Regional Nuclear War Can Affect Global Climate
As few as 100 nuclear weapons out of the world’s estimated 20,000 is enough to affect global climate and induce global mass starvation, according to a IPPNW (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) and PSR (Physicians for Social responsibility) research study. Nuclear Famine: A Billion People at Risk—Global Impacts of Limited Nuclear War on Agriculture, Food Supplies, and Human Nutrition. A downloadable copy of the research study can be found at the IPPNW site.
IPPNW published an earlier paper Zero is the Only Option: Four Medical and Environmental Cases for the eradication of Nuclear Weapons in 2010 (see the report here) focusing on “severe climate disruptions” that could result from a small scale nuclear war. Now Nuclear Famine reports that up to 1 billion people could starve and die worldwide as a result of nuclear famine. The study focused on a hypothetical scenario where 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs are detonated in cities in India and Pakistan. Using a general circulation climate model (ModelE from NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies), researchers calculated the effect of massive injection of soot into the atmosphere following the war detonations.
Large amounts of soot propelled into the atmosphere would induce the decrease of light and temperature on the earth’s surface as soot absorbs sunlight. The researchers found significant temperature changes over North America and Eurasia, in most of its grain-growing regions. They also found decline in global precipitation and reduction in Asian summer monsoons. All this translates to significant impacts on agricultural production worldwide.
IPPNW reports that US corn and soybean production could decline by as much as 20% five years after the hypothetical scenario. China’s middle season rice production could slump by an average of 21% in the first four years. Decrease in food production would logically mean increase in food prices, and international scale panic buying and hoarding could ensue. For the almost 1 billion chronically malnourished people worldwide, this could put them at risk of starvation resulting in death.
IPPNW provides the definition of a “chronically malnourished” person as having a baseline consumption of 1,750 calories or less a day. Taking away a mere 10% from their caloric intake would put them at risk. The research study cites a 2011 study stating that rise in food prices influence people to depend on food staples more and less on quality, micronutrient-rich food. Reduced quality and quantity in diet leads to wasting in children under 5 years of age, maternal under nutrition, and diseases caused by micronutrient deficiencies.
The research study states that the world is at present vulnerable to a major decline in food production, and close to 1 billion people already suffer from malnutrition. The study concludes with several recommendations, including a call to reduce dependence on nuclear weapons by all nuclear weapons states. IPPNW also points out that even without using these weapons, funds and resources which could be spent on health and development are being drained for nuclear weapons manufacturing.
Even at the early stages of its production and manufacture, nuclear weapons already posed risk to human health and the environment. Refusal to cooperate in the abolishment as well as passive agreement to its use in war implies irresponsibility towards the environment and to humanity itself.
Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by DFID – UK Department for International Development via Flickr.
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