Where are we?

Question: What are the major issues facing the world today?

Ferguson: Most people today, sitting here, would probably say that climate change was one of those issues. It’s extremely hard to miss the enormous environmental impact that we’re now having, now that Asia has embraced industrialization wholeheartedly. I actually think there are more serious problems that could have an impact before the long unfolding process of global warming has whatever consequences it’s going to have.

I take the threat very seriously of climate change, don’t get me wrong. But before we ever get to Al Gore’s worst case scenario, we could have blown the world up. Because, happening right now, at full speed, is a breakdown of the system of nonproliferation set up nearly 40 years ago which very successfully limited the number of powers who could use, acquire, or have the option to use nuclear weapons.

And I think that’s a worry because even if an Iran acquires only a very small number of nuclear missiles, that significantly increases the risk of a nuclear exchange of some kind, even if only an accidental one.

The superpowers in the Cold War played a very simple game. There were just two players, and they risked mutually assured destruction if they fought. And then it turned out to reduce the probability of a nuclear war quite dramatically.

But in a world of multiple nuclear powers, where there are lots of small Cold Wars, one between Pakistan and India, one maybe between China and Japan, one between say Israel and Iran, and so on. When that world comes about, then the probability of a nuclear war is quite high because the stakes are lower.

Only the United States and the Russians still have enough weapons to blow up the world, everybody else can just blow up a few cities; but the probability is higher because you have maybe a Cuban missile crisis every year instead of just one in 50 years.

So that makes me very uneasy, and I feel as if we are stumbling towards a much more dangerous world in which a nuclear weapon will get used sometime soon. And this would be a bigger explosion than Hiroshima and Nagasaki because these weapons are far more destructive than they use to be.

Recorded on: Oct 15 2008

Nuclear non-proliferation is today's single most important issue.

Ideology drives us apart. Neuroscience can bring us back together.

A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.

Sponsored
  • How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
  • To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations.

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Why a federal judge ordered White House to restore Jim Acosta's press badge

A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration likely violated the reporter's Fifth Amendment rights when it stripped his press credentials earlier this month.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta (R) returns to the White House with CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist after Federal judge Timothy J. Kelly ordered the White House to reinstate his press pass November 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. CNN has filed a lawsuit against the White House after Acosta's press pass was revoked after a dispute involving a news conference last week. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Acosta will be allowed to return to the White House on Friday.
  • The judge described the ruling as narrow, and didn't rule one way or the other on violations of the First Amendment.
  • The case is still open, and the administration may choose to appeal the ruling.
Keep reading Show less