Image via Liquid Daddy
Even if there are caveats abound, Obama and Medvedev's signing of a nuclear arms reduction treaty is a very big deal. The biggest caveat is probably that the actual reductions in arms from each nation's nuclear arsenal aren't exactly huge--but nonetheless, it's very significant progress. After all, the chances of a nuclear winter occurring are higher now than ever before (while global warming is serious, the change in climate triggered by a nuclear winter would be immediately catastrophic), and this symbolic agreement sends a signal to the world that nuclear disarmament is possible.As Mike notes in his must-read piece on the ease in which a nuclear winter may be triggered, there are more nations with nuclear weapons now than at any other time. These include Pakistan, India, Israel, and perhaps North Korea and Iran, along with the US and Russia.
Unless there's major movement on the biggest arms holders to draw down their arsenals, there will forever be an incentive for other (sometimes unstable) nations to develop nuclear weapons. Hence the significance of today's arms agreement.
Photo via NY Times
The NY Times reports on the numbers:
The treaty, if ratified by lawmakers in both countries, would require each country to deploy no more than 1,550 strategic warheads, down from 2,200 allowed in the Treaty of Moscow signed by President George W. Bush in 2002. Each would be limited to 800 total land-, air- and sea-based launchers -- 700 of which can be deployed at any given time -- down from 1,600 permitted under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991, or Start.So, yeah, still a long ways to go--especially before the US can credibly ask other nations to disarm. And it's with those more unstable nations that a small-scale regional nuclear war (between India and Pakistan, for example)--that would have globally devastating consequences--is still more likely to occur. But it is a largely symbolic day, and hopefully marks the beginning of trend that will yet drastically lower the chances of a nuclear winter occurring
Now, coverage of a nuclear arms reduction agreement may not be typical TreeHugger fare--but I'm of the camp that believes that any news on movement towards a world where devastating nuclear war, subsequent climate alteration, massive extermination of life, and widespread Ozone destruction are less likely is a more sustainable one indeed.