Nuclear Weapons Science, Medicine and Technology

Nuclear War vs Climate Change

Counterview is a series where our readers have debates over the big questions that concern the future of humanity. Our aim is to encourage both long-term and critical thinking about the world in a series of short reflective pieces.

Mansoor Dahri, UK


What’s more likely to end the world?

During the cold war, people worried about the threat of nuclear annihilation when the USA and Soviet Union nearly destroyed each other.

These days, a newer generation worries about climate change, which now seems to be the most likely way for civilisation to end.


Some prominent people say that nuclear war is still a real threat. 

But others say that nuclear weapons are so dangerous that no one will ever use them and so it’s stupid to worry.

Some say that climate change is a much bigger threat because it is happening right now and all around us.

But others say that the dangers of climate change are exaggerated. Some even say that climate change will be good for the world.

Among all these opinions, it can be hard to decide. So here are two facts to help you:

Fact 1: There are nearly 14,000 nuclear warheads, each one can destroy a whole town or city; any survivors would have horrific injuries and the debris from a nuclear war could possibly block out the sun and cause a nuclear winter.

Fact 2: If all of Antarctica’s ice melts, sea levels would rise by at least 58 metres and lots of towns and cities and even some countries would be under water. You can see this for yourself on an interactive flood map (the map automatically shows 400 metres, please set it to 58 metres).

If anyone survives the end of civilisation, will they blame climate change or nuclear warfare? Which is the biggest threat to humanity?

If you really can’t make up your mind, watch this YouTube video to help you decide:

What’s your view? 

Tell us your decision in the comments section below. 

About the author: Mansoor Dahri is an online editor for The Review of Religions. He has recently graduated from UCL in BA Ancient Languages.


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  • I think I’d blame human stupidity in either case, but there would be no one left to blame or complain to. My only friend would probably a radioactive cockroach like in WALL-E.

    I’d blame myself the most though, for somehow managing not to die during the apocalypse – it’s best to be an underachiever in these sorts of circumstances.

    Incidentally, what’s interesting about this article is that if you mush the two problems together, you sort of get a solution: nuclear energy.

  • This is an interesting topic to debate. I think the timeframe of the destruction may influence how people view each threat. Whilst we are witnessing some of the effects of climate change today, many people seem to believe it will take decades for something as devastating as whole countries being submerged under water to occur. On the other hand, thousands of nuclear missiles are ready and waiting to fall under foolish hands, and the resulting calamity would take place in hours if not minutes!

  • This is a very interesting debate which requires an extensive amount of internal reflection.
    Seeing the facts laid out for the respective ‘method’ in which civilisation end, makes one contemplate as to which is worse. Which would have a greater downfall for humanity? It’s quite hard to answer the question in all honesty.
    If solely assessing the deadly “weapon” which would cause the end of humanity- I would have to say nuclear war would be the greater destructor due to the extensive effects it possesses.
    On the other hand, if we assess based on which “weapon” will be more likely. I would have to say that climate change is more likely to end civilisation. This is because the drastic effects of nuclear weapons hinders countries in using its powers. Whereas global warming is a “silent killer” in that not one country is solely responsible for it – so it will continue having the effects it is on the world. Meanwhile the perpetrators continue hiding behind a shield, ignoring the death of the world silently.

  • Personally, I think climate change is a bigger threat to humanity than nuclear war.
    With regards to the nuclear weapons, I would like to think that we as a human race have learnt from our mistakes (!) I truly hope and believe that no country in this day and age will actually put them into effect. For now they seem just a mere threat or tactic to intimidate other countries
    Climate change is real and happening now, as we speak. The science does not lie and we have been told time and time again the consequences of global warming and are witnessing it first hand with the abrupt changes in weather patterns and extreme climate events.

  • Both situations are dire indeed. We are quite vividly now seeing the consequences of climate change through the unpredictable weather around the globe in recent years so that seems like the more imminent threat at the moment however I also wouldn’t put it past us to use the stash of nuclear weapons we seem to have ammased.

    After all, the bombs were made specially to wipe out the ‘enemy’ (which essentially will be everyone) and we have already seen the devastating effect through Hiroshima and Nagasaki: unfortunately history has shown us time and time again that we go to war needlessly and the tense current global political climate is rather terrifying when you consider the potential consequences of the nuclear threat.

    On a more useful note, we can help make a change even if its a very small one. I recently learnt about greener investments and how we can direct our savings, pensions and mortgages to fund more environmentally friendly projects which will have an even greater positive impact than only managing our own carbon footprint (though ofcourse that is just as necessary because as they say: every little helps).

  • Greta seems to think climate change is the end all and be all. All I know is I feel hotter every year, sometimes winter is hot and summer is cold.

  • whoever survives the end of civilization, they will most likely blame climate change. In my view climate change is a bigger threat to Humanity, many of other sources of freshwater are already running out. and due to global warming mountains aren’t getting the snow they’ed usually get which melting down to rivers as a source of freshwater. Now when water will become the new economy countries will naturally be inclined to take water from countries which have water. This will cause war and there’s a high chance they’ll use nuclear weapons to deafest enemies. But it’ll be ironic if they contaminate the water due to nuclear weapons. But from what I see, it’s clear that due to injustices and disunity and geopolitics will actually speed up the pace at which the world is head for a all out total World War. And I know one thing is that the Good people always win (righteous people).