17. All states shall shift rapidly to effective generation of electricity by using renewable energy.

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Rapporteur: Metta Spencer

Project Save the World aims to prevent six global threats, only two of which are distinctly existential risks to humankind: global warming, and war and weapons (i.e. militarism, especially nuclear).

Considered as separate problems, our four other global threats (famine, pandemics, radiation exposure, and cyberattacks) appear manageable, for none of them seems likely to kill a billion people in a short interval. But what if they occur, not separately, but in combinations? In such a case, each one of them can multiply the effect of others. And, because all six risks are causally connected as a single system, such connections must be expected. This article will explore the causal links among three dangers: radiation exposure from nuclear power plants, nuclear weapons, and global warming.

Worldwide, probably thousands of deaths each year result from radiation exposure: working in uranium mines, for example, or living with radon in a basement, or eating fish from a lake that contains tritium, or undergoing an X-ray exam. Even these low levels of exposure can be lethal, but some incidents are far worse—especially those involving nuclear reactors. The most catastrophic nuclear power accident was the explosion in Chernobyl, Ukraine. The true death count will never be known, and authoritative estimates vary wildly—from 4,000 up to 200,000.(1)

But compare those numbers to the predictable death rates from a nuclear war. Exploding a small fraction of the world’s current nuclear weapons could bring civilization to an end. And the dangers of global warming are even worse – potentially on the scale of the previous five “extinction events,” including the worst one 270,000 million years ago when about 90 percent of all species on the planet — animals, trees, marine life, everything — were killed.(2)

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