Remembering Hiroshima: The Threat of Nuclear War and Climate Change
Exactly 70 years ago today, at 8:15 a.m. Japanese time, the world changed forever. The Enola Gay dropped the first nuclear weapon used in war on the citizens of Hiroshima. From that moment on the face of the world and the future of humanity became unrecognizable.
According to experts even though the Cold War is long over, in the short term, nuclear weapons remain the single greatest threat to humanity and the future of our planet.
My father, Ted Turner, has made nuclear abolition one of his top priorities as it is a looming threat for all of us and our life support system. He created history with his decision to donate one billion dollars to the UN Foundation, in an effort to support the work of the United Nations and prevent nuclear war.
It was only a couple short months before the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that the United Nations convened for the first time in San Francisco on April, 25, 1945 to prevent a third World War. My father also went on to co-found the Nuclear Threat Initiative with former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, which is funded by many prominent, international philanthropists. Among them is Warren Buffett, who shares my father’s belief that nuclear weapons are a top threat for humanity and is one of NTI's leading funders.
We have never needed the United Nations and leaders like my father and Warren Buffett more. The crisis in Ukraine, the rise of militants, and the increase in countries obtaining nuclear weapons has pushed the threat level to an all time high.
In an article published on CNN recently, Dr. Ira Helfand, co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and past president of IPPNW's U.S. affiliate, Physicians for Social Responsibility, wrote “In the last few years, climate scientists and physicians have shown that a large-scale nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia would drop temperatures across the planet to levels not seen since the last Ice Age, killing much of the human race in the process.
Meanwhile, the crisis in Ukraine has raised the danger of such war to the highest level since the end of the Cold War. Indeed, even a very limited nuclear war, such as one that might take place between India and Pakistan and that saw the use of less than 0.5 percent of the world's nuclear arsenals, would cause enough cooling to disrupt agriculture across the globe and spark a global famine that could kill as many as 2 billion people.”
Nuclear threat and climate change are the single biggest threats to civilization and are intrinsically linked. Beyond the physical destruction of the bomb and the resulting radiation, the impact of even a small nuclear disturbance could be profound, leading to serious issues of food scarcity.
On Dec. 8, 2014 the Vatican released Pope Francis’ statement on nuclear weapons called Nuclear Disarmament: Time for Abolition, which argues that the possession of nuclear weapons, even for purposes of deterrence, is immoral. The very existence of nuclear weapons prevents global peace from becoming a reality. A couple months later on May 24, 2015 Pope Francis released his encyclical “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home,” detailing the immediate threat of climate change.
It is heartening that some of the world’s leaders are taking these issues seriously, but it is not enough. The world’s population is looking at us, as one of nine countries that possess nuclear weapons, to be responsible and lead the call for disarmament. It would be wonderful if our citizens could join up with some of the smartest, most successful people in the world to start voicing their wishes to get rid of nuclear weapons once and for all.
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After sustained declines in the number of COVID-19 cases over recent months, restrictions are starting to ease across the United States. Numbers of new cases are falling or stable at low numbers in some states, but they are surging in many others. Overall, the U.S. is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of new cases a day, and by late June, had surpassed the peak rate of spread in early April.
Seven day rolling average of number of people confirmed to have COVID-19, per day (not including today). This chart gets updated once per day with data by Johns Hopkins. Johns Hopkins university doesn't provide reliable data for March 12 and March 13. Johns Hopkins CSSE Get the data
To Have a Second Wave, the First Wave Needs to End.<p>A wave of an infection describes a large rise and fall in the number of cases. There isn't a precise epidemiological definition of when a wave begins or ends.</p><p>But with talk of a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/27/new-covid-19-clusters-across-world-spark-fear-of-second-wave" target="_blank">second wave in the news</a>, as an <a href="https://www.american.edu/cas/faculty/mhawkins.cfm" target="_blank">epidemiologist and public health researcher</a>, I think there are two necessary factors that must be met before we can colloquially declare a second wave.</p><p>First, the virus would have to be controlled and transmission brought down to a very low level. That would be the end of the first wave. Then, the virus would need to reappear and result in a large increase in cases and hospitalizations.</p><p>Many countries in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-0908-8" target="_blank">Europe and Asia have successfully ended the first wave</a>. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/08/new-zealand-abandons-covid-19-restrictions-after-nation-declared-no-cases" target="_blank">New Zealand</a> and <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/06/08/how-iceland-beat-the-coronavirus" target="_blank">Iceland</a> have also made it through their first waves and are now essentially coronavirus-free, with very low levels of community transmission and only a handful of active cases currently.</p>
Different States, Different Trends<p>Looking at U.S. numbers as a whole hides what is really going on. Different states are in <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html" target="_blank">vastly different situations right now</a> and when you look at states individually, four major categories emerge.</p><ol><li>Places where the first wave is ending: States in the Northeast and a few scattered elsewhere experienced large initial spikes but were able to mostly contain the virus and substantially brought down new infections. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/new-york-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">New York</a> is a good example of this.</li><li>Places still in the first wave: Several states in the South and West – see <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/texas-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Texas</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/california-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">California</a> – had some cases early on, but are now seeing massive surges with no sign of slowing down.</li><li>Places in between: Many states were hit early in the first wave, managed to slow it down, but are either at a plateau – like <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/north-dakota-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">North Dakota</a> – or are now seeing steep increases – like <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/oklahoma-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Oklahoma</a>.</li><li>Places experiencing local second waves: Looking only at a state level, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/hawaii-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Hawaii</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/montana-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Montana</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/alaska-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Alaska</a> could be said to be experiencing second waves. Each state experienced relatively small initial outbreaks and was able to reduce spread to single digits of daily new confirmed cases, but are now all seeing spikes again.</li></ol><p>The trends aren't surprising based on how states have been dealing with reopening. The virus will go wherever there are susceptible people and until the U.S. stops community spread across the entire country, the first wave isn't over.</p>
What Could a Second Wave Look Like?<p>It is possible – though at this point it seems unlikely – that the U.S. could control the virus before a vaccine is developed. If that happens, it would be time to start thinking about a second wave. The question of what it might look like depends in large part on everyone's actions.</p><p>The <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1086%2F592454" target="_blank">1918 flu pandemic</a> was characterized by a mild first wave in the winter of 1917-1918 that went away in summer. After restrictions were lifted, people very quickly went back to pre-pandemic life. But a second, deadlier strain came back in fall of 1918 and third in spring of 1919. In total, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/1918-pandemic-history.htm" target="_blank">more than 500 million people were infected</a> worldwide and upwards of <a href="https://theconversation.com/compare-the-flu-pandemic-of-1918-and-covid-19-with-caution-the-past-is-not-a-prediction-138895" target="_blank">50 million died</a> over the course of three waves.</p><p>It was the combination of a quick return to normal life and a mutation in the flu's genome that made it more deadly that led to the horrific second and third waves.</p><p>Thankfully, the coronavirus appears to be much more <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2020.104351" target="_blank">genetically stable</a> than the influenza virus, and thus less likely to mutate into a more deadly variant. That leaves human behavior as the main risk factor.</p><p>Until a <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-needs-to-go-right-to-get-a-coronavirus-vaccine-in-12-18-months-136816" target="_blank">vaccine or effective treatment is developed</a>, the tried-and-true public health measures of the last months – <a href="https://theconversation.com/this-simple-model-shows-the-importance-of-wearing-masks-and-social-distancing-140423" target="_blank">social distancing,</a> <a href="https://theconversation.com/masks-help-stop-the-spread-of-coronavirus-the-science-is-simple-and-im-one-of-100-experts-urging-governors-to-require-public-mask-wearing-138507" target="_blank">universal mask wearing</a>, frequent hand-washing and avoiding crowded indoor spaces – are the ways to stop the first wave and thwart a second one. And when there are surges like what is happening now in the U.S., further reopening plans need to be put on hold.</p>
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