At the height of the Cold War in the 1960s it seemed almost inevitable that a terrifying nuclear arms race would spread to all corners of the globe, threatening the future of humanity.
In the 1970s and 80s, Greenpeace campaigned for a ban on nuclear testing and it was during this campaign in 1985 that the French government ordered the bombing of the ship, Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand killing one crew member. After years of campaigning, a ban was achieved and ultimately the international community got together and agreed to ban nuclear weapons.
Fifty years on, almost all nations reject the need for nuclear weapons. Today only nine countries still possess them in clear contravention of international law (USA, Russia, China, UK, France, Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea). But sabre rattling between posturing world leaders has increased the risk of nuclear conflict. Experts say the risk is greater than it has been in nearly 70 years.
The nuclear states’ obsession with nuclear weapons also diverts attention away from the biggest security threat of all – climate change. Our basic needs – food, water, shelter and energy – are being threatened by a rapidly changing climate. Left to fester, these problems pose a very real risk to global peace and security.
Spending endless billions on nuclear missiles is a costly diversion from tackling the real challenges we face today. And what do we gain? Bombs capable of flattening cities clearly can’t deter suicide bombers, deal with cyber-terrorism or prevent civil wars.
Despite the current political situation, more and more security experts and senior military figures now agree that a world free from nuclear weapons is both achievable and essential. And more people are realising that those few countries clinging onto nuclear arms are making the future more dangerous for both their own citizens and the rest of the planet.
Global political changes around the world have presented new challenges. Donald Trump’s moves to expand the US’s nuclear arsenal and abandon peace treaties risks provoking a new arms race. There’s no doubt that Trump’s policy decisions are making the world a more dangerous place.
But for the vast majority of countries and people around the world – peace is on our side.