John Polanyi: Nuclear powers and Canada should engage with cause of nuclear prohibition

June 29, 2022 by U of T News

The UN Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) holds the key to averting nuclear war – but only if the world’s nuclear powers and NATO members like Canada come together for the cause of peace and restraint, according to the University of Toronto’s John Polanyi, a Nobel laureate.

In a Globe and Mail op-ed, the University Professor Emeritus in the department of chemistry in the Faculty of Arts & Science, notes that the world’s nuclear-armed countries will be absent from a meeting of TPNW signatories in Vienna from June 21 to June 23 – and that Canada will be missing, too. “Our first priority should be to support the United Nations when it calls for the prohibition of the most destructive weapons the world has ever known,” writes Polanyi, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986 and has long advocated for abolishing nuclear weapons.

Polanyi says the world’s nuclear age has passed through three distinct phases: American monopoly, marked by the dropping of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; U.S.-Soviet deterrence with flashpoints like the Cuban missile crisis of 1962; and the current phase, “an era of multiple superpowers,” with China fast approaching nuclear parity with the U.S. and Russia.

Read the op-ed in the Globe and Mail

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