According to the 2000 Report of the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, the long-lasting effects of nuclear testing can be qualified in simple scientific terms: “Radiation exposure can damage living cells, causing death in some of them and modifying others.” Translation: death, cancer and birth deformities, to name but a few.
These long-lasting effects aren’t limited to nuclear testing. They are the same horrors that afflicted victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But what the rest of us should know, and need to know, is that the nuclear threat has only grown more dangerous.
Today marks an important milestone in our fight to eliminate the nuclear threat. Five years ago when the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution to declare August 29 the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, they said that “the end of nuclear tests is one of the key means of achieving the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world,” reminding us that there is still much more work to be done.
The truth is, as long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not safe. The human and environmental devastation caused by nuclear weapons — whether by testing, mistake or malice — is the very reason we need to eliminate them altogether. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which in 1996 set out to ban nuclear tests, is an important step, but we need to do more — and we can.
With political will and public pressure, we can achieve a world without these weapons of mass destruction. Just 10 days ago, we saw all of Syria’s chemical weapons destroyed because of bold leadership and effective diplomacy. And as I write this, the U.S. and other P5+1 leaders are amidst talks with Iran on a final end to the Iranian nuclear-weapons impasse. What we need now is intense public pressure. We must hold leaders accountable and demand a safer future.
Global Zero, the international movement to eliminate nuclear weapons, is spearheading the effort to put this critical human-rights issue at the top of the public and political agenda. Their activists are hitting the streets with bold action, pushing world leaders to make this an urgent priority. In fact, earlier this month on the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, Global Zero turned out more than 400 activists in a global day of action that spanned three continents, five countries and seven cities to commemorate one of the world’s most shattering tragedies and to demand progress toward a world without nuclear weapons.
Together, they’re calling for the first-ever Nuclear Weapons Summit. There, key nuclear and non-nuclear countries will come to the table to advance the phased, verified elimination of all nuclear weapons by 2030. But that starts with a global commitment to achieve a nuclear-free world.