Nuclear weapons vexed the conscience of science since before they even physically existed. Eliminating them would not only greatly reduce the chance of mass human catastrophe in the world, but allow science to atone for one of its most divisive creations.
Where We Are Now: Since peaking in the 1980’s, the number of nuclear weapons has significantly dropped following the end of the Cold War. Additionally, the US and Russia just agreed to reduce their arsenals by a quarter over the coming years.
However, Russia and the US still maintain a nuclear stockpile of thousands of weapons each, and countries like Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea continue to avoid the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But paradoxically, since the US and Russia own 95 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, the total number of weapons in the world continues to drop, even while the number of nuclear armed states rises.
What Needs To Be Done: While the scientists that actually worked to create the first atomic bomb significantly influenced the debate over the use of nuclear weapons in the early days of the Cold War, the power of scientists to affect the debate about nuclear weapons has declined precipitously. Scientists continue to be active in the disarmament/nonproliferation community, but this is effectively a political problem now.
Chances It Will Occur Within A Decade: For total elimination, barring an extreme Prozac-in-the-drinking-water-type mood shift in the world's political scene? Not great. Promising, though, is that last 10 years saw the number of nuclear weapons cut in half, with even further reductions on the way. While a world with zero nuclear weapons may still be far off, it’s not unrealistic to imagine a 2020 with significantly reduced stockpiles.single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.