Episode 466 Nuclear Winter and War Criminals

David Harries was educated and worked as a nuclear engineer. Leon Kosals is a sociologist professing criminology at University of Toronto, and James Simeon is head of McLaughlin College, York University. David answers Leon’s question about whether nuclear winter is a real possibility (yes, but mainly if there is escalation). They both agree with James that war is an existential threat now and must be controlled, which wil involve significant changes in the UN. Though the SDGs are essential, top priority may best be assigned to potential existential threats, which now means that we need means of enforcing international law, especially against leaders who perpetrate aggression against other states. For the video, audio podcast, transcript and comments: https://tosavetheworld.ca/episode-466-nuclear-winter-and-war-criminals. Then share your thoughts in the comment column.


James Simeon

David Harries

Leon Kosals


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I think the crucial thing is to find a mechanism for enforcing international law — specifically any war crimes or aggression. We don’t want a world police force — or at least I don’t, and there are good reasons to fear such a horrible organization — so the only alternative is to somehow authorize the citizenry to oust the war criminal leader(s) and take control of the government, to rule decently and properly. How could such a thing be authorized? By the ICJ. They did order Russia to stop the invasion, but of course they were ignored. We should have a system whereby any two of these UN branches (the UNSC, the GA, or the ICJ or ICC) can jointly declare the leadership illegitimate because it is violating their orders. Then, we could assure the citizens and/or other government officials of the offending country that they are authorized to capture the criminal leader and turn him over for prosecution by the ICC in The Hague. Moreover, we might want to promise to reward them for doing so. A “bounty” on Putin’s head. (I can think of $1 billion palace on the Black Sea that would be a nice award for anyone who succeeds.). If the criminal leader resists and is defended and is injured or killed in the process, such an authorized group of resisters can be assured that they will not be prosecuted by any UN body for making the attempt. But the authorization should have to be approved by any two of those bodies, maybe even three, for obvious reasons.

So how about that for a new international law? 

There needs and deserves to be a ‘project’ to thoroughly and honestly explore the issue of ACCOUNTABILITY in the 21st century.

The recent NYT article – attached – I re-read after our meeting. Doing so reinforced my claim. In the event Donald Trump is NOT held accountable for (at least some of) his many, now globally exposed, illegal actions, the (many) other autocrats/dictators will feel their impunity – at least in their own country – is more impregnable than ever. I do not think Freedom House has used the term ‘democracy genocide’, but its time may be coming, unless…

For sure, the crimes against humanity, including genocide, provoked by violent, destructive intra- or inter-state conflict are emotionally more deserving of having their perpetrators held to account. But in the absence of the ‘rule of law’, and more enforcement of costs to individuals who abuse human rights, the worst crimes will continue to pass into history before Justice can be effectively deployed.

Many thanks for this very meaningful conversation. A lot of serious problems were raised that would be useful to discuss afterward. One such problem is the case related to mass displacement. There are thousands of Russians who urgently fleeted abroad after the start of the war against Ukraine. Many of them actually have marginal legal status and they started to discuss the possibility to contact official international organizations like the UN or the EU to develop a kind of e-citizenship for solving concrete legal problems and related problems. Although this is a minor issue compared to Ukrainian refugees, I think such a solution would be useful not only for Russians. What do you think, is it useful to develop a legal international regime of e-citizenship (a kind of e-Nansen passport, perhaps, based on blockchain technologies) to mitigate the problem of displaced people?  

Yes, Leon, I think the Nansen passport idea is a great revival. In my interview with Axworthy he mentioned it too.

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