advertisement
advertisement

Charting The Rise And Far-Too-Slow Decline Of The World’s Nuclear Arsenal

The graphical story of how we ended up with 16,000 world-destroying bombs.

Charting The Rise And Far-Too-Slow Decline Of The World’s Nuclear Arsenal
[Top Photo: courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration/Nevada Site Office]

Six years after President Obama called for the world to get rid of nuclear weapons, it doesn’t look like we’re likely to reach that goal anytime soon.

advertisement
advertisement

At the beginning of 2015, the nine nuke-armed countries still had 15,850 weapons, and most still belong to Russia and the United States.

A new infographic charts the history of nuclear arms, from the Manhattan Project and Hiroshima to the massive growth during the cold war and the beginning of a slow decline in the ’80s and ’90s.

Alicia Mundy

“I was drawn to the issue of nuclear weapons as discussions about the Trident missile program have been in the news a lot recently,” says Alicia Mundy, a U.K.-based graphic design student who created the data visualization as part of a class. “I couldn’t fathom how such ridiculous amounts of money could be spent on weapons we could never use. The more I looked into the subject the more shocked I was. How could any government justify having weapons 1,000 times more powerful than the ones that killed 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki?”

The infographic, based on data from a 2009 report, shows the slow but steady decline of weapons, which has continued since the report came out. But though the total number of weapons is decreasing, countries like India and Pakistan are expanding their arsenal, and the U.S. and Russia are investing in expensive modernization programs for the weapons they still have.

Mundy hopes the chart will help remind people about size of the issue. “I think what it reveals is the sheer scale of the world’s nuclear weapons and how truly ridiculous and equally terrifying it is,” she says. “If one country were to fire a nuclear weapon then it would effectively end human life on this planet. The U.K. arsenal alone could destroy 80% of the world’s 195 major cities. When you compare the number the U.K. has to likes of Russia or the USA then it’s just staggering. The main conclusion that I came to was how preposterous the whole thing is–a show of power and wealth that can never be used while people across the world starve in poverty.”

advertisement

advertisement
advertisement

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

More