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Best of 2021 – Emerging experts on climate change and nuclear risks

Best of 2021 – Emerging experts on climate change and nuclear risks

Artist's concept shows future ICBM blasting into sky

Artist's concept shows future ICBM blasting into skyArtist’s concept of Ground Based Strategic Defense. Credit: Northrop Grumman

While politicians continue to bicker over President Biden’s proposed spending for social and climate programs, Congress Passed a $768 billion defense spending billWith overwhelming bipartisan support on December 15, It was approximately $24 billion more that the president had requested.

The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act provides nearly $28 million for nuclear weapons activities. $2.6 billion of that amount will go to the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent programme, which is a new generation in intercontinental missiles designed for the Air Force. It was developed by Northrop Grumman.

Some lawmakers tried to stop the missile-replacement programme. Opponents say the program is not only unnecessary—because air- and submarine-launched weapons make land-based missiles redundant—but also the most dangerous leg of the nuclear “triad.” The use-it-or-lose-it nature of land-based missiles increases the risk that they might be launched in response to a false alarm.

These criticisms have been raised before by experts, but Noah Mayhew (a research associate at Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation) went further. When he called intercontinental ballistic missiles “ridiculous” in a Bulletin Piece selected as this year’s Leonard M. Rieser Award winner, he was speaking for a younger, cash-strapped generation baffled by their government’s spending choices.

That piece is one of several 2021 standouts in the “Voices of Tomorrow” section of the Bulletin. Other emerging experts wrote about the legality of “low-yield” nuclear weapons, reparations for radiation exposure from nuclear weapons testing, the case for a Blue New Deal that recognizes the ocean as a key part of any climate strategy, and how to carve out a career at the intersection of art and nuclear policy.

Here’s a sampling of fresh voices from the past year in the Bulletin:

A millennial’s view: ICBMs are ridiculous

By Noah C. Mayhew

A young nuclear policy analyst critiques the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent and urges US lawmakers invest in their generation by prioritizing higher educational, climate action, nuclear governance, and spending on intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Do tactical nukes violate international law?

By Jaroslav Krasny

This thoughtful analysis by a rising expert on long-term health effects of weapons of mass destruction shows that even the limited use low-yield nukes would violate the customary laws of armed conflict and inflict unnecessary injuries.

Youth advocate: News reports on climate change often neglect an essential component—the ocean

By Mark Haver

When two “thousand-year” floods inundated his hometown within a two-year period, the author got involved in efforts to raise awareness of how climate change is degrading the ocean and affecting coastal communities. He explains why his group of early-career ocean professionals, the Sustainable Ocean Alliance, believes the Green New Deal—which only mentions oceans once—must be broadened to include blue as well as green.

Nuclear power won’t fix Iraq’s energy crisis

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Letter to the editor: Divestment from fossil fuels will help solve the climate crisis

By Nils Host

In this essay, the author analyzes oil-rich Iraq’s plan to spend $40 billion on eight nuclear reactors for civilian energy production. The author argues that Iraq, which is in energy crisis and owing Iran $4 billion in unpaid utility bills, would be better off investing in infrastructure projects and renewable energy rather than in nuclear power.

French report on nuclear fallout from Algerian War

Austin R. Cooper

This author, who is writing his dissertation on the international controversy over France’s former nuclear weapons testing program in the Algerian Sahara, takes readers on a quick tour of the history leading up to the Stora Report filed earlier this year—a French effort aimed at reconciliation with Algeria. While he praises the report for acknowledging the nuclear fallout, he believes it is lacking in concrete steps France should take to make it more accessible to those who have been affected by it.

Why choose a career as an artist over a career in nuclear policy? The money

Molly Hurley

A young author working in nuclear policy wonders whether it might be more lucrative to instead pursue a career as an artist—which may not require as much investment in higher education, has more funding support, and seems to matter more to most people than nuclear weapons do. Her essay is accompanied by some of her artwork.



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