We face two existential threats: climate change and nuclear war. We must fight both.
I salute President Joe Biden and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s dedication of $3.8 billion to directly combat the effects — if not the causes — of climate change (”Biden announces record amount of climate resilience funding,” Aug. 6). But we would be complete fools if we guard against an existential threat that will be years in reaching maximum effect and we do not also make an equal effort to end the threat of nuclear annihilation, something that could happen accidentally or intentionally in only a matter of hours.
This month marked the 76th anniversary of two other “dates that live in infamy”: the Aug. 6 and 9th atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The devastation wreaked there, while truly horrific, claiming well over 250,000 lives, pales in comparison to what any single nuclear weapon could do today. Despite some gradual reduction in the world’s nuclear arsenal over the past couple decades, there are now way more than 1,000 nuclear warheads spread out among 13 countries. This is literally a potential nuclear apocalypse just waiting to happen.
Years ago, Baltimore enacted legislation proclaiming the city to be a nuclear-free zone with enforceable penalties for anyone possessing any nonmedical weapons-related nuclear material including all hardware, software and nuclear material itself — or even conducting research on it — within city limits. The statute requires signs to be posted at all city gateways, clearly advising travelers of this law. Baltimore, if it ever did fully comply with that notice requirement, now inexcusably boasts only one such sign at our southbound Belair Road border.
More recently, the Baltimore City Council passed a “Back From The Brink” resolution urging our federal government to do everything possible to make progress toward disarming and eliminating all nuclear weapons worldwide. Other cities and towns have done so as well.
More significantly, 86 nations have signed, and 55 (and counting) countries have become, state parties to the U.N. Treaty for the Prevention of Nuclear War, a treaty that now binds all state parties to forswear all nuclear weaponry. One country, South Africa, has disarmed its nuclear arsenal,q but the United States and the other Nuclear Dozen nations have not.
The battle to belatedly address climate change will cost way more than the $3.8 billion that FEMA now plans to spend. The United States alone spends exponentially more than that maintaining our current nuclear arsenal, and even is budgeting a multibillion dollar “updated-replacement” arsenal, to continue this expensive insanity.
What can we do? First, Baltimore can get off its duff and post large “Nuclear Free Zone” signs at all city gateways, as required by law. Second, we can insist that our state’s two U.S. senators and eight representatives prioritize working to end the nuclear threat — and we can elect replacements for those who won’t or don’t. Third, we can insist that our president prioritize nuclear arms reduction treaties with all other nuclear nations at once or elect one who will in 2024. Fourth, we can support the nonprofit organizations that amplify our voices in this effort to dismantle this coequal threat to life on earth.
And lastly, we can divert the billions of taxpayer dollars that we spend on maintaining a weapons system that we will never use to instead fight climate change. Two threats. Two battlefronts. We have no choice. We must fight both until we succeed.
Louis Brendan Curran, Baltimore
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