Nuclear war is the greatest threat to our generation

Adiyan Nayak ‘24

On August 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped the first nuclear weapon on Hiroshima, Japan. The impact alone killed at least 70,000 people, with the subsequent radiation taking another 70,000 lives. The scale of destruction was unlike anything the world had ever seen, prompting Japan to surrender shortly after the second nuclear attack. 

The atomic bomb was considered a miracle creation and remarkable scientific achievement, ending a deadly war and temporarily bringing peace to the international stage. Nearly eighty years later, the possibility of nuclear warfare poses the most significant threat to the human race.

In 1945, the United States possessed the only two nuclear warheads in the world. Today, there are an estimated 13,080 nuclear warheads on the planet. To say the consequences of nuclear warfare would be disastrous is an understatement; some nuclear weapons today are over 3,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. 

The American flag flies from a vessel in the foreground as the nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser USS SOUTH CAROLINA (CGN-37) returns to port from deployment in the Persian Gulf – via Wikimedia Commons

Several studies have simulated the effects of nuclear explosions, and scientists agree that in the event of a full-scale nuclear war, the majority of the human population would perish. Nuclear winter would cause  massive fallout and extreme climate change, and a global famine would eradicate the survivors. A small percentage of the species may survive to repopulate the Earth, but a nuclear war would mean the demise of the vast majority of this generation.

The possibility of imminent nuclear conflict is higher than it may seem. The two countries with the most nuclear warheads, Russia (6,257) and the United States (5,550), are currently in an antagonistic relationship; tensions have only been heightened since Russia invaded Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened that if any country interfered, they would face consequences “unlike anything the world has ever seen.” 

On March 7, the Russian government approved a list of “unfriendly countries” which included the United States, signaling a possibility of an attack. Nobody can know Putin’s psyche, but it is not unreasonable to assume that in a dire situation, he would resort to an unrestricted nuclear attack.

While an optimistic goal, the notion of total denuclearization is simply not realistic, as the nations of the world are too divided to come to such an agreement.

Regardless of whether the current conflict is resolved without nuclear weapons, the threat will remain; the future will only hold more conflict, and these weapons’ sheer power will continue to grow. This raises the subject of nuclear disarmament, the reduction or elimination of nuclear weapons. Total denuclearization is the only way to ensure the safety of humanity. In theory, all the nations of the world would agree to eliminate nuclear weapons as both an offensive and defensive measure. 

The Atomic Bond Dome in Hiroshima – Wikimedia Commons

While an optimistic goal, the notion of total denuclearization is simply not realistic, as the nations of the world are too divided to come to such an agreement. Despite numerous efforts by the United Nations, there are currently zero nuclear disarmament negotiations taking place. 

There is no way to truly determine the probability of a nuclear war, as there are too many unpredictable variables that factor into the equation. However, the threat is real, and it should be treated as such. Two things are certain: this is the highest nuclear tension has been since the Cold War, and an international nuclear war is the greatest threat to our generation.