Nuclear Weapons 101

Since the Trinity Test in July 1945, the atomic bomb has defined the world we live in.

Today, there are about 12,500 nuclear weapons in the world controlled by nine countries: the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea. The U.S. and Russian arsenals eclipse all others, with roughly 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads between them.

While that’s much fewer than down from the over 70,000 nuclear weapons that existed in 1986, it’s still more than enough power to destroy life as we know it–and the people in charge of nuclear arsenals know that better than anybody. 

Nuclear war, even a relatively “small” conflict between two nuclear-armed states, would have global consequences. Beyond the immediate loss of life, breakdown of infrastructure, and general global chaos, models show us the disastrous climate effects in the weeks, months, and years after a nuclear war. 

But the reality is, the devastating impact of nuclear weapons has already been felt around the globe. The mining, manufacturing, and maintenance of these nuclear arsenals has left a persistent toxic legacy that disproportionately burdens the poor and communities of color. The southwestern United States, the Kazakh steppe, and Bikini, Mururoa and Fangataufa Atolls in the Pacific Ocean are all too familiar with living under a nuclear cloud. These communities are abandoned to the health, environmental, and social consequences of nuclear weapons, a tragedy that is still unfolding.

Meanwhile, the elite “priesthood” of defense contractors, militaries, elected officials, and experts responsible for these deadly arsenals display little interest in altering their course to find new solutions for today’s problems. These attitudes have led to billions spent on new weapons, expansion of arsenals, and an increase in nuclear risk– leaving the rest of us paying the cost of devastated communities and erosion of our physical and environmental wellbeing. 

It will take a global movement to dislodge the entrenched power structures protecting the nuclear status quo and build a world beyond the bomb.

Much like nuclear missiles sitting in underground silos, the work of abolishing nuclear weapons has itself been separated from other movements with which it intersects.

Global Zero’s mission is to change that: to pursue nuclear weapons abolition as a truly intersectional issue, in coalition with movement leaders from the racial justice, climate change, health justice and other movements. Because the truth is, nuclear weapons impact everything we care about. 

In the coming weeks, we’ll be outlining our work with partners in other movements and how the nuclear weapons issue connects to all others. 

Sign our petition and affirm that nuclear weapons are an intersectional issue, deeply connected to other existential threats and social injustices. It’s essential we all work together to build a just, prosperous, and equitable world free from the threat of nuclear weapons.