Keeping nuclear weapons is a high-risk gamble
SIR – On July 7 2017, the UN General Assembly adopted the text of a legally binding “instrument” to prohibit nuclear weapons. All nine nuclear weapon states, including Britain, boycotted the treaty negotiations, while most of the media ignored the making of this landmark treaty.
Yet the treaty was passed in the UN, by a vote of 122 to one, and supported by hundreds of civic organisations including the World Medical Association, the International Council of Nurses and the World Federation of Public Health Associations.
In light of these developments, it is time for a renewed public debate on Britain’s continued possession of nuclear weapons.
As doctors and health professionals, we highlight the fact that even a regional nuclear war could place up to two billion people at risk of starvation, while a large-scale war would threaten the very survival of humanity.
With over 1,000 nuclear warheads remaining on high alert across the world, and all nine nuclear-armed nations modernising their arsenals, the doctrine of nuclear deterrence represents a high-risk gamble.
Nuclear weapons are also an increasingly ineffective means of protecting national security. They do not counter new forms of aggression such as cyber-warfare, nor keep us safe from terrorism. They cannot be used to fight rising sea levels, extreme weather, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, antimicrobial resistance or social inequality.
Although multilateral disarmament would require a great deal of hard work, skilful diplomacy, leadership and courage, it can be done. By abandoning an increasingly redundant and dangerous approach to national security, Britain can take a lead in making the world safer.
Professor David Mccoy
Medact and Queen Mary University of London Professor Sir Andrew Haines Dr Richard Horton
Dr Fiona Godlee and 11 others; see telegraph.co.uk