Action needed on nuclear threat

Last updated 10:19 21/02/2013

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New Zealand needs to take a lead role on global nuclear disarmament, writes Nick Wilson.

OPINION: Reports about North Korea detonating a nuclear device have again highlighted the threat posed by nuclear weapons and nuclear war.

The impact of even a "limited" nuclear war would be catastrophic for New Zealanders no matter where in the world the incident happened.

What can New Zealanders do about eliminating this threat?

For a start, eliminating nuclear weapons from the nine countries that possess them is a practical and effective way of protecting the world from this danger.

This is why the public need to get behind their government officials and representatives of civil society organisations who are attending a conference, hosted in Oslo on March 4-5 by the Norwegian Government, on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.

Despite a finding by the Red Cross that the use of nuclear weapons violates the principles of international humanitarian law, nuclear states persist in programmes to modernise nuclear weapons and missiles.

Stockpiles of nuclear materials in countries with nuclear power generation are accumulating and can be used to make new weapons or can be stolen by terrorists. Some nuclear states suffer from internal instability - there have been multiple attacks by militants on Pakistan's nuclear weapons facilities.

New research on the potential climate effects of a regional nuclear incident shows that a relatively "limited" nuclear war between India and Pakistan would push vast amounts of black carbon smoke into the atmosphere.

This would block sunlight and lower temperatures to below that in the "Little Ice Age" (1400-1850).

The current global population means hundreds of millions would be at risk and many would not receive help.

A Red Cross study shows there is no adequate international capacity to assist the victims of a nuclear war.

Given that New Zealand is respected internationally for its nuclear-free legislation, we are well placed to take action on nuclear disarmament. We can do this by taking a leading role in the Oslo conference and by taking other diplomatic moves to end the nuclear weapons menace.

It's an opportunity to reframe the nuclear weapons issue as an extremely serious threat to humanity and progress action towards an international treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

Dr Nick Wilson is from the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, (IPPNW).

A public seminar, Nuclear Weapons, New Zealand and Norway, is being held at 6pm today at the National Library (Aitken St entrance).

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- The Dominion Post


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