There are two truly existential threats to human civilisation and other life on the planet – nuclear weapons and climate change. We have had around two decades of nuclear amnesia among so many of our politicians, media and commentariat. They have totally failed to keep the public informed of the rapid, high-risk, technological developments taking place in weapons systems. On climate change, they have certainly talked. But words have greatly outpaced effective action. Scottish CND’s Festival for Survival on November 4th seeks to open a wider public debate on these issues. We have called them twin threats for good reason. These two pathways to terrible destruction come together at many points.
We have entered the age of hypersonic missiles which can travel much faster and manoeuvre in the air to avoid existing defence systems. The US, China and Russia have already developed them. Massive developments in drone technology have been taking place and these are being married to Artificial Intelligence. This is a frightening development because the entry-level to this new arms race is relatively low. This is all in a context in which there have been no new arms control developments while much of the previous arms control architecture has collapsed. For Scotland, the 2021 UK Integrated Review actually announced a 40% increase in the number of nuclear warheads at Faslane/Coulport. And at vast expense, the new generation of Trident is due by the end of the decade. Fiona Hill, a Senior Director of the US National Security Council, said in a radio interview last year that the world was more dangerous than during the Cold War and that non-proliferation was out the window.
We have had extensive analysis of the impact of climate change but not much discussion of the implications for violent conflict. Climate change will be a massive disrupter. It will mean more floods in some parts of the world, more droughts in others, more storms, low-lying settlements wiped out, and crop and livestock failure. Such extensive social and economic disruption will inevitably provoke conflict. Many military bases and nuclear power plants are on coastal sites with the potential of more Fukishimas.
Unless humanity undergoes a dramatic moral conversion to a much more modest, cooperative and sharing culture, this means small or large wars. Mass migrations alongside food and resource shortages create fear and panic, to which we can add to the existing nuclear weapons threat, plus that of nuclear proliferation.
There is also a significant current military carbon footprint which governments don’t like to talk about. The US military emits more CO2 than many countries and if it was a separate state, it would be the 47th worst carbon polluter. UK annual emissions from the military sector were estimated at 11 million tonnes of CO2. Add Russia, India and China into this and we are not talking about marginal polluters.
These are the big issues that need debate and our campaigns need to take these frightening but realistic projections out to the public. We know that the political and military industrial complex want to have complete control over the narrative. In recent years they have succeeded thanks to a compliant media. But there have been times when they lost that control, in the 60s and 80s and briefly at the start of the 21st century. It is our job to take these vital issues forward and to develop constructive paths to take our direction of travel away from these twin threats to our survival. I urge you to join us November 4th to collectivley discuss how we can shape a brighter, safer and more just world order.
You can book tickets for the Festival For Survival here.
Isobel Lindsay is a member of the Scottish CND Executive Committee and a veteran campainger for Scottish independence.