For more than 45 years, physicians have documented and described the horrifying medical and humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons explosions. They have informed political and military leaders that doctors, hospitals, and other medical infrastructure would be so completely overwhelmed in the event of a nuclear war that we would be unable to respond in any meaningful way to relieve the suffering of survivors or to restore health to a devastated world. They have warned that the unique nature of nuclear weapons — their unprecedented destructive power and the radiation they release, causing cancers, birth defects, and genetic disorders across generations — removes any moral justification for their use as weapons of war and requires their abolition.
The findings described in Zero Is the Only Option have significant implications for nuclear weapons policy. They are powerful evidence in the case against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and against the modernization of arsenals in the existing nuclear weapon states. Even more important, they argue for a fundamental reassessment of the role of nuclear weapons in the world.
If even a relatively small nuclear war, by Cold War standards, could trigger a global catastrophe, the only viable response is the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Weapons Convention proposed by IPPNW and other NGOs, which has been a UN working document for more than a decade, is, in our view, the most effective way to achieve this goal and to give it the force of international law. A comprehensive, global agreement to prohibit the development, testing, production, stockpiling, transfer, use, and threat of use of nuclear weapons—either the Convention as proposed or a similar framework—would fulfill the long-deferred promise of the NPT and remove the greatest threat to security and survival that humanity has ever endured.