Saturday, November 22, 2008

Increasing risk of nuclear weapon use

The Global Trends report of 2025 was just released, and it contains some predictions about what the geopolitical structure will look like in 17 years. Although it is long, various keywords are bolded so you can hone in on what interests you. What caught my eye was their section on nuclear proliferation:
The risk of nuclear weapon use over the next 20 years, although remaining very low, is likely to be greater than it is today as a result of several converging trends. The spread of nuclear technologies and expertise is generating concerns about the potential emergence of new nuclear weapon states and the acquisition of nuclear materials by terrorist groups. Ongoing low-intensity clashes between India and Pakistan continue to raise the specter that such events could escalate to a broader conflict between those nuclear powers. The possibility of a future disruptive regime change or collapse occurring in a nuclear weapon state such as North Korea also continues to raise questions regarding the ability of weak states to control and secure their nuclear arsenals.
Just as an individual is more likely to kill themselves than to be murdered or killed in war, I fear that the human race is more likely to destroy itself than to be destroyed by any outside threat.

And out of all of the doomsday scenarios we hear about on a regular basis--meteor strike, rampant disease, rapid climate change--I think that a nuclear winter is by far the most likely scenario and the one that deserves the most attention. We should celebrate having made it over 70 years without destroying ourselves, although we should remember that we have come close.