Viewing Nuclear Weapons through a Humanitarian Lens

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There is renewed and deep international concern about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from the detonation of nuclear weapons in populated areas. Yet 25 years after the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence remain central to the security doctrines of a significant number of states. Drawing on a range of perspectives, this volume explores what viewing nuclear weapons through a humanitarian lens entails, and why it is of value. Recent developments in this respect are also examined, and what these could mean for nuclear arms control in the near future.




Imagine it is ten thousand years in the future. Historians and archaeologists—whether human or extraterrestrial—are excavating remnants of our current era. They would note our technology and unprecedented social and economic interconnectedness, our science and cultures, and the operation of sophisticated markets bringing material prosperity and improved living standards to many people (although passing over others). Archaeological evidence of the impact of human society on the environment, including the effects of climate change, would also be easy to find. Preserved electronic data, perhaps radio or television broadcast signals intercepted many light years away or files preserved on hard drives or memory sticks buried on Earth, would show our policymakers were well aware of various challenges to human survival. The record might even show evidence of improving surveillance and response systems for infectious diseases, and even for potentially species-ending threats such as asteroids on Earth-bound trajectories.


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