By Spencer Graves
What’s the single most important thing we can do to reduce the risk of nuclear Armageddon — a nuclear war that incinerates a thousand cities lofting so much smoke to the stratosphere that it causes a nuclear winter lasting years during which over 90 percent of humanity starves to death if they do not die of something else sooner?
My answer is lobbying our elected officials in the US Congress to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and asking others to join us. We can ask our representatives in the US House to co-sponsor H.R.2850, the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act of 2021. As this is being written, that bill has 13 co-sponsors, none of whom are from Kansas or Missouri. We can ask our Senators to introduce or co-sponsor a companion bill in the US Senate.
I suggest you email your Representative and Senators, saying you are affiliated with PeaceWorks Kansas City, and you’d like a Zoom meeting with the appropriate staff person to discuss this issue. If you don’t get a reply in four days, follow up with a phone call. If you get an appointment, contact me and others with PeaceWorks to help recruit others to join your meeting.
The accompanying figure shows the history of the number of parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and a summary of simulations assuming the probability distribution of the time between new states becoming parties remains unchanged from what it has been since the first three states, Guyana, the Holy See, and Thailand, became parties on 2017-09-20. Ninety-eight percent of the simulations fell between the red dashed lines in this plot, with one percent of simulations having all 195 eligible states become parties before 2028 and another one percent joining after 2038 — or never joining. Eighty percent fell between the orange dashed lines.
These simulated futures assume that the probability distribution of the time between new states joining the TPNW remains unchanged. That assumption is probably reasonable for the next couple of years but becomes less tenable further into the future. However, the analysis still seems useful even if the associated probabilities cannot be taken at face value. For more information, see the Wikiversity article on “Forecasting the number of parties to the TPNW“.
In particular, I think there is more than a one percent chance that some states will never join the TPNW, e.g., the current nuclear weapon states and their close allies. I also think the probability is greater than one percent that all eligible states become parties to the TPNW before 2028, because the TPNW has momentum and more people are responding to Russian President Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons under unspecified circumstances in the current Russo-Ukrainian war. Malawi officially joined the TPNW 2022-06-29, a week after the First Meeting of States Parties (1MSP) of the TPNW, June 21-23. Three countries (Cabo Verde, Grenada, and Timor-Leste) joined only the day before 1MSP and sent delegates to that conference.
If more PeaceWorks supporters push for this, it will increase the chances that the US, Russia, China, and the other nuclear-weapon states will join.
We need people working on green energy
Finally, in asking our elected officials to support something like H.R.2850, we should also be asking that the Kansas City National Security Campus (or Kansas City Plant), which makes 85 percent of the non-nuclear parts used in US nuclear weapons, be converted to support renewable (or “green”) energy like solar and wind. We’d be safer if we paid the employees of the Kansas City Plant to do nothing, because right now they are threatening the extinction of civilization. But they have the skills needed to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels towards a green energy future.
Spencer Graves, PhD
Secretary, PeaceWorks Kansas City
Copyright 2022 Spencer Graves Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (CC BY-SA) 4.0 international license