By Dr. Arun Mitra
On 10th December 2017, Oslo the, capital of Norway will be filled with exciting events when the Nobel Peace Prize for this year will be bestowed upon the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). This campaign has 468 partners who have been consistently working since long for a nuclear weapon free world. ICAN was officially launched in Vienna, Austria in April 2007 during the Non-Proliferation Treaty preparatory committee meeting. It was inspired by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which had played a major role in the negotiation of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, also known as the Ottawa treaty.
As a result of continuous work since then in the form of lobbying with governments in many countries and the UN public opinion building by the partners in respective countries, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution on 7th July 2017 by 122 votes in favour and only one against the resolution declaring the nuclear weapons illegal. This is indeed a big achievement which drew global attention and was recognized by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee who announced that ICAN would be the recipient of this year prize.
Studies around the globe have brought to the fore the catastrophic impact of the nuclear weapons. There cannot be a better explanation than what the medical team from the ground zero in Hiroshima has given after the dropping of nuclear bomb. The first foreign doctor to arrive in Hiroshima after the bombing, to assess effects and treat victims, was ICRC delegate Marcel Junod. Junod sent a cable to Geneva on 30 August 1945:
….conditions appalling. City wiped out. Eighty per cent all hospitals destroyed or seriously damaged. Inspected two emergency hospitals. Conditions beyond description. Effect of bomb mysteriously serious. Many victims apparently recovering suddenly suffer fatal relapse due to decomposition of white blood cells and other internal injuries now dying in great numbers. Estimated still over one hundred thousand wounded in emergency hospitals located surroundings, sadly lacking bandaging materials, medicines….
Thereafter several studies have been carried out which prove the futility of medical response in the event of nuclear attack. Detailed data has shown that it is not possible to have such amount of emergency care anywhere in the world.
A study by Nuclear Physicist M V Ramna has shown that a single 150 kiloton bomb on Mumbai, would cause between 736,000 and 8,660,000 deaths. If each side were to use fifty 15 kiloton, Hiroshima-sized weapons (small by current standards), on the other’s population centres, it was predicted that within the first week more than 20 million people would die directly from blast effects of explosions, burns from fires and radiation While this is horrific, recent studies demonstrate that the global long-term damage could be far greater.
IPPNW first estimated that the number at risk of famine from even such a limited regional war would be one billion. This was later revised up to at least two billion. How did Helfand and IPPNW arrive at such dramatic figures? A 2006 study by climate, atmospheric and oceanic scientists Alan Robock and Brian Toon determined that fires caused by hundred nuclear explosions would inject 5–6.5 million tonnes of black soot so high into the atmosphere that it could not be washed out by rainfall and would persist for a decade, blocking out sunlight and reducing surface temperatures across the planet by an average of 1.3 °C.
The internal regions of major continents, the bread baskets, might experience severe effects on production, with cooling causing shortened growing seasons and decreased precipitation as less water evaporated from the oceans. . This soot heating the upper atmosphere would also substantially decrease stratospheric ozone, allowing more UV light to reach the earth’s surface, further reducing crop yields. This would lead to starvation globally. Effect will be more in the poor countries and poor in the countries would be most adversely affected. This would put two billion people at risk.
These studies clearly indicate the threat looming large over mankind at a time when several parts of the world have serious conflict zones and there is direct involvement of nuclear weapons states in many of these conflicts. Any use of nuclear weapons intentionally, unintentionally or by accident would have extremely grave ramifications on the life system as a whole. With no remedy in that case the only option is abolition of nuclear weapons. It is unfortunate that none of the nuclear weapon states participated in the treaty deliberations. They must realize that they would also not survive any such catastrophe. (IPA Service)