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'Nuclear weapons are incompatible with action on climate,' report warns

CAMPAIGNERS called for a “vigorous and united” movement to abolish nuclear weapons today, as a new report warned of the bomb’s role in climate catastrophe.

Ahead of the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear attacks later this week, Don’t Bank on the Bomb’s study argues that ridding Britain of its nuclear stockpile is essential in addressing climate change.

Nuclear Weapons, the Climate and Our Environment warns that the combination of a new arms race and increasing disruption from climate change make nuclear war more likely.

Its author Linda Pearson wrote: “When climate change impacts the availability of key resources such as water, there is a risk that inter-state rivalry will turn into conflict involving nuclear weapons.” The risk is heightened because “key arms control agreements have been terminated” – the Donald Trump administration has torn up the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, for example.

The report details how uranium mining and weapons testing cause widespread environmental devastation, with indigenous lands and peoples often the worst affected.

It says that over the next five years, the UK will spend three times more on its military nuclear weapons programme than on helping developing nations tackle climate change. The US, meanwhile, will spend 15 times more in 2020 alone.

Island communities that were subjected to nuclear weapons testing, including Kiribati and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, are now bearing the brunt of climate disruption.

It also projects that more than 200,000 casualties — including 70,000 deaths — would occur in the event of a nuclear detonation in Glasgow, which is just 20 miles from the nuclear base at Faslane.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it should prompt activists to “step up our campaigning for investment in people and planet, not weapons of mass destruction.

“The environmental impact of nuclear weapons is another reason why nuclear disarmament is so important.”

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) urged peace activists to unite internationally and oppose the ongoing stockpiling of nuclear weapons.

Scottish CND chairwoman Lynn Jamieson said: “This excellent report spells out deadly links between the threats to all life on Earth of humanly generated nuclear radiation, the risks of nuclear war, global heating and environmental degradation. 

“The evidence makes clear the urgency of just transitions away from the often government-endorsed military and industrial practices that cause these harms.”

Scottish Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “It’s shameful that rich nations like the UK spend more on weapons of mass destruction than they are giving to poorer nations that are the most vulnerable to rising seas and extreme weather events.”

Such spending gaps have led to calls for existing funding and skills to be utilised in a just transition away from fossil fuels and military production. 

One of the report’s editors, Dr Guy Johnson, said that the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the futility of military spending in the face of serious human security threats, pointing to the impending climate emergency.

“There is an urgent need to shift priorities at the national and international level – our economies should serve people and planet, not power and profit,” he said. 

The call was backed by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which called for bomb-building skills to be redirected towards renewable energy and other useful forms of engineering. 

CAAT’s Andrew Smith said: “The bombing of Hiroshima was a terrible atrocity and must never be related.

“75 years on from the bombing, the need to move on from these failed destructive policies could not be greater.”

And Green MP Caroline Lucas said that the continued building of weapons is a betrayal of future generations. 

“We’ve seen from the response to coronavirus that global crises have the potential to aggravate international tensions. Adding nuclear firepower to the mix turns our world into an incredibly dangerous place,” she said. 

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