A recent report released by NuclearBan.US, “Warheads to Windmills: How to Pay for a Green New Deal,” shows how eliminating nuclear weapons will play a crucial part in preventing the worst of the climate crisis.The report is focused on the US in particular, but it offers a blueprint for all nine of the nuclear nations. Here’s what you need to know :
How are nuclear weapons and climate change related?
Nuclear weapons and climate change are both existential threats to the future of life on earth. Both can impact billions of people with catastrophic weather disruption, crop failure, famine, and mass migration. Both can result in the end of civilization and the extinction of humanity.
Nuclear weapons are as dangerous as ever – and they are also a climate issue. Scientists have calculated how much soot could be drawn into the upper atmosphere if these weapons were detonated on large cities like Moscow, New York, Beijing or London. They found that as much as 150 million tons of soot could be blasted into the upper atmosphere. This could lower global temperatures by as much as 7 degrees C (or 12 degrees F) for an extended period of time, plunging major food-producing regions of the world to below-freezing temperatures for several summers in a row and causing widespread famine. Even a “limited” nuclear war could lower global temperatures enough to starve more than 2 billion people.
Unfortunately, the two potential climate catastrophes do not cancel each other out. That is, a little bit of nuclear winter is not the antidote for a little too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But we can use one to solve the other, if we abolish nuclear weapons and shift the funding, brainpower, and infrastructure to green technologies. And this can be done, by combining two profound solutions: the Nuclear Ban Treaty & a Green New Deal — swiftly, before it’s too late. Warheads to Windmills offers a road map to get there.
Report launch in Congress on June 20th, with the endorsement of the Sierra Club and support of Representatives Jim McGovern and Barbara Lee.
How would scrapping nuclear weapons help achieve a Green New Deal?
#1 BY MAKING FEDERAL FUNDING AVAILABLE
Right now, a staggering amount of US federal funding is going into the production, maintenance and modernization of nuclear weapons. This is not a capital investment in things that will bring a return of income at a later date — this money is turned into weapons that can quickly lead to an end-of-the-world scenario. These funds need to be plowed back into the economy to create millions of jobs in sustainable technologies.
How much money? It’s notoriously difficult to glean exact figures from government documents, but according to the report, in 2019, the best estimate is that the US alone is spending $54.8 billion per year. As it happens, that amount of federal funding is about what an effective Green New Deal would require.
#2 BY REDIRECTING TALENT
We need the best and brightest experts currently employed building nuclear weapons of mass extinction to tackle the climate crisis. To implement a Green New Deal, we need scientific, technical, engineering, and mathematical (STEM) expertise to solve the remaining challenges of sustainable energy generation, storage, and transport, and use. However, in 2016, in the US, 5 out of 10 STEM graduates went to work with companies that design, build and maintain nuclear weapons.
We need these people to help solve the problems of climate change. Thus, scrapping nuclear weapons would mean the STEM talent currently wasted on obsolete and unthinkably dangerous nuclear weapons could be put towards building a sustainable and green future.
#3 BY FOSTERING INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
The United States, China, Russia and India account for more than half of the world’s total carbon emissions between them. Together with the other five nuclear-armed nations and their nuclear allies, these countries collectively emit nearly three quarters of all the world’s greenhouse gases.
The climate crisis requires unprecedented cooperation among all nations. But countries are busy spending trillions of dollars on arms races and on “modernizing” their nuclear stockpiles and targeting each other instead of working together to solve the climate crisis. A significant first step toward the necessary cooperation would be to stop threatening each other with nuclear annihilation.
The nuclear countries will all need the money, skills and other resources going into their nuclear weapons programs in order to adequately address the climate crisis in their respective countries. We need to improve international cooperation and cultivate the mutual goodwill of the major carbon emitters and nuclear weapons states to dismantle their stockpiles and move toward reducing their carbon emissions.
How would the US joining the TPNW impact a Green New Deal?
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (Nuclear Ban Treaty) outlaws everything to do with nuclear weapons It provides a pathway for multilateral negotiations toward global disarmament – not unilateral disarmament that would leave any country feeling more vulnerable than it already is. While the United States and the other nuclear-armed nations did not participate in the treaty negotiations and so far refuse to sign it, sooner or later, pressure from the rest of the world (and from within those countries) will force each country to address this lingering relic of the Cold War and eliminate its nuclear weapons. The need for global climate action makes this even more urgent.
The impact of the Nuclear Ban Treaty will be felt most immediately by the two dozen or so private companies that build, maintain and invest in nuclear weapons for the nuclear-armed states, as well as the financial institutions that support them. The Treaty is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons, and those who currently profit from them will need to convert to more socially acceptable products. The age of fossil fuels is also ending, so companies, investors, and governments must shift to sustainable products to help tackle the climate emergency.
And what about jobs?
A successful Green New Deal would create millions of good jobs in construction, forestry, operations, production, maintenance, research, engineering, design, and other fields.
The nuclear weapons industry currently employs a wide variety of highly skilled people. The good news is that these skills can be fairly easily transferred to green energy innovations. For instance, a 2014 study in the UK mapped 170,000 people employed in making nuclear weapons and their delivery systems, and then mapped the 300,000 or more jobs that would be needed to build and maintain enough offshore wind farms and marine energy projects to put the country on the path to net-zero carbon emissions. The study found that the necessary skills are similar, and that these workers could convert from one industry to the other without even having to move house!
These two maps show very roughly where and how many jobs there are currently in the nuclear weapons industry, along with where and how many jobs there could be by implementing a Green New Deal. Take a look:
Nuclear Weapons Industry Civilian Jobs
Source: nuclearban.us 2019