LONDON – One of the most dispiriting features of today’s international debates is that the threat to humanity posed by the world’s 23,000 nuclear weapons – and by those who would build more of them, or be only too willing to use them – has been consigned to the margin of politics.
US President Barack Obama did capture global attention with his Prague speech in 2009, which made a compelling case for a nuclear weapon-free world. And he did deliver on a major new arms-reduction treaty with Russia, and hosted a summit aimed at reducing the vulnerability of nuclear weapons and materials to theft or diversion.
But nuclear issues still struggle for public resonance and political traction. It would take a brave gambler to bet on ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by the US Senate any time soon.
The film An Inconvenient Truth won an Academy Award, led to a Nobel Prize for Al Gore, and attracted huge international attention to the disastrous impact of climate change. But Countdown to Zero, an equally compelling documentary, made by the same production team and making shockingly clear how close and how often the world has come to nuclear catastrophe, has come and gone almost without trace.