This is a writeup of a shallow investigation, a brief look at an area that we use to decide how to prioritize further research.

In a nutshell

  • What is the problem? Nuclear risks range in magnitude from an accident at a nuclear power plant to an individual detonation to a regional or global nuclear war. Our investigation has focused on the risks from nuclear war, which, while unlikely, would have a catastrophic global impact.
  • What are possible interventions? A philanthropist could fund research or advocacy aimed at reducing nuclear arsenals, preventing nuclear proliferation, securing nuclear materials from terrorists, or attempting to more directly prevent the use of nuclear weapons in a conflict (e.g. by working with civil society actors to reduce the risk of conflict). A funder could also raise awareness about risks from nuclear weapons in general by working with media or educators, or through grassroots advocacy.
  • Who else is working on this? Several major U.S. foundations fund approximately $30 million/year of work on nuclear weapons issues, with most of this work supporting U.S.-based policy research and graduate/post-graduate education, some advocacy, and “track II diplomacy” (i.e. meetings between nuclear policy analysts and current and former government officials, often from different states). We do not have an estimate of funding from other non-profits in the space, but the Nuclear Threat Initiative has an annual budget of $17-18 million and is not primarily funded by foundations. The U.S., other governments, and the International Atomic Energy Agency spend much larger amounts of money managing risks from nuclear weapons. We see work on nuclear weapons policy outside of the U.S. and U.S.-based advocacy as the largest potential gaps in the field, with the former gap being larger, but also harder for a U.S.-based philanthropist to fill.


Published: September 2015

What is the problem?

Our focus on nuclear war

There are numerous conceivable scenarios in which some sort of nuclear incident could occur, ranging from a meltdown at a nuclear power plant to the detonation of a “dirty bomb” (i.e. a bomb that combines radioactive material with conventional explosives) to an outright nuclear war between states.1 Though this is not a question we have thoroughly investigated, the risk of nuclear war between states strikes us as the most potentially destructive scenario because of the magnitude of some states’ nuclear arsenals, the possibility of wider escalation, and the possibility of nuclear winter. Accordingly, although we recognize the devastating potential of other kinds of nuclear incidents, our discussion below focuses on the risk from nuclear war.2 Note that we interpret efforts to address the risk of nuclear war broadly, to include issues like reduction of nuclear arsenals, prevention of nuclear proliferation, securing nuclear materials, and facilitating domestic civil discourse regarding nuclear weapons among countries that may seek to acquire nuclear weapons.

The U.S. and Russia hold the vast majority of the world’s nuclear weapons:3

Country Estimated nuclear weapons inventory
Russia 8,000 (4,300 in military custody)
United States 7,300 (4,760 in military stockpile, 1,980 deployed)
France 300
China 250
Britain 225
Pakistan 100-120
India 90-110
Israel 80
North Korea <10
Total ~16,300

Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. and Russia nuclear weapons inventories have greatly (and fairly continuously) declined, as illustrated by the graph below:4

US_USSR_nukes

We have not thoroughly investigated the probability or likely consequences of a nuclear detonation or a broader nuclear war, though we see both scenarios as possibilities. Our understanding is that the risk of global nuclear escalation has decreased substantially since the end of the Cold War.5 We note, however, that some people we spoke with suggested that total nuclear risk had increased since the Cold War.6

Which conflicts are most worrisome?

Though very unlikely in the present climate, a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia would have the greatest destructive potential. A 1979 report by the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment estimated that in an all-out nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia, 35-77% of the U.S. population and 20-40% of the Russian population would die within the first 30 days of the attack.7 We have not vetted this estimate, but note that at the time, combined U.S./Russia nuclear weapons stockpiles were approximately three times as large as they are today, as seen in the graph above. An additional potential risk of a U.S./Russia nuclear would be the nuclear winter that might follow. Nuclear winter could potentially disrupt global food production and result in an even larger number of deaths, though we have not thoroughly explored the likelihood or likely consequences of this scenario.

People we spoke with generally perceived the greatest risk of nuclear conflict in South Asia, where Pakistan has pledged to respond to any Indian attack on its territory with a nuclear bomb.8 Some scholars have argued that a war between India and Pakistan could alter the global climate, potentially threatening up to a billion people with starvation,9 though this estimate strikes us as high. Our understanding is that this claim is primarily based on:

  • Modeling the amount of smoke that would reach the stratosphere in the event of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan in which 100 nuclear weapons strike cities.10
  • Using a climate model to simulate the effect of that smoke going into the stratosphere.11
  • Using a crop model to estimate the effect of those climactic changes on the yields of crops in China and the Midwest.12

The last paper cited estimated that a 100-weapon nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan would result in a 10% decline in average caloric intake in China, with potentially similar consequences elsewhere.13

We have not vetted this analysis. However, even accepting its conclusions, our impression is that relatively little work has been done to consider the likely human consequences of the subsequent decline in agricultural production.14 We would guess that the predicted loss of crops would be insufficient to cause a billion people to starve for the following reasons:

  • China has significant food reserves, which, according to the paper estimating changes in the yields of crops cited above, would not be depleted until two years after the initial nuclear exchange.15
  • Our impression is that the crop model was not designed with extreme scenarios like this in mind, and is not accounting for pressure to make significant changes to food production in the midst of a global crisis.
  • A substantial portion of crops grown are used to feed livestock, which is significantly less efficient than slaughtering existing livestock and directly eating the food we normally use to raise them. In the short run, livestock reserves could be slaughtered to meet demand for food.16 In the longer run, we would guess that a decrease in the food supply would raise food prices, creating incentives to produce more food (e.g. by using more land for food production and shifting away from less efficient animal-based means of production).

What are possible interventions?

Areas for nuclear policy work

Almost any kind of progress on nuclear security ultimately requires some kind of change on the part of government, or the prevention of some change. Accordingly, much of the grant-making in this field focuses on:

  • Policy analysis by think tanks and university centers focused on nuclear weapons issues.
  • Advanced education to create better policy analysis in the future, such as support for academic centers that provide graduate and post-doctoral training in the field of nuclear weapons policy.17
  • Advocacy and communications, which is a major focus of the Ploughshares Fund (discussed below).
  • Track II diplomacy—meetings between nuclear policy analysts and current and former government officials, often from different states.

George Perkovich, Director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, identified several different goals for this work:18

  • Reduction of nuclear arsenals
  • Prevention of nuclear proliferation
  • Preventing terrorists from obtaining nuclear weapons
  • Direct efforts to prevent nuclear escalation

Additionally, work can be categorized by the region the topic relates to (e.g. policy related to Iran, Russia, South Asia, North Korea, United States) and where the work is done (e.g. is the scholar/advocate working in the U.S. or India?).


Reduction of existing nuclear arsenals

Work to reduce nuclear arsenals typically focuses on the five permanent members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which possess the largest numbers of nuclear weapons. Several approaches have been proposed for encouraging these countries to reduce their nuclear arsenals:

  • Laying the intellectual groundwork for further talks between the U.S. and Russia about reducing the number of warheads in each country’s stockpile
  • Advocating for the U.S. executive branch to reduce the U.S. nuclear stockpile19
  • Supporting policy research and advocacy related to ballistic missile defense. Russia and China are concerned that U.S. investment in ballistic missile defense—i.e. systems for shooting down incoming ballistic missiles—could destabilize deterrence relationships. If ballistic missile defense were sufficiently effective, it could increase the number of nuclear weapons needed to ensure successful retaliation. Accordingly, U.S. investment in this area poses a potential obstacle to negotiating further arms reductions in Russia and China.20

Some organizations, such as Global Zero, advocate for the elimination of all nuclear weapons. We have not investigated the question of whether outright elimination is likely to be the best policy path, but we understand this to be an area of active debate within the academic community.21

The Ploughshares Fund is the largest funder of advocacy efforts with an annual budget of approximately eight million dollars. It argues in favor of cutting the U.S. federal budget for nuclear weapons.22 Joe Cirincione (President, Ploughshares Fund) and Philip Yun (Executive Director, Ploughshares Fund) identified the following advocacy opportunities for reducing the size of nuclear stockpiles in the U.S.:

  • Promoting public support for the ideas that nuclear weapons continue to pose significant risks, have limited deterrence value, and are costly to maintain. A philanthropist could seek to build support for these ideas by working with filmmakers or improving online educational materials and social media campaigns.
  • Supporting efforts to revive the U.S.-Russia dialogue on nuclear weapons.
  • Seeking to influence the nuclear policy of the next presidential candidates by supporting relevant policy analysis.23
  • Advocating for lawmakers to reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
  • Supporting policy analysis and advocacy opposing the development of ballistic missile defense in the U.S. in hopes of making U.S.-Russia and U.S.-China mutual arms reductions more likely (discussed above).

While arms reductions in the U.S. and Russia may appear to be a natural target for a funder interested in reducing global catastrophic risk, we are uncertain about how much additional philanthropy could assist with arms reduction at this time. As noted above, the U.S./Russia weapons inventories have steadily declined since the end of the Cold War, suggesting that progress on the problem may continue in the absence of additional philanthropy. In addition, people we spoke with and consultants surveying the field for other funders saw limited opportunities for additional philanthropy to push forward U.S./Russia arms reductions.24

Prevention of nuclear proliferation

Non-proliferation work is focused on preventing additional countries from obtaining nuclear weapons. Within non-proliferation, the most common concern among people we spoke with was that Iran might obtain a nuclear weapon. For example, Joe Cirincione suggested that a philanthropist could advocate in favor of making a deal with Iran that would prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,25 which is a major focus for the Ploughshares Fund (see “Philanthropic Funders” below). If Iran obtains nuclear weapons, it could potentially destabilize the Middle East and encourage other countries to obtain nuclear weapons.26 In early 2015, after most of this review was already written, the U.S. and Iran reached an agreement on a framework for monitoring Iran’s nuclear program, though the deal has not yet been approved. We have a limited understanding of how this might affect philanthropic approaches related to non-proliferation in Iran.27

Some funders appear to focus on advocacy to individual countries that may attempt to acquire nuclear weapons, or on funding academic and civil discourse related to nuclear weapons in key regions through non-nuclear states such as Turkey, Brazil and South Korea.28 Others focus more on supporting international institutions such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).29 Carl Robichaud—a Program Officer focusing on the International Peace and Security Program at the Carnegie Corporation of New York—identified the following options for a philanthropist to support the IAEA:30

  • Fund open source analysis on topics that would be of use to the IAEA
  • Hold workshops where IAEA staff can learn how to utilize new tools and approaches, such as geospatial analytics and big data analysis (the Carnegie Corporation put on a workshop between IAEA staff and innovators from other sectors in December)
  • Support the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, which serves as research and training center for the IAEA
  • Sponsor dialogues within the IAEA to reduce politicization

Preventing terrorists from obtaining nuclear weapons

Another approach would be to support appropriate monitoring of existing nuclear material in an attempt to prevent it from falling into the hands of terrorists. The difficulty and high costs of manufacturing nuclear weapons makes securing nuclear materials important for preventing nuclear terrorism.31 The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) has been addressing this problem by using the Nuclear Security Summits to develop buy-in for global, enforceable nuclear security standards, which currently don’t exist.32

A nuclear terrorist attack is not a nuclear war and therefore not directly in the center of this investigation, but we would guess that nuclear terrorism—particularly in South Asia—could potentially ignite a nuclear war. A philanthropist could try to prevent terrorists from obtaining nuclear weapons through:

  • Policy development and advocacy related to creating a standard set of international norms regarding the security of nuclear materials.33
  • Funding innovative demonstration projects in hopes of causing governments to scale them up. For example, Joan Rohlfing —President and COO of NTI—told us that the Nuclear Threat Initiative worked with Serbia to return non-secure nuclear materials to Russia, and that the effort led to the creation of a U.S. government program that spent billions of dollars on similar projects.34

Our impression is that the security of nuclear materials already receives significant attention. It is the primary focus of the Nuclear Threat Initiative,35 and a priority for national governments.36

Direct efforts to prevent nuclear war

Direct efforts to prevent nuclear war may focus on attempting to reduce the likelihood of deployment of nuclear weapons in a given conflict situation, or on attempting to reduce the risk of conflict between nuclear states. In our conversation, Dr. Perkovich gave some examples of both kinds of efforts with respect to India and Pakistan, focusing on various forms of civil society engagement, “track II” diplomacy, and policy research.37

We have not thoroughly explored this area, but people we spoke with have suggested there may be limited potential for additional philanthropy to address these issues, at least in Russia (as discussed above) and in South Asia.38

Approaches to improving nuclear weapons policy and their track records

Policy analysis and advanced education

A majority of funding supports policy research and advanced education, especially from the large foundations in this space.39 However, we have a fairly limited sense of the track record of policy analysis for improving nuclear weapons policy. Nevertheless, we understand that funding from the Carnegie Corporation and the MacArthur Foundation is generally believed to have played a major role in the passage of the Nunn-Lugar Act40, which was responsible for “the dismantling or elimination of 7,514 nuclear war-heads, 768 ICBMs, 498 ICBM sites, 155 bombers, 651 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, 32 nuclear submarines, and 960 metric tons of chemical weapons.”41 For context, according to one estimate, the U.S. and Russia held 19,008 and 29,154 nuclear weapons (respectively) when the Nunn-Lugar Act was passed in 1991, so that Nunn-Lugar was responsible for eliminating or dismantling approximately 15% of the total U.S./Russia nuclear arsenal.42

Policy research funded by philanthropists may have played a role in improving nuclear policy in a few other cases besides the Nunn-Lugar Act—such as establishing theories of deterrence and the New START treaty, which further reduced deployed warheads in the U.S. and Russia.43

Due to our limited understanding of nuclear weapons policy analysis, we also have a limited understanding of the potential impact of advanced education on nuclear weapons policy.

Advocacy

Multiple people suggested to us that work on advocacy and communications is relatively neglected in nuclear weapons policy.44 Our investigation therefore focused more closely on opportunities within advocacy.

In addition to the advocacy opportunities already mentioned (especially under the heading “Reduction of existing nuclear arsenals”), building general capacity for advocacy in order to change policy if a window of opportunity arises may be valuable.45

We are uncertain about the role for grassroots advocacy on nuclear weapons issues, in comparison with more technocratically-oriented advocacy and policy analysis. On this topic:

  • Robert Einhorn—a senior fellow with the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative and the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution—cautioned that grassroots efforts have a mixed record at best in changing nuclear policy, pointing to the fact that the U.S. has not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty despite its support from a large majority of Americans.46
  • Mr. Robichaud pointed to the New START treaty as an instance where public engagement played an important role.47

Philanthropic opportunities in other countries

Very little foundation funding supports nuclear policy work abroad, which means that other countries have much more limited capacity for developing and advocating for policy related to nuclear weapons,48 though U.S. foundations have funded some policy research in Russia and Asia:

  • The MacArthur Foundation’s Asia Security Initiative supported increased communication and dialogue between policy analysts working on security issues relevant to Asia, including supporting researchers in Asia. This program has since ended.49
  • The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has a satellite center in Moscow, and it has received funding from the Carnegie Corporation.50

A philanthropist looking to further support opportunities in other countries could:

  • Fund the creation of a center for nuclear policy research in Pakistan in hopes of increasing Pakistan’s willingness to comply with international nuclear law and norms.51
  • Fund fellows programs for people from Asia, perhaps including an exchange component during which the fellows spend time at U.S. or U.K. institutions, to train the next generation of nuclear policy analysts.52
  • Fund professors/senior researchers from U.S. nuclear policy institutions to visit think tanks in Asia and help train young nuclear policy analysts.53

However, people we spoke with suggested it would be challenging for a foundation to make its first grants on nuclear weapons policy in support of programs abroad54 and stressed the importance of having a local presence for monitoring grants.55 Our impression is that a philanthropist supporting research, education, and/or advocacy abroad would face significant challenges in terms of networking, communication, understanding context, and monitoring/evaluation.

We distinguish between work done in other countries and work about the policies of other countries. While the former receives limited attention, the latter does not, and has been discussed in various contexts above. For example, work related to potential conflict in South Asia—where the greatest threat is perceived56—is relatively crowded. Nuclear issues in South Asia receive substantial attention in the form of programs at universities and think tanks57 as well as track II diplomacy, and some funders see little room for additional philanthropy on the topic.58

Who else is working on this?

Government

According to Gary Samore, Executive Director for Research at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard:59

Nearly all government security agencies are involved with nuclear policy to some degree, including:
  • The White House International Security Council
  • The Department of Defense
  • The Department of State
  • The Department of Energy, involved in both nuclear energy and nuclear security (through the National Nuclear Security Administration)
  • Intelligence agencies

We have not investigated the amount of funding these agencies devote to nuclear issues and have a limited understanding of their activities. But some agencies with large budgets focus primarily on keeping people safe from nuclear weapons:

Agency Budget Activities
National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) $12.6B, of which $1.9B is categorized as non-proliferation.60 “NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.”61
Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) $304M62 The DNDO coordinates U.S. government efforts to detect and prevent nuclear and radiological terrorism against the United States.63

In addition, some intergovernmental organizations devote substantial funding to nuclear security issues. For example, in 2014, the International Atomic Energy Agency had a budget of €344M.64

We currently have a very limited understanding of the activities of these U.S. government agencies and the IAEA. However, our understanding is that the government provides at most limited support for the primary areas addressed by philanthropic funders, such as policy development, advanced education, advocacy, and track II diplomacy.65


Philanthropic funders

A 2012 report by Redstone Strategy Group, commissioned by the Hewlett Foundation, estimated that philanthropic funding for work on nuclear security between 2010 and 2012 was $31 million/year.66

Our impression is that the total funding in the field has not substantially changed, though some funders have exited the field. A few foundations account for the vast majority of this funding.

Funder Budget (2014 estimate) Focus Areas
MacArthur Foundation ~$10M67 Policy research and advanced education in the U.S., focused on control of fissile materials and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to terrorists.68
Carnegie Corporation of New York ~$10M69 Policy research, advanced education in the U.S., track II diplomacy. Focused on arms reductions, non-proliferation, and security of nuclear materials.70
Ploughshares Fund ~$8M, ~$5.5M in grants Advocacy, especially U.S. policy towards Iran and the U.S. nuclear budget.71
Hewlett Foundation Previously $4M (2012 estimate),72 exiting the field.73 Security of nuclear materials and reducing nuclear arsenals.74 Hewlett’s largest grants in this field were to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Ploughshares Fund.75
Sloan Foundation Previously $2.9 million (2012 estimate),76 exited the field.77 Policy research and advanced education.78
Skoll Global Threats Fund $1-2M Advocacy, especially U.S. policy toward Iran. Ploughshares is a major grantee.79
Stanton Foundation $2.3M (2012 estimate)80 Advanced education and policy research in the U.S.81

There are also some nonprofits that work on nuclear security issues that do not receive most of their funding from foundations, including, most notably, the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), whose 2015 budget is about $17-18M. Of this, about 90% is devoted to nuclear weapons and about 30% is granted to other organizations (though NTI’s grants usually resemble contracts for service with partners who carry out specific projects that NTI has designed).82 Within nuclear weapons policy, NTI primarily emphasizes securing nuclear materials in order to prevent terrorism, with non-proliferation as a secondary emphasis.83 We do not have an overall accounting of activity by other nonprofits in this area, but a list of the top grant recipients in peace and security in 2008-2009 is available in a report by the Peace and Security Funders Group.84 We would guess that many of the major nonprofits working on nuclear weapons policy are listed there.

Foundations also provide substantial funding for peace and security that isn’t explicitly classified as work on nuclear weapons policy. According to the Peace and Security Funders Group, in 2008-2009, 91 U.S. foundations gave a total of $257M to promote peace and security, for an average of about $130M per year.85 The largest focus areas for these funders (measured by dollars granted) were:

  • Controlling and Eliminating Weaponry (which is described as “mainly focused on nuclear weapons”)
  • Prevention and Resolution of Violent Conflict
  • Promoting International Security and Stability

Each of these areas received about 20-30% of the total funding.86

Crowdedness of different philanthropic approaches

This section primarily organizes information presented above in order to summarize relative crowdedness of different areas of work on nuclear weapons policy.

The largest potential gaps in this space appear to be work on nuclear weapons policy outside of the U.S. and U.S.-based advocacy, with the former gap being larger but harder for a U.S.-based philanthropist to fill.

As mentioned above, very little foundation funding supports nuclear policy work abroad, which means that other countries have much more limited capacity for developing and advocating for policy related to nuclear weapons.87 However, foundations have funded some work in this area:

  • The MacArthur Foundation’s Asia Security Initiative supported increased communication and dialogue between policy analysts working on security issues relevant to Asia, including supporting researchers in Asia. This program has since ended.88
  • The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has a satellite center in Moscow, and it has received funding from the Carnegie Corporation.89

A majority of funding supports policy research and advanced education, especially from the large foundations in this space.90 The Ploughshares Fund is the largest foundation focused primarily on advocacy, and is spending about $8M per year. Multiple people suggested to us that work on advocacy and communications were relatively neglected in nuclear weapons policy.91

We have a more limited sense of which areas are most crowded in terms of regional focus (e.g. Iran, Russia, South Asia, North Korea, United States) or objective pursued (e.g. preventing new states from getting nuclear weapons, decreasing the number of nuclear weapons held by countries that already have them, or securing nuclear materials to prevent terrorists from gaining access to them). However, our impression is that work related to potential conflict in South Asia—where the greatest threat is perceived92—is relatively crowded. Nuclear issues in South Asia receive substantial attention in the form of programs at universities and think tanks93 as well as track II diplomacy, and some funders see little room for additional philanthropy on the topic.94 We also note that in early 2015, the U.S. and Iran reached an agreement on a framework for monitoring Iran’s nuclear program, though we have a limited understanding of how this might affect philanthropic approaches related to non-proliferation in Iran.95

Our impression is that the security of nuclear materials also receives significant attention. It is the primary focus of the Nuclear Threat Initiative,96 and a priority for national governments.97

Questions for further investigation

We have not deeply explored this field, and many important questions remain unanswered by our investigation.

Amongst other topics, our further research on this cause might address:

  • What are the options for a funder seeking to support work on nuclear weapons policy abroad, particularly in Russia or South Asia? What comparable work has been done in the past, and what is its track record?
  • What other advocacy-based approaches could be pursued within nuclear weapons policy?
  • What other strategies are there for reducing U.S./Russia nuclear inventories? Have we missed any particularly promising strategies that are not being pursued as aggressively as they could be? How would the potential severity of a nuclear winter decline as nuclear inventories shrink?
  • What are the areas where policy research might lead to improved policy? What does such work typically involve? How has policy research in this field resulted in policy change in the past? Are any areas particularly neglected?
  • To what extent could work normally classified under “international peace and security” but not “nuclear weapons policy” or “nuclear security” contribute to reducing the risk of a nuclear war?
  • How likely is the detonation of a nuclear weapon or a broader nuclear escalation? Which sources or conflicts contribute the most to these risks?

Our process

We initially decided to investigate the cause of nuclear safety because:

  • The potential devastation from the use of nuclear weapons is so great that an investment in nuclear safety could conceptually have high returns.
  • Unlike some other global catastrophic risks, there is an established philanthropic community working to address nuclear safety issues.

We spoke with 12 individuals with knowledge of the field, including:

  • Joe Cirincione, President, Ploughshares Fund
  • Robert Einhorn, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
  • Megan Garcia, Program Officer for the Hewlett Foundation’s Nuclear Security Initiative
  • Erika Gregory, Founding Director, N Square: The Crossroads for Nuclear Security Innovation
  • Bruce Lowry, Director of Policy and Communications, Skoll Global Threats Fund
  • George Perkovich, Director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
  • Carl Robichaud, Program Officer, International Peace and Security, Carnegie Corporation
  • Joan Rohlfing, President and COO, Nuclear Threat Initiative
  • Gary Samore, Executive Director for Research, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Philip Yun, Executive Director and COO, Ploughshares Fund

In addition to these conversations, we also reviewed documents that were shared with us and had some additional informal conversations.

Previous version of this page here.

Sources

Document Source
Carnegie Corporation Annual Report, 2013 Source
Carnegie Corporation Nuclear Security Program Website Source (archive)
Department of Homeland Security, Budget-in-Brief: FY 2015 Source (archive)
GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Bruce Lowry, November 5, 2014 Source
GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Carl Robichaud, October 14, 2014 Source
GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Erika Gregory, September 22, 2014 Source
GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Gary Samore, September 8, 2014 Source
GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with George Perkovich, June 6, 2013 Source
GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Joan Rohlfing, December 8, 2014 Source
GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Joe Cirincione, November 15, 2014 Source
GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Philip Yun, October 16, 2014 Source
GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Robert Einhorn, November 10, 2014 Source
Hewlett Foundation Grants Database, 2015 Source (archive)
Hewlett Foundation Nuclear Security Initiative Logic Model Source
Hewlett Foundation Nuclear Security Initiative Webpage Source (archive)
IAEA Regular Budget for 2014 Source (archive)
Kristensen and Norris 2013 Source (archive)
Kristensen and Norris 2014 Source (archive)
MacArthur Foundation’s description of its nuclear security program, March 2014 Source (archive)
MacArthur Foundation International Peace & Security Grant Guidelines, December 2014 Source (archive)
National Nuclear Security Administration, About us Source (archive)
National Nuclear Security Administration, Budget Source (archive)
NTI 2012 Annual Report Source (archive)
Nunn-Lugar Report for GiveWell’s History of Philanthropy Project by Benjamin Soskis, July 2013 (DOCX) Source
Office of Technology Assessment 1979 Source (archive)
Peace and Security Funders Group 2011 Source (archive)
Ploughshares Fund blog post Source (archive)
Redstone Strategy Group 2012 Source
Robock and Toon 2009 Source (archive)
Robock et al. 2007 Source (archive)
Shulman 2012 Source (archive)
Stanton Foundation International and Nuclear Security Webpage Source (archive)
Toon et al. 2007 Source (archive)
Vox, Meet the political scientist who thinks the spread of nuclear weapons prevents war Source (archive)
Vox, The Iran nuclear deal translated into plain English, April 2015 Source (archive)
Wikimedia Commons, US and USSR nuclear stockpiles Source (archive)
Xia et al. 2013 Source (archive)
  • 1. George Perkovich, Director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, identified several areas of work that we would classify under the overall rubric of efforts to prevent nuclear war:

    “The field of nuclear policy includes:

    • Safety of nuclear power plants
    • Prevention of nuclear war
    • Prevention of accidental discharge of weapons
    • Reduction of nuclear arsenals
    • Prevention of nuclear weapon proliferation, including to terrorists”

    GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with George Perkovich, June 6, 2013. The two areas that Dr. Perkovich discussed that we exclude here are safety of nuclear power plants and prevention of accidental discharge of nuclear weapons, neither of which we see as closely tied to the goal of preventing nuclear war, and both of which he characterized as featuring a limited role for philanthropy.

  • 2.
    George Perkovich, Director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told us that prevention of nuclear war is the nuclear policy area “where there is [likely] the largest scope for philanthropy.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with George Perkovich, June 6, 2013.
  • 3. We do not have a detailed understanding of the methodology of these estimates. But, when searching the literature on this topic, we gathered the impression that Kristensen and Norris produce commonly-cited estimates that are updated annually. Other estimates we saw were very similar. Kristensen and Norris 2014, Pg 2, Table 1.
  • 4. Figure: Wikimedia Commons, US and USSR nuclear stockpiles. Data from Kristensen and Norris 2013, pg 78, Figure 2.
  • 5. “As reflected by its large funding share, concern about nuclear weapons arms control and nonproliferation has been a mainstay of the field — and of the Peace and Security Funders Group — for the past two decades. Although the danger of a nuclear war engulfing the planet receded dramatically with the end of the Cold War, the possibility of limited nuclear exchanges or accidents still jeopardizes large populations. Moreover, funding during the time period of this study may have been slightly boosted in anticipation of perceived historic opportunities with the change of administration in 2008.
    However, funding for nuclear weapons work has declined significantly relative to other issue areas over time in response to the end of the Cold War and the increased appreciation of the perils posed by persistent, deadly intrastate and regional conflicts,” Peace and Security Funders Group 2011, pg 11.
  • 6. “Nuclear weapons pose a serious global threat but nuclear security is no longer a high profile issue. Ms. Gregory believes the issue needs be revisited because nuclear weapons pose a greater threat now than during the Cold War.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Erika Gregory, September 22, 2014.
  • 7. “In order to examine the kind of destruction that is generally thought of as the culmination of an escalator process, the study looked at the consequences of a very large attack against a range of military and economic targets. Here too calculations that the executive branch has carried out in recent years were used. These calculations tend to assume that Soviet attacks on the United States would be a first strike, and hence use most of the Soviet arsenal, while U.S. attacks on the Soviet Union would be retaliatory strikes, and hence use only those weapons that might survive a Soviet counterforce attack.[…]”

    “The resulting deaths would be far beyond any precedent. Executive branch calculations show a range of U.S. deaths from 35 to 77 percent (i.e., from 70 million to 160 million dead), and Soviet deaths from 20 to 40 percent of the population.[…]”

    “These calculations reflect only deaths during the first 30 days. Additional millions would be injured, and many would eventually die from lack of adequate medical care. In addition, millions of people might starve or freeze during the following winter, but it is not possible to estimate how many.” Office of Technology Assessment 1979, pg 8.

  • 8. “Dr. Perkovich believes that the highest risk of nuclear war stems from conflict in South Asia. If there were another terrorist attack on a major Indian city that could plausibly be linked to Pakistan, there is a significant chance that India would respond with a conventional military attack on Pakistan. Following the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, India marched troops to the border with Pakistan but didn’t attack. After that, Indian military leaders drew up plans to be able to launch an attack on Pakistan within three days, called “Cold Start,” to make their threats more credible. Following the 2008 attack on Mumbai, Indian leaders showed restraint and didn’t retaliate against Pakistan, leading some to believe that another attack would force India to retaliate. In response to the Cold Start plan, Pakistan, because it would not be able to match India’s conventional military strength, has pledged that it would respond to any Indian attack on its territory with a nuclear bomb. This makes the Indian-Pakistani situation the lowest threshold for use of nuclear weapons in the world. The chance of a terrorist attack on India that could be linked to Pakistan is reasonably likely….
    There is some dispute and uncertainty around whether the India-Pakistan situation should be the primary focus of nuclear conflict prevention, though almost all scholars agree that South Asia is where the greatest risk of a detonation is.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with George Perkovich, June 6, 2013.
  • 9. “Most cities and countries have stockpiled food supplies for just a very short period, and food shortages (as well as rising prices) have increased in recent years. A nuclear war could trigger declines in yield nearly everywhere at once, and a worldwide panic could bring the global agricultural trading system to a halt, with severe shortages in many places. Around one billion people worldwide who now live on marginal food supplies would be directly threatened with starvation by a nuclear war between India and Pakistan or between other regional nuclear powers.” Robock and Toon 2009, pg 6.
  • 10. “We assess the potential damage and smoke production associated with the detonation of small nuclear weapons in modern megacities…. We analyze the likely outcome of a regional nuclear exchange involving 100 15-kt explosions (less than 0.1% of the explosive yield of the current global nuclear arsenal).” Toon et al. 2007, abstract.
  • 11. “We use a modern climate model and new estimates of smoke generated by fires in contemporary cities to calculate the response of the climate system to a regional nuclear war between emerging third world nuclear powers using 100 Hiroshima-size bombs (less than 0.03% of the explosive yield of the current global nuclear arsenal) on cities in the subtropics.” Robock et al. 2007, abstract.
  • 12. “A regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan could decrease global surface temperature by 1 to 2°C for 5 to 10 years, and have major impacts on precipitation and solar radiation reaching Earth’s surface. Using a crop simulation model forced by three global climate model simulations, we investigate the impacts on agricultural production in China, the largest grain producer in the world.” Xia et al. 2013, abstract.
  • 13. “Taken together, the declines in rice, maize, and wheat would lead to a decline of more than 10% in average caloric intake in China. However, this is the average effect, and given the great economic inequality seen in China today the impact on the billion plus people in China who remain poor would probably be much greater. There are still 158 million people (12% of the total) in China undernourished in 2010-2012 [Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2012]. It is clear that this dramatic decrease in food supply would cause profound economic and social instability in the largest country in the world, home to the world’s second largest economy, and a large nuclear arsenal of its own.” Xia et al. 2013, pg 10.

    “Although this study is based on one crop model and focused on one region, we would expect similar agriculture responses all over the world because of the global climate changes after a regional nuclear war [Robock et al., 2007b; Stenke et al., 2013; Mills et al., 2013]. The climate signal from the same nuclear conflict in this study would reduce maize and soybean yield in the United States as well [Özdoğan et al., 2013]. We have not modeled the impact on wheat production in the U.S., but there is no reason to believe that it would not be similar to that in China. Therefore, even a regional nuclear war using less than 0.03% of the explosive yield of the current global nuclear arsenal would damage world agriculture production. Rice, maize and wheat are the major cereal crops in the world.” Xia et al. 2013, pgs 10-11.

  • 14. Most of the reasoning seems to come in a few paragraphs in the paper previously cited:

    “With a large reduction of agriculture production after a regional nuclear war, countries would tend to hoard food, driving up prices on global grain markets. As a result the accessible food, the food that people could actually afford to buy, would decline even more than the fall in production. Hence there would be less food available on the market, with higher prices. Considering that at present there are 870 million people undernourished (852 million living in developing countries) [Halweil, 2007], which is 12.5% of the world population, those people will be under high risk of starvation.” Xia et al. 2013, pgs 10-11.

  • 15. “In addition, expressed as days of food consumption, China has significantly larger reserves of grain than the world as a whole. In the summer of 2013, wheat reserves totaled nearly 167 days of consumption, and rice reserves were 119 days of consumption [Foreign Agricultural Service, 2013].[…]
    A 35% shortfall in wheat production, coupled with a 15% decline in rice production, would end China’s state of self-sufficiency. Even the large reserves that China maintains would be exhausted within 2 years. At that point China would be forced to attempt to make massive purchases on world grain markets driving prices up even more. If, as expected, international hoarding made grain unavailable, China would have to dramatically curtail rice and wheat consumption.”
    Xia et al. 2013, pg 9
  • 16. “Livestock producing milk, meat, eggs, and so forth typically consume multiple calories in feed for each calorie of animal product provided for human consumption, in addition to other costs. So in a world with a severe rise in food prices or tight non-price rationing of food reserves, they would likely be slaughtered both to save feed, as noted above, and to consume the existing supply. Annual (non-fish) meat production is about 300 million tons, and milk production around 700 million tons. However milk has about a fifth of the energy density of wheat flour (water content), while meat is closer to cereals in energy density.
    The age of slaughter for egg-laying chickens, meat chickens, pigs, dairy cattle, and beef cattle vary from less than a year to several years, but it seems that slaughtering the standing population of livestock might provide a year’s production, a quantity of food comparable to global cereal stocks.” Shulman 2012.
  • 17.

    Advanced Education
    Effective policymaking on nuclear security matters requires the best advice from diverse fields including the natural and social sciences, nuclear industry, and policy world, among others. It also entails public debate, which takes different forms in different countries but is rarely altogether absent. As a result, policymakers and the public need advice from experts capable of using their specialized expertise to inform policy decision-making and debates. We support a small group of institutions that provide advanced interdisciplinary training in the field of nuclear security at the graduate and post-doctoral levels.” MacArthur Foundation’s description of its nuclear security program, March 2014.

  • 18.

    “The field of nuclear policy includes:

    • Safety of nuclear power plants
    • Prevention of nuclear war
    • Prevention of accidental discharge of weapons
    • Reduction of nuclear arsenals
    • Prevention of nuclear weapon proliferation, including to terrorists”

    GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with George Perkovich, June 6, 2013. The two areas that Dr. Perkovich discussed that we exclude here are safety of nuclear power plants and prevention of accidental discharge of nuclear weapons, neither of which we see as closely tied to the goal of preventing nuclear war, and both of which he characterized as featuring a limited role for philanthropy.

  • 19.
    • Communication and public engagement: Increased support among the elite public for reduction in number of U.S. nuclear weapons and improved nonproliferation policies
    • U.S.-Russia: Commit not to develop new nuclear weapons; avoid production and deployment of new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) delivery systems in both Russia and the U.S. that would be destabilizing; define operationally the requirements of strategic stability in ways that both accept; prepare for talks on reducing nuclear arsenals to 1,000 warheads each
    • U.S. executive branch: Decision to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the stockpile below 1,000 and adjusted targeting requirements f. U.S. legislature: Does not appropriate additional funds to a new type of weapon or nuclear testing, nuclear-related policies get timely consideration”

    Hewlett Foundation Nuclear Security Initiative Logic Model.

  • 20.

    “The US is currently engaging in the development of ballistic missile defense (BMD), a platform to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles mid-flight. This may be an obstacle to reduced nuclear arsenals and is a source of concerns for Russia and China. Though BMD theoretically could provide countries with protection against nuclear weapons, it is arguably destabilizing, motivating countries to increase their nuclear weapons arsenal in order to bolster their ability to overcome others’ defenses.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Philip Yun, October 16, 2014.

  • 21.

    “Most people who think about and work on nuclear proliferation — the spread of nuclear weapons to new countries — think it’s a problem. Nukes are hugely destructive weapons, proliferation is thought to increase the odds they’ll be used, and it’s worth working very hard to prevent them from spreading. This is why the US government is currently expending so much energy to prevent Iran from acquiring weapons, and why we nearly attacked North Korea in 1994 to prevent them from getting the bomb (which they would eventually acquire a decade or so later).
    But there’s a vocal minority of political scientists who argue the opposite. Yes, proliferation optimists contend, nuclear weapons are horrible devices which can cause unimaginable amounts of human suffering. But that very fact makes them powerful deterrents. In the absence of nuclear weapons, it’s easy to imagine the US and Soviet Union going to war in the 1950s or 60s. That’s just what rival powers do, historically. But the presence of nukes helped prevent that. Similarly, while India and Pakistan used to fight brutal wars with some regularity, the pace and scale of conflicts declined significantly after Pakistan acquired nuclear weapons, giving itself a deterrent against already-nuclearized India.
    This argument was made most vigorously by the late Columbia University political scientist Kenneth Waltz in the book The Spread of Nuclear Weapons, which also contained a rebuttal by proliferation opponent and Stanford professor Scott Sagan. Toward the end of his life, Waltz even argued that it would be good for the world if Iran acquired a nuclear weapon.” Vox, Meet the political scientist who thinks the spread of nuclear weapons prevents war

  • 22.

    “It’s clear, however, that the Senate just made a bold move to cut one of the United States’ most wasteful nuclear programs. It’s an action that Ploughshares Fund and its grantees have been working to achieve. It’s also a strong signal that the days of unlimited nuclear weapons spending are finally coming to an end.” Ploughshares Fund blog post

  • 23.

    Influencing public opinion
    A small portion of American citizens currently see our large nuclear arsenal as an important national security asset. But maintaining such a large arsenal has limited utility in meeting today’s national security challenges. Moreover, nuclear issues are getting far less public attention than they did in the past. Public opinion matters because it affects how much political capital politicians are willing to expend on nuclear issues and what options are politically feasible.

    One option would be to work with filmmakers to influence public opinion about nuclear weapons. The Skoll Global Threats Fund, for example, has supported films that raise awareness about other global risks such as pandemics (through Contagion) and the documentary Countdown to Zero. Funders could also work with filmmakers so that when nuclear weapons are used as a plot element in films, the themes would highlight risks from nuclear weapons (such as in Godzilla or The Dark Knight Rises), rather than portraying nuclear weapons as a solution to the problem (as in The Avengers, Pacific Rim or Independence Day).

    Another possibility would be to support awareness online. Much of the information about nuclear weapons policy is presented in a way that is hard for the public to understand, and an organization could improve this by making a website that presented the core set of issues more accessibly. This in turn could be coupled with social media campaigns that could also raise awareness of nuclear issues.

    Possible policy changes
    A philanthropist could support the following policy changes in the US:

    • Reduce deployed strategic nuclear weapons in the US by 1/3. President Obama said in June 2013 that U.S. military leaders believe they can meet all current military missions with 1/3 fewer weapons.
    • Ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. This change has advocates in the Obama administration.
    • Delay funding of the new generation of nuclear weapons.
    • Support a deal with Iran that prevents that nation from getting nuclear weapons.

    A philanthropist might also consider supporting efforts to revive the US/Russia dialogue on nuclear weapons, though this would be a challenge in the current climate.

    These policy changes could be pursued in part through approaches discussed above. In addition, a philanthropist could assist with efforts to write the next president’s nuclear policy. Ploughshares is supporting research at Brookings that may be relevant, and additional funds could be used for this purpose.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Joe Cirincione, November 15, 2014.

  • 24.

    “The U.S. and Russia are big players in any discussion of nuclear weapons and have already made significant reductions in nuclear weapons since the Cold War. While continuing to reduce nuclear weapons is desirable, the current political tensions between the U.S. and Russia make another round of reductions unlikely in the short to medium term. Nor do most analysts in the sector see this as the most urgent threat in the nuclear realm, citing both South Asia and Iran as greater risks.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Bruce Lowry, November 5, 2014.

    “Many of the most pressing issues regarding nuclear policy are not dependent on U.S. policy change. For example, President Obama has stated that he would like to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and the alert level in the U.S. This is not feasible unless Russia agrees to do the same, and President Putin is firmly opposed. Even the best run U.S. advocacy campaign is not going to influence President Putin, and Russia not especially sensitive to public opinion and advocacy campaigns in general.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Carl Robichaud, October 14, 2014.

    “At the same time, there is currently political opposition inside Russia to cooperating with the United States on reductions or missile defense. Given limited Hewlett funding, the NSI should not directly pursue work with Russia.
    If the NSI chose to work on the US-Russia relationship, opportunities may exist to perform a systematic survey to understand Russia’s interests, red lines (e.g., the solution space and what is in or out as options), and priorities, as well as work through Track II dialogues. However, Russian leaders can be locked into a 1980’s mindset that includes the idea that they need significant nuclear weapons. Any progress on reducing the stockpile in the US should be accompanied by a reduction in the Russian stockpile.” Redstone Strategy Group 2012, pg 24.

  • 25.

    “A philanthropist could support the following policy changes in the US: […] Support a deal with Iran that prevents that nation from getting nuclear weapons.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Joe Cirincione, November 15, 2014.

  • 26.

    “The possibility that Iran might obtain a nuclear weapon is also a major area of concern in the sector, not so much in terms of the potential for actual detonation of a weapon (since Iran doesn’t currently have a weapon), but because of the geopolitical implications if Iran were to go nuclear. If Iran were to obtain nuclear weapons, it could destabilize the Middle East and incentivize further proliferation. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates might try to build nuclear capability.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Bruce Lowry, November 5, 2014.

  • 27.

    “International negotiators assembled in Switzerland have announced the broad terms of the Iranian nuclear deal. Here they are, based on what we know, translated into plain English.
    An important note: the deal is not yet finalized, and it is not particularly detailed. Thursday’s announcement is only for the basic framework. Negotiators will continue to meet over the coming months to develop a complete, detailed agreement based on these terms. The deadline is June 30, but negotiations could collapse before then. However, this is a major step toward reaching a full agreement and thus potentially ending the world’s yearslong standoff with Iran over its nuclear program.” Vox, The Iran nuclear deal translated into plain English, April 2015.

  • 28. Hewlett Foundation Nuclear Security Initiative Logic Model.
  • 29. “Carnegie Corporation focuses on a more effective IAEA by working with the US and moderate NAM countries and the IAEA Board of governors.” Redstone Strategy Group 2012, pg 26.
  • 30. GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Carl Robichaud, October 14, 2014.
  • 31.

    “NTI’s chief focus is securing nuclear materials from falling into terrorist hands. It is very costly to manufacture nuclear materials such as plutonium and highly enriched uranium. These costs exceed what terrorists can afford. Therefore, preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear materials requires securing state or industry-controlled nuclear materials against theft and/or sale on illegal markets. NTI advocates for stronger rules for securing nuclear materials.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Joan Rohlfing, December 8, 2014.

  • 32.

    “There is no global, enforceable standard for securing nuclear materials.

    A series of nuclear summits have taken place over the past five years:

    • The US hosted one in 2010
    • South Korea hosted one in 2012
    • The Hague hosted one in 2014

    A fourth is scheduled for 2016, in the US, hosted by President Obama.

    NTI is trying to use these summits to develop buy-in for global nuclear security standards. Though many states have attended the summits and made ad-hoc commitments, they have not developed common standards for securing nuclear materials. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) developed guidelines but they are not binding.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Joan Rohlfing, December 8, 2014.

  • 33.

    “There is no global, enforceable standard for securing nuclear materials.

    A series of nuclear summits have taken place over the past five years:

    • The US hosted one in 2010
    • South Korea hosted one in 2012
    • The Hague hosted one in 2014

    A fourth is scheduled for 2016, in the US, hosted by President Obama.

    NTI is trying to use these summits to develop buy-in for global nuclear security standards. Though many states have attended the summits and made ad-hoc commitments, they have not developed common standards for securing nuclear materials. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) developed guidelines but they are not binding.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Joan Rohlfing, December 8, 2014.

  • 34.

    “NTI sometimes funds demonstration projects that get scaled up by governments. For example, with help from the U.S. government, NTI worked with Serbia to return non-secure nuclear materials to Russia. This effort led to the creation of a U.S. government program called the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) that works on similar projects. While NTI spent $5 million on the initial program, it helped leverage well over $3 billion on similar projects by GTRI over the past decade.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Joan Rohlfing, December 8, 2014

  • 35.

    “NTI’s chief focus is securing nuclear materials from falling into terrorist hands. It is very costly to manufacture nuclear materials such as plutonium and highly enriched uranium. These costs exceed what terrorists can afford. Therefore, preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear materials requires securing state or industry-controlled nuclear materials against theft and/or sale on illegal markets. NTI advocates for stronger rules for securing nuclear materials.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Joan Rohlfing, December 8, 2014.

  • 36.

    “Dr. Perkovich believes that the risk of a nuclear attack by terrorists is generally exaggerated, though he remains unsure of this view because there are people he trusts who tell him he is wrong about this.[…] Governments are very much on top of this risk and it is unlikely that there is any valuable work that outside groups could do.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with George Perkovich, June 6, 2013.

    Nuclear fuel cycle issues
    There are important issues in this area. However, because the U.S. and other governments and civil society players are significantly invested in this area already , it is not clear additional philanthropic investment at the moment could advance the field more rapidly than the important work already being done.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Bruce Lowry, November 5, 2014.

  • 37.

    “Examples of efforts to reduce the risk of a nuclear detonation in South Asia include:

    • Meetings between leaders and former leaders of both sides, diplomats, and experts in the field of nuclear conflict resolution to come up with ideas for how to build trust between the two countries and between both of them and the US. The US, with enough trust from India and Pakistan, could play the role of the mediator in a conflict situation. A recent meeting in Vienna brought together important Pakistani military leaders with US military leaders, diplomats, and nuclear conflict experts. Similar meetings have been held with Indian leaders. It is a delicate process because any progress gives war hawks and terrorists an incentive counteract this progress with a military action or a terrorist attack.
    • Brokering agreements that reduce the possibility of misunderstandings. India and Pakistan currently have an agreement to notify each other 24 hours prior to testing a missile. The current agreement does not cover cruise missiles, so Dr. Perkovich and others are working to get them to extend the agreement to cruise missiles.
    • Creating a center of excellence on nuclear safety in Pakistan to highlight Pakistan’s strong record on nuclear safety, as a way to boost Pakistan’s confidence and buy-in to the international system. The idea is that such buy-in would increase Pakistan’s willingness to comply with international nuclear law and norms.
    • In the 1990s, Dr. Perkovich worked on a program to bring together young scholars and policymakers from Pakistan and India to increase goodwill and communication among the next generation of leaders. The program ended because the governments weren’t in favor of the project and made it difficult to obtain the necessary visas. Restarting a program like this could be a good use of philanthropic funding.”

    GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with George Perkovich, June 6, 2013

  • 38.

    “The use of nuclear weapons by India or Pakistan is seen by many in the sector at the most tangible area of short-term concern. An exchange of nuclear weapons between the two countries or an unauthorized or accidental use of weapons in the region would be catastrophic. However, there are limited ways for U.S. philanthropies to influence this situation. Track II diplomatic talks between India and Pakistan already exist, and there is likely limited short-term value in creating additional dialogues.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Bruce Lowry, November 5, 2014.

  • 39.

    “Foundations supported a variety of strategies, but Policy Analysis and Research received nearly half of all funds.

    About 47 percent of the funds — or over $120 million — recorded in the database [on peace and security funding] supported work that was intended for Policy Analysis and Research. If one adds to this the funds for Technical Analysis, the total reaches nearly $125 million or half of all funds.

    There were 683 individual grants for work on Policy Analysis and Research, representing just over one-third of all grants. In particular, the three largest funders in the peace and security field, MacArthur Foundation, Carnegie Corporation and Smith Richardson Foundation, devoted the bulk of their funds to Policy Analysis and Research — or 69 percent of their collective grant dollars. In terms of total dollars devoted to Policy Analysis and Research these three foundations accounted for 63 percent.” Peace and Security Funders Group 2011, pg 20.

  • 40.

    “There are several different versions of such an impact in this case. The most obvious is the fact that foundation-funded research and a foundation-funded report—“Soviet Nuclear Fission: Control of the Nuclear Arsenal in a Disintegrating Soviet Union,” produced by a Prevention of Proliferation Task Force, which was funded by Carnegie and MacArthur grants—played a significant role in convincing both Sens. Nunn and Lugar, as well as their senate colleagues, of the urgency of the situation in the Soviet Union and the need for a cooperative threat reduction strategy in response.” Nunn-Lugar Report for GiveWell’s History of Philanthropy Project by Benjamin Soskis, July 2013 (DOCX), pgs 1-2.

  • 41.

    Nunn-Lugar Report for GiveWell’s History of Philanthropy Project by Benjamin Soskis, July 2013 (DOCX), pg 1.

  • 42.

    See Kristensen and Norris 2013, pg 78, Figure 2, year 1991.

  • 43.

    “Over the last fifty years, philanthropy has played an influential role in several nuclear policy advances, such as:

    • Establishing of a theory of deterrence – in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, research at universities, non-governmental organizations, and think tanks lead to theories of deterrence that have been influential in U.S. nuclear policy and has been adopted elsewhere.
    • The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program – this program continues to provide funding and support to secure and clean up nuclear materials in the former U.S.S.R. The program was initiated in the non-governmental sector, largely based on research and pilot projects funded by the MacArthur Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and the Ford Foundation. Senator Nunn, who sat on the board of the Carnegie Corporation, was influential is getting the bill through Congress in the early 1990s. The program has been very successful in securing nuclear materials. This program’s funding has been the most cost-effective money spent on U.S. national security. Without philanthropic efforts the program would have been implemented much later, if implemented at all.
    • Public opposition to the nuclear arms race – the civil society and philanthropic sectors helped lead the opposition to the nuclear arms race in the 1980s and educated the public on different arms reduction measures.

    The New START treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) – this treaty reduced deployed warheads in the U.S. and Russia to around 1700 each and secured further reductions. The philanthropic sector played an important role in creating political pressure, educating the public about the treaty, and garnering bipartisan support and the endorsement of defense luminaries.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Carl Robichaud, October 14, 2014.

  • 44.

    “Because governments control nuclear weapons, most philanthropic work tries to inform or influence government actions and policy regarding nuclear weapons. A big portion of philanthropic money goes into technical and policy research on nuclear issues. Communications gets fairly limited funding (less than $1 million a year). Advocacy work has slightly more funding. There is space for more philanthropic work in the communications and advocacy realm. Lack of awareness and political relevancy on nuclear issues are big obstacles impeding progress on nuclear security policy.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Bruce Lowry, November 5, 2014.

    “Advocacy efforts in the nuclear sector are underfunded. The Carnegie Corporation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Stanton Foundation do not fund advocacy. Ploughshares Fund supports advocacy, primarily focusing on Iran and the nuclear budget. As a whole, the nuclear sector has a strong research capacity, but a fairly weak advocacy capacity. Many experts in the nuclear sector have struggled to generate interest in nuclear issues and to apply effective pressure to policymakers.

    A more established advocacy and communications strategy could help make nuclear policy a more salient issue. This would involve refining the messages nuclear nonproliferation groups promote and broadening their reach to target untapped audiences. This sort of campaign could revitalize the space, but it is currently not a priority of the current philanthropic players.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Carl Robichaud, October 14, 2014.

  • 45.

    “It is unlikely that the public will ever care about nonproliferation and disarmament to the extent that it did during the Cold War or that nuclear security can become a broad-based constituency-driven issue. However, a well-run communications and advocacy campaign might develop a public base of support that could be activated when opportunities for action emerge, such as passing the New START treaty or on the Iran nuclear talks. Because clear opportunities for philanthropic engagement on nuclear security issues are not always available, it is important to invest in longer-term communication and advocacy efforts in order to ensure that, when there are opportunities for action, the necessary political will and infrastructure exists.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Bruce Lowry, November 5, 2014.

  • 46. “Mr. Einhorn does not believe grassroots advocacy on nuclear weapons issues has often been very effective. At best, its record has been mixed. For example, despite significant public support for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the Senate voted it down during the Clinton presidency. On the other hand, popular nuclear disarmament movements in the early 1980s may have had some impact in getting the Reagan administration to begin disarmament negotiations.

    Nuclear terrorism is a serious concern but it is hard to see how grassroots advocacy could help the issue. Even without public advocacy, preventing such an attack is already a high national priority.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Robert Einhorn, November 10, 2014.

  • 47. “Generating public engagement was integral to the success of the New START treaty. Public opinion will likely be influential in the future as well. It is important to build an advocacy infrastructure to ensure that organizations can engage the public when the right moment occurs.”
    GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Carl Robichaud, October 14, 2014
  • 48. “The US has a far broader base of expertise on nuclear issues than most other countries do. It could be effective to contribute to the development of policy schools and think tanks internationally that would address nuclear issues, especially in the major countries that have nuclear weapons. The MacArthur Foundation has attempted this (e.g., the work of the Center for Policy Studies in Russia [PIR Center] in Moscow). Other American think tanks (e.g., the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the American Enterprise Institute) have partnership programs with foreign think tanks and universities.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Gary Samore, September 8, 2014.

    “There is little funding available for overseas policy research. In part this is because there is not a culture of independent research in many of the relevant countries like India, China, Russia, and South Africa. Especially in countries with a strong anti-colonial heritage, there is also a strong opposition to what can be seen as outside meddling, especially when it comes to security issues.

    The Carnegie Corporation has charter restrictions that make it difficult to fund research overseas. The MacArthur Foundation is not restricted in this way, but does not usually fund overseas research. Ploughshares Fund does not fund overseas. The Hewlett Foundation used to fund overseas, but it is no longer involved in nuclear issues.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Carl Robichaud, October 14, 2014.

  • 49.Asia Security Initiative
    Policy Research

    MacArthur ended the Asia Security Initiative in December, 2014.
    The Foundation is proud of the increased communication and dialogue its Asia Security Initiative has sparked between policy experts, and encouraged to see the work of its grantees being used to inform decision-making by policymakers. The Foundation always intended for the initiative, which began in 2009, to be a time-limited investment with the goal of promoting stability and greater security in Asia. Grantmaking under the initiative ended in 2014, and no new grant proposals will be solicited or accepted. The Foundation, however, will continue to make grants related to Asia under its continuing programs, including Conservation and Sustainable Development, Nuclear Security, Girls Secondary Education, and more.” MacArthur Foundation International Peace & Security Grant Guidelines, December 2014.
  • 50. “Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC
    For the Carnegie Moscow center in support of the endowment’s global vision. 36 Months, $1,500,000.
    The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (the Endowment) is a global think tank with a mission to contribute to global security, stability, and prosperity through its international presence and multinational outlook. The Carnegie Moscow Center (Moscow Center) was established twenty years ago. More recently, the Endowment has added offices in Beijing, Beirut, and Brussels, in an effort to expand its global presence. This Corporation grant will support four projects in three of the Endowment’s offices: the Moscow Center for its research and outreach in both the United States and Russia on issues of relevance to Russia, Eurasia, and U.S. policies toward that part of the world; the Carnegie Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing for work with Chinese institutions and scholars in carrying out research and dissemination independent of the government; the nuclear security work of the Washington, D.C. office, aimed at revitalizing the international nuclear order; and the follow-up activities of the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative (EASI), aimed at building on EASI’s final report by engaging younger scholars across the Euro-Atlantic region in research, outreach, and networks.” Carnegie Corporation Annual Report, 2013, pg 10.
  • 51. “Creating a center of excellence on nuclear safety in Pakistan to highlight Pakistan’s strong record on nuclear safety, as a way to boost Pakistan’s confidence and buy-in to the international system. The idea is that such buy-in would increase Pakistan’s willingness to comply with international nuclear law and norms.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with George Perkovich, June 6, 2013.
  • 52. Based on materials from conversations not documented in public notes.
  • 53. Based on materials from conversations not documented in public notes.
  • 54.

    “While investing in foreign projects may yield larger returns, Mr. Robichaud would not recommend that a new funder begin its work by funding overseas policy research. Given the political and social complexities, it is much more difficult to develop an effective giving strategy. For example, it is hard to imagine doing any sort of advocacy or policy work in Russia given the current political climate.

    However, it is possible to overcome these challenges and fund overseas work successfully. Dr. Peter Jones, Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa, has led track II dialogues in South Asia and the Middle East. The Stimson Center funds fellowships for young Indian and Pakistani scholars to come to the U.S., where they are encouraged to collaborate.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Carl Robichaud, October 14, 2014

  • 55.

    “It is expensive to fund policy and advocacy work in South Asia, in part due to India’s size. However, to properly monitor and evaluate effectiveness of grants, it is best to have a local presence.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Philip Yun, October 16, 2014.

  • 56.

    “Dr. Perkovich believes that the highest risk of nuclear war stems from conflict in South Asia. If there were another terrorist attack on a major Indian city that could plausibly be linked to Pakistan, there is a significant chance that India would respond with a conventional military attack on Pakistan. Following the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, India marched troops to the border with Pakistan but didn’t attack. After that, Indian military leaders drew up plans to be able to launch an attack on Pakistan within three days, called “Cold Start,” to make their threats more credible. Following the 2008 attack on Mumbai, Indian leaders showed restraint and didn’t retaliate against Pakistan, leading some to believe that another attack would force India to retaliate. In response to the Cold Start plan, Pakistan, because it would not be able to match India’s conventional military strength, has pledged that it would respond to any Indian attack on its territory with a nuclear bomb. This makes the Indian-Pakistani situation the lowest threshold for use of nuclear weapons in the world. The chance of a terrorist attack on India that could be linked to Pakistan is reasonably likely….
    There is some dispute and uncertainty around whether the India-Pakistan situation should be the primary focus of nuclear conflict prevention, though almost all scholars agree that South Asia is where the greatest risk of a detonation is.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with George Perkovich, June 6, 2013.

    “The use of nuclear weapons by India or Pakistan is seen by many in the sector at the most tangible area of short-term concern.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Bruce Lowry, November 5, 2014.

  • 57.

    “Many universities and think tanks have well-known programs related to South Asia. These programs in part aim to promote dialogue between groups and elites within both countries. The popularity of South Asia policy studies may be related to how potentially dangerous the region is from a nuclear perspective. Ploughshares Fund sees its value-added – with its relatively modest amount of funds – as trying to promote innovative thinking about India-Pakistan relations.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Philip Yun, October 16, 2014.

  • 58.

    “The use of nuclear weapons by India or Pakistan is seen by many in the sector at the most tangible area of short-term concern. An exchange of nuclear weapons between the two countries or an unauthorized or accidental use of weapons in the region would be catastrophic. However, there are limited ways for U.S. philanthropies to influence this situation. Track II diplomatic talks between India and Pakistan already exist, and there is likely limited short-term value in creating additional dialogues. GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Bruce Lowry, November 5, 2014

  • 59. GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Gary Samore, September 8, 2014
  • 60. “Delivered to Congress today, the FY 2016 President’s budget request for the NNSA of $12.6 billion represents an increase of $1.2 billion or about 10.2 percent over the FY 2015 appropriations level. It supports key Department of Energy and NNSA priorities including: effective stewardship of the nuclear deterrent; controlling and eliminating nuclear materials worldwide; advancing Navy nuclear propulsion; and strengthening key science, technology, and engineering capabilities.[…]

    The Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (DNN) proposal, at $1.9 billion, an increase of $325 million or about 18 percent from FY 2015 levels, continues to secure the most vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide and funds Nuclear Counterterrorism and Incident Response (NCTIR).” National Nuclear Security Administration, Budget

  • 61. National Nuclear Security Administration, About us
  • 62. Department of Homeland Security, Budget-in-Brief: FY 2015 pg 7, table.
  • 63. “DNDO works to protect the Nation from rad/nuc terrorism by developing, acquiring, and deploying detection technologies, supporting operational law enforcement and homeland security partners, and by continuing to integrate technical nuclear forensic programs and advancing the state-of-the-art in nuclear forensics technologies. In addition to technical solutions, DNDO seeks to improve effectiveness of existing technology through improved operational concepts, including procedures, protocols, data standards, etc. that affect detection/identification operations. DNDO works with Federal, state, local, and tribal partners to ensure that these capabilities provide the greatest level of protection possible through multiple layers of defense. To support the development of Federal strategies for enhancement of the GNDA, DNDO provides expert risk analyses, determines gaps and vulnerabilities in the existing architecture, and facilitates assessment of potential solutions.” Department of Homeland Security, Budget-in-Brief: FY 2015 pg 153.
  • 64. IAEA Regular Budget for 2014 See table.
  • 65. “The US government spends very little on nuclear policy development or education on nuclear issues, and these areas may be effective options for philanthropic funding.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Gary Samore, September 8, 2014.
  • 66. Redstone Strategy Group 2012, pg 5.
  • 67.The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation – also provides approximately $10 million annually to nuclear issues.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Carl Robichaud, October 14, 2014.
  • 68. Under the heading “What We Fund,” a MacArthur Foundation document lists policy research and advanced education, with the following descriptions:
    Policy Research
    The Foundation focuses on preventing nuclear terrorism by denying terrorists access to fissile materials—highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium.”
    Advanced Education
    Effective policymaking on nuclear security matters requires the best advice from diverse fields including the natural and social sciences, nuclear industry, and policy world, among others. It also entails public debate, which takes different forms in different countries but is rarely altogether absent. As a result, policymakers and the public need advice from experts capable of using their specialized expertise to inform policy decision-making and debates. We support a small group of institutions that provide advanced interdisciplinary training in the field of nuclear security at the graduate and post-doctoral levels.” MacArthur Foundation’s description of its nuclear security program, March 2014.
  • 69.The Carnegie Corporation of New York – provides approximately $10 million annually to nuclear issues. GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Carl Robichaud, October 14, 2014.
  • 70. “Nuclear weapons remain one of the greatest threats to global security. We seek to reduce this threat by investing in cutting edge analytical work on nonproliferation, supporting education and training programs for the next generation of nuclear experts, and supporting a limited number of Track II efforts focused on Iran and North Korea.
    Specifically, the Nuclear Security program aims to:
    • Lock in reductions of U.S and Russian nuclear arsenals.
    • Pave the way for deeper cuts in global nuclear arsenals.
    • Impede acquisition of nuclear weapons by new states and non-state actors.
    • Strengthen governance of civilian nuclear activity to reduce risks of proliferation or terrorism.
    • Contribute to the peaceful resolution of long standing regional disputes with a nuclear dimension, with special emphasis on Iran and North Korea.” Carnegie Corporation Nuclear Security Program Website.
  • 71. “Ploughshares is an operating foundation with a Washington policy focus and an annual budget of around $8 million, about $5.5 million of which is spent on grants[…]
    Currently, Ploughshares Fund is focused on U.S. policy toward Iran and rightsizing the U.S. nuclear budget.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Joe Cirincione, November 15, 2014.
  • 72. Redstone Strategy Group 2012, pg 8, figure 3. “Note that exact annual budgets are difficult to calculate due to multi-year grants and multi-project grants.”
  • 73. “The Hewlett Foundation is in the process of winding down its Nuclear Security Initiative in 2014 and is no longer accepting grant applications.” Hewlett Foundation Nuclear Security Initiative Webpage.
  • 74. “[…]the Hewlett Foundation began a short term initiative in 2008 to explore ways to help reduce the risk of nuclear disaster. The Hewlett Foundation’s strategy focuses on finding ways to reduce nuclear arsenals, and recognizes that the United States and emerging power countries must work together to manage nuclear materials and technologies to drive the global campaign for stronger controls.

    Hewlett grantees helped lead the effort to inform U.S. policymakers about the implications of a second generation of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START. In 2013, President Obama proposed lowering the total number of nuclear warheads in the U.S. and Russia to levels not seen since 1954. The campaign to build public and political support for the treaty was led by several of our grantees, including the Ploughshares Fund and the National Security Network, and it included key endorsements from several influential retired military officials.” Hewlett Foundation Nuclear Security Initiative Webpage.

  • 75. See search results of the Hewlett Foundation Grants Database within the nuclear security program, sorted by amount. Hewlett Foundation Grants Database, 2015.
  • 76. Redstone Strategy Group 2012, pg 8, figure 3. “Note that exact annual budgets are difficult to calculate due to multi-year grants and multi-project grants.”
  • 77. Based on material from conversations that is not documented in public notes.
  • 78. Based on material from conversations that is not documented in public notes.
  • 79. “The Skoll Global Threats Fund provides $1-2 million/year on nuclear security issues, with its primary focus a peaceful resolution to the Iran nuclear threat. Its work on nuclear weapons is more focused on advocacy than policy research, and it has been of the larger institutional funders of Ploughshares.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Bruce Lowry, November 5, 2014.
  • 80. Redstone Strategy Group 2012, pg 8, Figure 3
  • 81. The Stanton Foundation website lists two areas for grants under its International and Nuclear Security Program Area:
    Course Development Program
    The Foundation’s only open application grant opportunity in this area is for faculty who wish to develop new undergraduate courses in nuclear issues. These courses are not limited to political science/IR courses; faculty in history, literature, and scientific and engineering disciplines are also encouraged to apply. Preference is given to larger courses and seminars are rarely funded. Graduate courses will be considered on a case by case basis.”
    Stanton Nuclear Security Fellows
    The Stanton Nuclear Security Fellows (SNSF) program allows young scholars to pursue policy relevant research for twelve months in one of six leading institutions in the nuclear security field: BCSIA, Carnegie, CFR, CISAC, MIT SSP, and RAND.” Stanton Foundation International and Nuclear Security Webpage.
  • 82. “NTI’s annual budget is around $17 to $18 million, but its expenses are closer to $15 million. Each year, NTI raises all the money it needs to operate. NTI used to allocate roughly 70% of its budget to nuclear and 30% to biological threats, with occasional work on chemical threats. Recently, it has allocated about 90% to nuclear and 10% to biological threats, but it aims to return to an allocation of about 70% to nuclear and 30% to biological threats in the future. NTI is beginning to work on cyber threats; its work in this area could grow in the future.”

    “NTI makes few traditional grants; instead it recruits partners to carry out specific projects it has designed. Most NTI grants resemble contracts for service, though it does award a small number of conventional grants. Grants and contracts to partner organizations constitute roughly 30% of NTI’s budget.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Joan Rohlfing, December 8, 2014.

  • 83. “NTI’s chief focus is securing nuclear materials from falling into terrorist hands. It is very costly to manufacture nuclear materials such as plutonium and highly enriched uranium. These costs exceed what terrorists can afford. Therefore, preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear materials requires securing state or industry-controlled nuclear materials against theft and/or sale on illegal markets. NTI advocates for stronger rules for securing nuclear materials.”
    “NTI’s second-largest focus in nuclear security is preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons to more states, and reducing the role of nuclear weapons globally. NTI played a leading role in the development of an opinion piece that sparked dialogue among governments about how to address the nuclear threat. The piece was co-authored by George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn and was published in the Wall Street Journal in 2007. The piece continues to guide NTI’s work and influenced President Obama in his goal to work toward “a world without nuclear weapons.”
    GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Joan Rohlfing, December 8, 2014.
  • 84. See Peace and Security Funders Group 2011 pg 22, Table 11.
  • 85. “Ninety-one American foundations made commitments to invest a total of $257,221,598 in civil society efforts to promote peace and security over the two year period of 2008 and 2009. The total in 2008 was $136,403,719 and the total in 2009 was $120,817,878.” Peace and Security Funders Group 2011, pg 5.
  • 86. “Controlling and Eliminating Weaponry — mainly focused on nuclear weapons — is the primary concern (as measured in dollars) of funders in the field, followed closely by Prevention and Resolution of Violent Conflict and Promoting International Security and Stability.”
    Peace and Security Funders Group 2011, pg 10. See Chart 1 as well.
  • 87. “The US has a far broader base of expertise on nuclear issues than most other countries do. It could be effective to contribute to the development of policy schools and think tanks internationally that would address nuclear issues, especially in the major countries that have nuclear weapons. The MacArthur Foundation has attempted this (e.g., the work of the Center for Policy Studies in Russia [PIR Center] in Moscow). Other American think tanks (e.g., the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the American Enterprise Institute) have partnership programs with foreign think tanks and universities.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Gary Samore, September 8, 2014.

    “There is little funding available for overseas policy research. In part this is because there is not a culture of independent research in many of the relevant countries like India, China, Russia, and South Africa. Especially in countries with a strong anti-colonial heritage, there is also a strong opposition to what can be seen as outside meddling, especially when it comes to security issues.

    The Carnegie Corporation has charter restrictions that make it difficult to fund research overseas. The MacArthur Foundation is not restricted in this way, but does not usually fund overseas research. Ploughshares Fund does not fund overseas. The Hewlett Foundation used to fund overseas, but it is no longer involved in nuclear issues.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Carl Robichaud, October 14, 2014

  • 88.Asia Security Initiative
    Policy Research

    MacArthur ended the Asia Security Initiative in December, 2014.
    The Foundation is proud of the increased communication and dialogue its Asia Security Initiative has sparked between policy experts, and encouraged to see the work of its grantees being used to inform decision-making by policymakers. The Foundation always intended for the initiative, which began in 2009, to be a time-limited investment with the goal of promoting stability and greater security in Asia. Grantmaking under the initiative ended in 2014, and no new grant proposals will be solicited or accepted. The Foundation, however, will continue to make grants related to Asia under its continuing programs, including Conservation and Sustainable Development, Nuclear Security, Girls Secondary Education, and more.” MacArthur Foundation International Peace & Security Grant Guidelines, December 2014.
  • 89. “Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC
    For the Carnegie Moscow center in support of the endowment’s global vision. 36 Months, $1,500,000.
    The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (the Endowment) is a global think tank with a mission to contribute to global security, stability, and prosperity through its international presence and multinational outlook. The Carnegie Moscow Center (Moscow Center) was established twenty years ago. More recently, the Endowment has added offices in Beijing, Beirut, and Brussels, in an effort to expand its global presence. This Corporation grant will support four projects in three of the Endowment’s offices: the Moscow Center for its research and outreach in both the United States and Russia on issues of relevance to Russia, Eurasia, and U.S. policies toward that part of the world; the Carnegie Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing for work with Chinese institutions and scholars in carrying out research and dissemination independent of the government; the nuclear security work of the Washington, D.C. office, aimed at revitalizing the international nuclear order; and the follow-up activities of the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative (EASI), aimed at building on EASI’s final report by engaging younger scholars across the Euro-Atlantic region in research, outreach, and networks.” Carnegie Corporation Annual Report, 2013, pg 10.
  • 90. “Foundations supported a variety of strategies, but Policy Analysis and Research received nearly half of all funds.

    About 47 percent of the funds — or over $120 million — recorded in the database [on peace and security funding] supported work that was intended for Policy Analysis and Research. If one adds to this the funds for Technical Analysis, the total reaches nearly $125 million or half of all funds.

    There were 683 individual grants for work on Policy Analysis and Research, representing just over one-third of all grants. In particular, the three largest funders in the peace and security field, MacArthur Foundation, Carnegie Corporation and Smith Richardson Foundation, devoted the bulk of their funds to Policy Analysis and Research — or 69 percent of their collective grant dollars. In terms of total dollars devoted to Policy Analysis and Research these three foundations accounted for 63 percent.” Peace and Security Funders Group 2011, pg 20.

  • 91. “Because governments control nuclear weapons, most philanthropic work tries to inform or influence government actions and policy regarding nuclear weapons. A big portion of philanthropic money goes into technical and policy research on nuclear issues. Communications gets fairly limited funding (less than $1 million a year). Advocacy work has slightly more funding. There is space for more philanthropic work in the communications and advocacy realm. Lack of awareness and political relevancy on nuclear issues are big obstacles impeding progress on nuclear security policy.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Bruce Lowry, November 5, 2014.

    “Advocacy efforts in the nuclear sector are underfunded. The Carnegie Corporation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Stanton Foundation do not fund advocacy. Ploughshares Fund supports advocacy, primarily focusing on Iran and the nuclear budget. As a whole, the nuclear sector has a strong research capacity, but a fairly weak advocacy capacity. Many experts in the nuclear sector have struggled to generate interest in nuclear issues and to apply effective pressure to policymakers.

    A more established advocacy and communications strategy could help make nuclear policy a more salient issue. This would involve refining the messages nuclear nonproliferation groups promote and broadening their reach to target untapped audiences. This sort of campaign could revitalize the space, but it is currently not a priority of the current philanthropic players.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Carl Robichaud, October 14, 2014.

  • 92. “Dr. Perkovich believes that the highest risk of nuclear war stems from conflict in South Asia. If there were another terrorist attack on a major Indian city that could plausibly be linked to Pakistan, there is a significant chance that India would respond with a conventional military attack on Pakistan. Following the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, India marched troops to the border with Pakistan but didn’t attack. After that, Indian military leaders drew up plans to be able to launch an attack on Pakistan within three days, called “Cold Start,” to make their threats more credible. Following the 2008 attack on Mumbai, Indian leaders showed restraint and didn’t retaliate against Pakistan, leading some to believe that another attack would force India to retaliate. In response to the Cold Start plan, Pakistan, because it would not be able to match India’s conventional military strength, has pledged that it would respond to any Indian attack on its territory with a nuclear bomb. This makes the Indian-Pakistani situation the lowest threshold for use of nuclear weapons in the world. The chance of a terrorist attack on India that could be linked to Pakistan is reasonably likely….
    There is some dispute and uncertainty around whether the India-Pakistan situation should be the primary focus of nuclear conflict prevention, though almost all scholars agree that South Asia is where the greatest risk of a detonation is.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with George Perkovich, June 6, 2013.

    “The use of nuclear weapons by India or Pakistan is seen by many in the sector at the most tangible area of short-term concern.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Bruce Lowry, November 5, 2014.

  • 93. “Many universities and think tanks have well-known programs related to South Asia. These programs in part aim to promote dialogue between groups and elites within both countries. The popularity of South Asia policy studies may be related to how potentially dangerous the region is from a nuclear perspective. Ploughshares Fund sees its value-added – with its relatively modest amount of funds – as trying to promote innovative thinking about India-Pakistan relations.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Philip Yun, October 16, 2014.
  • 94. “The use of nuclear weapons by India or Pakistan is seen by many in the sector at the most tangible area of short-term concern. An exchange of nuclear weapons between the two countries or an unauthorized or accidental use of weapons in the region would be catastrophic. However, there are limited ways for U.S. philanthropies to influence this situation. Track II diplomatic talks between India and Pakistan already exist, and there is likely limited short-term value in creating additional dialogues. GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Bruce Lowry, November 5, 2014
  • 95. “International negotiators assembled in Switzerland have announced the broad terms of the Iranian nuclear deal. Here they are, based on what we know, translated into plain English.
    An important note: the deal is not yet finalized, and it is not particularly detailed. Thursday’s announcement is only for the basic framework. Negotiators will continue to meet over the coming months to develop a complete, detailed agreement based on these terms. The deadline is June 30, but negotiations could collapse before then. However, this is a major step toward reaching a full agreement and thus potentially ending the world’s yearslong standoff with Iran over its nuclear program.” Vox, The Iran nuclear deal translated into plain English, April 2015.
  • 96. “NTI’s chief focus is securing nuclear materials from falling into terrorist hands. It is very costly to manufacture nuclear materials such as plutonium and highly enriched uranium. These costs exceed what terrorists can afford. Therefore, preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear materials requires securing state or industry-controlled nuclear materials against theft and/or sale on illegal markets. NTI advocates for stronger rules for securing nuclear materials.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Joan Rohlfing, December 8, 2014.
  • 97. “Dr. Perkovich believes that the risk of a nuclear attack by terrorists is generally exaggerated, though he remains unsure of this view because there are people he trusts who tell him he is wrong about this.[…] Governments are very much on top of this risk and it is unlikely that there is any valuable work that outside groups could do.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with George Perkovich, June 6, 2013.

    Nuclear fuel cycle issues
    There are important issues in this area. However, because the U.S. and other governments and civil society players are significantly invested in this area already , it is not clear additional philanthropic investment at the moment could advance the field more rapidly than the important work already being done.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Bruce Lowry, November 5, 2014.