John Polanyi: Prohibition of nuclear weapons the only rational way forward

December 2, 2021 by U of T News

Nuclear weapons continue to pose a threat to humanity and should be banned if reason is to prevail over might, says the University of Toronto’s John Polanyi

In a Globe and Mail op-ed based on a recent speech to the Conference on the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Ottawa, the University Professor Emeritus and Nobel laureate says that the lingering threat of nuclear war is “bereft of reason.”

“Reason gave us science; laws of nature and some laws of man. From this came courts where laws are argued. There is a profound difference between that and drawing a gun,” writes Polanyi, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986 and has long argued for abolishing nuclear weapons.

“To set aside the gun will, however, require an act of will, opposing the continual call for armaments. The rationale for arming is that others do it. This defies logic, since it is a race to no destination except war.”

Polanyi notes that while 122 countries have provided their backing for the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the world’s nuclear-armed states – as well as Canada – continue to hold out.

He writes that the goal of prohibition will require these countries to set aside the pursuit of armed power and make a “break with history” for the greater good.