Problematic Approaches to Nuclear Weapons

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As with climate, there have been numerous attempts over the decades to reduce the threat of nuclear war. These have included efforts to stop nuclear testing, to reduce the numbers of certain weapons, to eliminate certain types of weapons, and to take other steps to reduce tensions or avoid misunderstandings.

Many of these measures were hailed at the time as moving the world closer to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. But all of those claims have so far proved illusory. In reality, the world is no closer to completely eliminating these weapons than it was immediately after the first bombs were detonated in 1945. If anything, nuclear weapons are more entrenched than ever right now in the military doctrines and political mainstream of countries like the United States.

Nuclear Testing Bans

The Partial Test Ban Treaty

On June 10, 1963, President Kennedy announced to the world that the US would unilaterally stop testing nuclear weapons. He invited the Soviets to do the same, and by October, the US, UK and Soviet Union had signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere. It was Kennedy’s publicly stated hope that the partial test ban would so restrict further development of nuclear weapons that the US and the Soviets would soon be willing to negotiate a complete ban on these weapons.[1]

After JFK’s assassination and Khrushchev’s fall from power, what happened instead was that testing just went, quite literally, underground. Underground nuclear testing allowed nuclear arsenals in both the US and the Soviet Union to continue growing at an enormous pace. It soon became clear that having to test weapons underground instead of in the air was not the slightest impediment to continued development and “improvements” in nuclear weapon design.

[1] See Kennedy’s American University speech of June 10, 1963, in which he outlined his proposal for negotiations with the Soviets to bring the nuclear arms race to an end, starting with his unilateral halt to above ground testing: Kennedy, J. F. (1963, June 10). American University Commencement Address. In American University Commencement Address.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

Three decades later, it was Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union who announced a unilateral halt to underground nuclear testing. The US followed suit and by 1996, both countries had signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), banning all explosive testing of nuclear weapons, whether above or below ground.

Although almost all countries of the world have by now signed the CTBT, the US and seven other countries have still not ratified it, meaning it cannot enter into force as a treaty.[1] Underground nuclear testing has nevertheless stopped for all existing nuclear powers except North Korea. But has nuclear weapons development stopped in all the other nuclear-armed countries?

The simple answer is No. The United States has engaged in sub-critical testing of nuclear weapons ever since signing the CTBT, and now can combine those tests with the use of advanced supercomputers to simulate a nuclear explosion without a weapon actually exploding. Through this combination of tools, the US is able to obtain all the data they need to continue monitoring existing nuclear weapons and developing new ones without violating the terms of the CTBT.[2]

China and Russia have also conducted sub-critical tests and are believed to be capable of computer simulations also.[3] The UK has access to US data and has used US equipment to conduct its own sub-critical tests.[4] France is not known to have conducted any sub-critical tests, but it was the last of the major powers to stop its underground testing, so perhaps it has more data still available from that.

The reality is that even without nuclear testing underground, the nuclear-armed states have continued to refine existing nuclear weapons and to develop new capabilities for them.[5]

[1] Each treaty has its own requirements for entering into force, and for the CTBT, a specific list of countries that include all those known to have nuclear weapons or the means to make nuclear weapons must ratify the treaty for it to enter into force. Russia, the UK and France have signed and ratified the CTBT, but not the US, China, India, Pakistan, Israel or North Korea.

[2] See Fact Sheet on US Nuclear Weapon Computer Simulations at U.S. Department of State. (n.d.-b). U.S. nuclear weapon computer simulations.

[3] See Von Hippel, F. (2012, December 14). Subcritical experiments – Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

[4] UK Parliament. (n.d.). GS (UK/US) 6: Written evidence from the British Pugwash Group. In UK Parliament.

[5] See summary of recent developments in all nuclear states at: SIPRI. (2021). Military Spending and Armaments, 2021. In SIPRI.

Nuclear non-proliferation 

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the US government’s favorite nuclear treaty because it commits 186 countries to never acquiring nuclear weapons. The deal was supposed to be “we’ll get rid of ours if you all don’t get your own,” but it hasn’t worked out that way.

Article VI of the 1970 NPT actually states categorically that the nuclear-armed states must begin negotiations “in good faith” and “at an early date” to bring an end to the nuclear arms race and achieve complete disarmament. But since it doesn’t set a timetable for those negotiations, nor does it stipulate any consequences for the nuclear-armed states if they do not negotiate in good faith to disarm, the nuclear-armed states have quietly ignored that Article, or else pretended that it means something completely different,[1] for over 50 years now.

In 1995, parties to the NPT had to decide whether the treaty should be extended indefinitely or not. At that review, many countries complained that the US and other nuclear-armed states had not fulfilled their end of the bargain by disarming. They argued that the NPT should therefore not be indefinitely extended.

To get agreement on the indefinite extension of the NPT, the US joined with the other four nuclear-armed states and gave an “unequivocal undertaking” that they would indeed fulfill their Article VI obligation to negotiate disarmament. This commitment has been repeated ever since, but with no negotiations in sight, almost 30 years after the 1995 commitment was made.

 The bottom line is that the NPT, and the term “non-proliferation” generally, is used by many, especially in the US, to describe the goal of ensuring that other countries do not acquire nuclear weapons. Since the NPT was signed in 1968, another five countries did acquire nuclear weapons, [2] doubling the membership of the nuclear “club.” Nevertheless, 186 countries have so far not joined the club, making the NPT a “success” from the US point of view.

Non-proliferation, as discussed above, commonly refers only to what is known as horizontal proliferation, or the increase in the quantity of countries possessing nuclear weapons. There is no mention in the NPT of vertical proliferation, or the increase in the quantity – or quality – of nuclear weapons in any one country. Although other treaties have since addressed the vertical proliferation issue,[3] all five of the nuclear powers at the time of signing the NPT went on increasing their own nuclear stockpiles after that. The NPT itself makes no attempt to curtail vertical proliferation.

The NPT comes up for “review” every five years. After weeks of intense deliberations, a final outcome report must be agreed by consensus of all the countries who are parties to the treaty, detailing progress and next steps. In 2015, the final document was rejected by the US, Canada, and the UK, so all that effort among nearly 200 countries came to nothing. Likewise, in 2022, the final document was rejected again, this time by Russia. Taking place in the midst of the Ukraine War, the document included a strongly worded criticism of Russia’s invasion, clearly designed to ensure Russia would reject it.[4]

As long as non-proliferation refers only to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries, it can never be a means of eliminating nuclear weapons altogether. And without explicitly referring to vertical proliferation, it cannot even be a means of moving in that direction, since the existing nuclear weapons states remain free to continue developing their own nuclear stockpiles without restraint. 

[1] The claim is sometimes made that by naming the five as “nuclear-armed states” the NPT confirms their status as being nuclear-armed for all time. See UK definition of “NPT recognized nuclear states”: Mills, C. (2022). Overview: Where are all the world’s nuclear weapons? In House of Commons Library (No. 9092).

[2] This includes South Africa, who acquired nuclear weapons in 1977 and then dismantled them all in 1991, leaving nine current nuclear weapons states: US, UK, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

[3] See previous chapter, which explains in more detail the difference between quantitative and qualitative proliferation issues when it comes to arms control treaties.

[4] See United Nations Meetings Coverage and Press Releases. (2022). Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference Ends without Adopting Substantive Outcome Document Due to Opposition by One Member State | UN Press. In United Nations Meetings Coverage and Press Releases (DC/3850).

Nuclear freeze

In the 1980s, it became popular to call for a “nuclear freeze.” Up until then, the peace movements in the US and Europe were mainly calling on their governments to “ban the bomb.” Freezing things as they were seemed like a more palatable message for politicians who for 30 years had shown no interest at all in actually banning the bomb.[1]

The freeze, like the partial test ban treaty, was believed by many at the time to be a step that would start the ball rolling inevitably and irreversibly towards complete nuclear disarmament. If only they would stop developing and building new nuclear weapons, perhaps the arms race could then be put into reverse gear.

As palatable as the freeze message was, it still wasn’t palatable enough to get enacted into law by the US Congress.[2]  The net effect of the Cold War ending and all the nuclear treaties being signed during that period was a freeze of sorts, but it was only a freeze in terms of raw numbers, not in terms of stopping the development of new and more advanced weapons, which continued unabated even as the Cold War no longer provided the justification for it.

As we saw in chapter 8, seeing absolute reductions in the numbers of nuclear weapons misled many into thinking that the nuclear arms race ended in the 1990s and that only a nominal number of weapons remain. We know now that it was only the most dangerous and least useful weapons that were eliminated, leaving the “best” nuclear weapons poised just as dangerously as before to launch a nuclear holocaust.[3]

 By calling for a nuclear freeze, anti-nuclear campaigners in the 1980s were able to reach out to more conservative counterparts, and perhaps had more success than they would have had if the campaign had simply called for banning the bomb. But we’ll never know that. What we do know is that even with a more moderate message, the freeze did not succeed in its goal of passing a resolution in Congress, let alone getting a commitment from the President to implement such a resolution.

Now, 40 years later, the idea of a nuclear freeze has returned with a call to stop production of new nuclear weapons under development, but leave all the existing nuclear weapons in place.[4] Calling for a freeze still seems more palatable to some than calling for the abolition of these weapons.[5] But is stopping construction of an entire new generation of nuclear weapons any more likely than it was in the 1980s?

One problem with the “freeze” concept is that existing nuclear weapons are getting older and more dangerous to handle. The military will always argue that this is purely a “safety” issue and that it is irresponsible to continue deploying weapons that are well past their supposed “expiration” date.[6] That’s why there are programs that are called nuclear “Life Extension Program” and “Stockpile Stewardship” and so on.

The other problem with a nuclear freeze is that by leaving all the current weapons intact, a freeze does not in any way challenge the logic used to justify their continued existence. In fact, it’s written into some of the bills currently in Congress that we don’t need more or newer nuclear weapons because the ones we have would still provide “an assured retaliatory capability.”[7]

Nuclear weapons are not just morally abhorrent. They are militarily useless, insanely dangerous, ridiculously expensive and illegal under all but the most unlikely circumstances. Why then focus only on the new ones and leave our existing arsenal as it is? It certainly does not lead inevitably to eliminating them.

[1] See, for example, the description here: Baker, J. C. (2018, February 21). The Nuclear Freeze Movement. Outrider.

[2] It finally passed in the US House of Representatives but then failed in the Senate by a vote of 58-40. See Chapter 16 for more background on the Freeze campaign of the 1980s.

[3] See Chapter 8. Of course what happened after the Cold War ended was not a freeze at all, but continued work on “improving” nuclear weapons which has continued to this day.

[4] Ed Markey’s HALT Act, S.1499, calls for “a verifiable freeze on the testing, production, and further deployment of all nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles for such weapons” among other things: S.1499 – 118th Congress (2023-2024): HALT Act of 2023. (2023, May 9).

[5] See David Cortright’s review of Henry Marr, Freeze! The Grassroots Movement to Halt the Arms Race and End the Cold War, 2022, in Cortright, D. (2022, September). Freeze! The grassroots movement to halt the arms race and end the Cold War. Arms Control Association.

[6] See National Nuclear Security Administration. (n.d.). Maintaining the stockpile.

[7] ICBM Act of 2021, S.982, Section 2, paragraph 9. Text – S.982 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): ICBM Act. (2021, March 25).

Arms reduction

Arms reduction efforts have successfully cut the numbers of nuclear weapons held by the US and the USSR/Russia. Many hoped these measures will eventually reduce stockpiles to zero. But, like so many of the attempts to reduce carbon emissions (see chapter 3), attempts to reduce nuclear stockpiles will never reach zero as long as the underlying logic for retaining these weapons goes unchallenged.

As discussed in Chapter 8, there has also been an emphasis on reducing absolute numbers of weapons rather than on tackling qualitative weapon developments that are designed to offset quantitative reductions. This has meant that treaties designed to reduce nuclear stockpiles have not always had the desired effect.

SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation) Treaties

The US and the USSR signed the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) in 1972. It limited the number of nuclear weapon launchers (ICBM missiles, submarines and planes) on both sides, but it did not address the number of warheads on each launcher. Multiple Independently-Targeted Re-entry Vehicles (MIRV) allowed several nuclear warheads to be launched from a single missile, each one going to a different target. So between 1972 and 1979, when the next treaty (SALT II) was signed, nuclear arsenals on both sides continued their relentless expansion as both sides added multiple warheads onto their existing missiles.[1]

The SALT II Treaty tried to limit MIRV warheads as well as delivery vehicles, but there were many loopholes in the agreement and it was never ratified by the US Senate. So numbers of warheads and technological advances continued apace throughout the SALT II period, with Soviet warhead numbers increasing exponentially right up to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. US warhead numbers remained static during the SALT II period, but that disguised enormous technical advances that were taking place at that time.[2]

[1] From 1972 to 1980, US nuclear stockpile increased from 5,800 warheads to 10,000. The Soviet nuclear stockpile increased from 2,100 warheads to 7,200 warheads during that same period. See Wikipedia contributors. (2023, August 23). Nuclear Arms Race. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.

[2] See MacKenzie, D., & Spinardi, G. (1988). The Shaping of Nuclear Weapon System Technology: US Fleet Ballistic Missile Guidance and Navigation: II: `Going for Broke’ — The Path to Trident II. Social Studies of Science18(4), 581–624.

START (Strategic Arms Reduction) Treaties

The SALT treaties were followed by START and NewSTART, the first treaties to lead to real and significant reductions in the numbers of nuclear warheads and delivery systems in both the US and Russia. START I was signed in 1991, and it is credited with eliminating up to 80% of the world’s entire nuclear arsenal by the time it expired in 2009.[1]

This claim, however, is misleading. A large number of those warheads were eliminated because of unilateral Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNIs) undertaken by Presidents George Bush Sr., Mikhail Gorbachev, and Boris Yeltsin in 1991-1992.[2]

And many of these were eliminated because they were outdated and being replaced anyway. For example, START I eliminated the entire US Minuteman II ICBM force of 450 missiles and their associated launch facilities.[3] Installed back in 1967, their thrust motors were developing technical problems.[4] Eliminating these outdated weapons was counted as “disarming” 450 missiles, but the whole system was replaced by 450 new Minuteman III missiles and their associated launch facilities, which are still in place today.

After decades of so-called arms reductions, the obsolete weapons have been negotiated away, and we’re left with the newest, most accurate, most desirable nuclear weapons, in the leaner, meaner arsenals of both the US and Russia.[5]

[1] Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I). (2023). In Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

[2] See Koch, S. J. (1991). The Presidential Nuclear Initiatives of 1991–1992. Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction National Defense University.

[3] National Park Service. (2020, October 20). Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991

[4] Air Force Center for Studies and Analyses. (1985). Effectiveness of the Minuteman II Stage III Refurbishment Program.

[5] In the US arsenal, these include the Minuteman III ICBMs, the Trident II submarine missiles and the B-83 nuclear bombs for the latest B-2 bombers and modified B-52s. These are the most up-to-date nuclear weapons that the US military want to have.

Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT)

Here’s another trick, like the CTBT, that the nuclear-armed countries use to maintain their advantage while at the same time looking like they’re serious about disarmament: the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT). This treaty would prohibit any further production of nuclear weapons-grade fissile material (enriched uranium and plutonium) and thus make it less likely that countries that don’t already have weapons-grade fissile material would be able to build nuclear weapons.

But as the name suggests, it is a “cut-off” treaty, stopping production of fissile material where it is at the moment. Countries that already have large stockpiles of weapons-grade fissile material, like the US, Russia, China, France and the UK, would not be required under this treaty to reduce or eliminate their existing stocks.

Like the CTBT, the FMCT would help to reduce the future production of nuclear weapons from the countries that don’t have any. But in fact, the original nuclear weapons states[1] have more than enough fissile material to meet their requirements for a very long time. As they decommission and dismantle old, unstable warheads from the 1950s, they merely recycle their fissile material into newer warheads.

Even then they have more fissile material left over than they need. So a FMCT in fact does nothing at all to reduce stockpiles. The US alone already has enough surplus uranium and plutonium to more than double its existing nuclear arsenal.[2] Globally, there is already enough surplus weapons-grade uranium to make 84,000 more nuclear weapons, and enough surplus plutonium to make another 35,000 of them.[3]

The situation is similar to the one we face with the climate crisis. We cannot get to (net-) zero carbon emissions unless we accept the fact that the world must stop burning fossil fuels and move to a fossil-free future. In the same way, our starting point for reducing nuclear stockpiles must be the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Despite all the rhetoric that makes it sound otherwise, there is no evidence that any US President since Kennedy has been willing even to consider that possibility.[4]President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for promising a world without nuclear weapons in his Prague speech of April 5, 2009.[5] But he then went on to approve the largest nuclear weapons program in US history, committing even more tax dollars to the nuclear enterprise than Ronald Reagan did at the height of the Cold War.[6]

[1] The original signers of the NPT were the US, USSR/Russia, UK, France, and China.

[2] Just 4kg of plutonium is enough to make a nuclear weapon. The US has at least 30 tons of surplus plutonium. See Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. (2023). Fact Sheet: Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). In Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

[3] Global stockpile of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) at the beginning of 2022 stood at 1,250 tons. Global stockpile of plutonium “available for weapons use” stood at 140 tons. See Fact Sheet: Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). (2023). Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

[4] The 2022 Nuclear Posture Review, for example, “reaffirms a continuing commitment to a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent…” and states that “For the foreseeable future, nuclear weapons will continue to provide unique deterrence effects… we will maintain nuclear forces that are responsive to the threats we face.” p.1 of part II NPR: U.S. Department of Defense. 2022 National Defense Strategy of The United States of America. (2022, October 27).

[5] Obama, B. (2015, June 13). Remarks By President Barack Obama In Prague As Delivered. In whitehouse.gov

[6] President Obama approved a 30-year program costing at least $1 trillion to upgrade every aspect of the US nuclear weapons arsenal. See Ewing, P. (2016, May 25). Obama’s Nuclear Paradox: Pushing For Cuts, Agreeing To Upgrades. NPR

Nuclear policy

Several policies have been proposed in the US aiming to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in government thinking and military planning. Their proponents hope to reduce the likelihood that nuclear weapons will be used on purpose or by accident.

These risk reduction measures sound sensible enough at first glance, but they don’t attempt to reduce the numbers of nuclear weapons, or even to limit their capabilities. Rather than helping to eliminate these weapons, do these policies merely make the world safer in a world where nuclear weapons are here to stay?  

No First Use

Millions of dollars, huge numbers of campaigners, and a lot of time and energy over many years have been invested in the effort to get the US government to adopt a policy of “No First Use” of nuclear weapons.[1] The argument has been that this is an achievable goal, has popular support, would be a step in the right direction, and would make the world safer.

However, agreeing to use nuclear weapons only in response to another country’s use of nuclear weapons means using these weapons purely as a form of retribution, retaliation or revenge.[2] Such use of any weapon is strictly forbidden under international laws of war, as well as under US military law. [3]

The only legal justification for the use of deadly force under US military law is as a means of achieving a clear military objective.  It’s very hard to argue that launching nuclear weapons after a nuclear attack has already occurred would somehow achieve a military objective.

Furthermore, since any use of nuclear weapons, no matter who uses them first, would likely kill millions of innocent civilians and potentially trigger an exchange that could well destroy human civilization as we know it, it is even harder to see any ethical distinction between first use and second use. The reality is that any use of nuclear weapons is too dangerous to contemplate and should be considered unacceptable under any circumstances.

Calls for a no first use policy are often accompanied by the claim that “the sole purpose of nuclear weapons [should be] to deter their use by others.”[4] But as discussed in Chapter 8, the widespread belief in the myth of nuclear deterrence is arguably the single biggest obstacle to the actual elimination of nuclear weapons.

That myth is probably the number one reason that people in the US believe we need to maintain these weapons, regardless of whether they think they should be used first or not.

[1] See Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. (2021, April 20). No first use – Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

[2] Sen. Elizabeth Warren includes in her rationale for adopting a No First Use policy that this would still “Preserve the U.S. second-strike capability to retaliate against any nuclear attack on the U.S. or its allies.” Warren, E. (2021, April 15). Warren, Smith, colleagues introduce “No first use” bill for nuclear weapons [Press release].

[3] See Office of General Counsel. (2023). Law of War Manual. Department of Defense. (p. 52).

[4] Rep. Adam Smith, in his explanation of a No First Use policy states “Codifying that deterring nuclear use is the sole purpose of our nuclear arsenal strengthens U.S. national security and would renew U.S. leadership on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.” Smith, A. (2021, April 15). Chairman Smith, Senator Warren introduce “No first use” bill for nuclear weapons [Press release].

Limiting Presidential Authority to Launch

Another effort calls for removing the US President as the sole authority for launching nuclear weapons. A bill in the US Congress would clarify that only Congress has the authority to declare war according to the Constitution, and that any use of nuclear weapons would already be an act of war.[1]

This is an important point to be making, not least because it highlights the inherently anti-democratic nature of nuclear weapons. These weapons give a single person the power to obliterate millions of people in an instant. That is a power not even the kings of England had when the US colonies broke away to create “a more perfect union.”[2]

Removing this power from the President of the United States would be an important step towards a more perfect democracy. It would not, however, remove the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons. It would merely transfer that terrible power from the President to Members of Congress. To what extent that might act as a brake on the potential use of nuclear weapons by the US is not known.

[1] See Markey, E., & Lieu, T. (2023, April 14). Sen. Markey and Rep. Lieu Announce Legislation to Limit U.S. President’s Power to Unilaterally Start Nuclear War | U.S. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts [Press release]. 

[2] See Scarry, Elaine (2014), Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom, W.W. Norton.

Taking Weapons Off Hair-Trigger Alert

It is alarming that a large number of US nuclear weapons are always on “hair-trigger alert,” ready to be launched at a moment’s notice. Another policy demand is that all bombs be taken off hair-trigger alert. After all, no country is going to believe that the US won’t use its nuclear weapons first as long as they’re being kept at the ready 24/7. Surely, then, removing them from hair-trigger alert would be a good thing: it would reduce the likelihood of a launch triggered by an accident or a misunderstanding.

What’s needed, however, is not a change of policy, but rather a change of operational status. Physically removing nuclear warheads from their missiles is a much more visible and tangible signal of reduced readiness to launch than merely changing a policy.

Indeed, the first step required of any nuclear-armed country joining the Nuclear Ban Treaty (see chapter 10) is to remove nuclear weapons from operational status within 90 days of ratification of the treaty. That means not only removing warheads from missiles, but removing missiles from silos and submarines and standing down nuclear forces in a very visible way that indicates there is no intention to use these weapons any longer.[1]

[1] See Article 4, para 2 in TPNW, p.5: United Nations. (2021, January 22). Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. United Nations Treaty Collection.

Not all “steps” are steps in the right direction

Of course, everyone wants to support actions that are politically “doable,” that might actually be enacted into law. We’ve all spent too much of our lives beating our heads against a wall for goals that seem impossible to achieve. We also want to meet people halfway when we’re dealing with issues where there’s such a big gap between what we’re asking for and what our opponents are willing to offer.

Every journey begins with a single step. We all know that. But that doesn’t mean that every step is taking us where we’re trying to go. Many climate activists got sucked into the Beyond Coal campaign, which was actually just about replacing coal-fired electricity plants with gas-fired ones. Sure, gas emits less carbon than coal, but we will never reach net-zero emissions by simply replacing coal plants with gas.

But people thought it was a step forward, so they took it. Same with biomass, same with weatherizing homes. These can all reduce carbon emissions but they can never in a million years, let alone in the next 7 years, eliminate carbon emissions.

Focusing on policy goals like No First Use or Limiting Presidential Authority is not that different, in some respects, from focusing on the Beyond Coal campaign. These campaigns are at least a “step,” but are they steps toward the goal of eliminating fossil fuels or nuclear weapons altogether? If a step is actually reinforcing and validating the myth of deterrence, giving people a false sense that the problem has now been solved, or diffusing the energy and resources needed for the more important goal of actually eliminating these weapons, it is potentially a step in the wrong direction.