s implied and direct threats to South Korea during its latest missile tests. In these circumstances, every additional threat, missile test, military provocation, or declaration of the importance or necessity of nuclear weapons, adds to the risk of catastrophe. The only way to counter this is to speak up. Global condemnation of these threats at all levels can stigmatise and delegitimize them, make it clear to nuclear-armed states that their behaviour is unacceptable and push them to walk back their dangerous rhetoric and de-escalate. You can learn more about why delegitimization is such a powerful tool here.
7️⃣ There is a treaty banning nuclear weapons and it’s time for all countries to join it.
In 2017 the majority of countries in the world rallied to adopt the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The treaty entered into force in 2021, making nuclear weapons illegal under international law, and it’s building pressure directly and indirectly to help end nuclear weapons. Learn all about the TPNW (aka #NuclearBan on social media) and how it's changing the world here »
8️⃣ Nuclear weapons are man made and we can choose to eliminate and dismantle them
While more than 30 countries considered building nuclear weapons, the majority chose against investing resources in weapons of mass destruction. Several countries were moving close to a nuclear programme, but chose to change their plans. Keeping nuclear weapons is a choice, and there is always an opportunity to choose to dismantle and eliminate them instead. If you’re curious about how that actually works, check out this great stop-motion video by Outrider.
9️⃣ Nuclear war has not started and we can prevent it from happening.
After the Cuban missile crisis, countries came together and negotiated international treaties and made agreements to reduce nuclear weapons risks. After the peak of nuclear weapons buildup in the Cold War in the 80s, we saw serious reductions by way of agreements like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties and unilateral disarmament measures by the US and Russia. This combination of tools brought the numbers down, but now we need to finish the job. The nuclear threats of 2022 cannot be ignored, or dismissed. The TPNW is a new piece in the global legal architecture to end nuclear threats forever, and every country should get on board so we can abolish nuclear weapons for good.
🔟 To end nuclear weapons, it takes everyone, and there are people taking action all over the world
There are so many different ways to get involved, and we need action at every level. Whether it's asking your city officials or your elected representatives to support the TPNW, pushing for your country to join the ban, getting the financial sector to stop investing your money in the companies that produce these weapons of mass destruction, your voice is needed. This fight is long term, but together, we can win it. So will you join the movement?