How will a nuclear conflict end for humanity?

Interesting studies that try to paint a picture of a post-apocalyptic world that has survived a global nuclear war, or at least a massive nuclear exchange.

Mass starvation will be the main consequence of any local nuclear conflict on Earth. This conclusion was made by researchers from the international organization "Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War" and its American branch "Physicians for Social Responsibility". According to their model, a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan would lead to a significant reduction in crop production; as a result, at least two billion people will be left without food. The famine will be accompanied by large-scale epidemics that will threaten the deaths of several hundred million more people.

Scientific approach

The researchers took as an example a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan, since it is considered the most likely - both states are developing nuclear weapons and have long been engaged in territorial disputes. According to the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India has 90-110 nuclear warheads in 2013. In turn, Pakistan is armed with 100-120 warheads of this type.

Back in 2008, American scientists Brian Toon, Alan Robock and Richard Turco published a study suggesting that the combined yield of Indian and Pakistani warheads is equal to that of a hundred bombs like the one dropped on Hiroshima in 1945- m. The explosion power of the "Kid" bomb, which destroyed part of Hiroshima, was 13-18 kilotons. Thus, the combined yield of Indo-Pakistani nuclear weapons could be up to 1.8 megatons, or 0.5 percent of the yield of all nuclear warheads (17,265 units) worldwide.

According to a study by Toon, Robok and Turco, detonating all warheads in India and Pakistan will release 6.6 million tons of soot into the atmosphere at a time. This will reduce the average temperature on Earth by 1.25 degrees Celsius. Moreover, even ten years after the nuclear conflict, the temperature on the planet will be 0.5 degrees lower than today.

Scientists note that humanity experienced a kind of “nuclear autumn” in 1816, which is also called the “Year without summer”. In 1815, Mount Tambora erupted on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa. Ash thrown into the atmosphere as a result of the eruption led to a decrease in temperature values ​​by an average of 0.7 degrees in the northern hemisphere. Because of this (seemingly insignificant) cooling, the sowing period was reduced, and four waves of abnormal summer frosts (June 6-11, July 9-11, August 21 and 30, 1816) led to a significant loss of crops in the United States, Canada and Northern Europe. The effects of the eruption were felt for another ten years.

New study by the World's Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War - "Nuclear hunger: two billion people at risk?" (Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People At Risk?) - takes as a basis scientific work on the consequences of nuclear conflicts of previous years and the theory of "nuclear autumn", as well as adjusted calculations of soot emissions in the event of an Indo-Pakistani nuclear war (scientists have suggested that the atmosphere only five million tons of soot will fall). At the same time, doctors honestly admitted that their study is based on a conservative scenario that does not take into account interruptions in the supply of fuel and fertilizers, increasing exposure to ultraviolet radiation and temperature extremes.

The study for the first time provides estimates of the reduction in crop yields in the world in the event of a local nuclear conflict. The article also takes into account data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, according to which about 870 million people are currently starving on Earth. Decision support system agrotechnological transfer model 4.02 (DSSAT 4.02) was used to calculate yield reductions, allowing predictions to be made on a per-hectare basis, taking into account climate, ecology, agricultural practices and crop genotype.

In addition, scientists took into account that the decline in crop production and food production will certainly lead to higher prices in the world market. Price increases were projected based on the economic model of the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP). Although this model provides a rough estimate of the impact of food shortages on prices, an accurate prediction becomes impossible due to the human factor: panic, the desire of successful companies for super-profits, hard-to-predict cases of migration from disaster areas, and actions of regional authorities after a nuclear conflict.

Doctors cited the famine in Bengal in 1943 as an example of an unpredictable rise in prices. In that year, because of the world war, food production in this region decreased by five percent compared to the average for the previous five years, but it was still 13 percent higher than in 1941, when there was no famine. However, the Japanese occupation of Burma, a traditional exporter of grains to Bengal, amid a slight food shortage, caused panic. As a result, food prices have risen significantly: rice has risen in price by five times, becoming a delicacy. In Bengal, three million people died of starvation.

Nuclear hunger

So, imagine the following scenario. Nuclear war between India and Pakistan broke out in mid-May. Multiple nuclear explosions in Hindustan this month caused the greatest damage to the environment and climate. (The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation - NAPF, an advisory body of the United Nations Economic and Social Council - takes mid-May to model the consequences of nuclear conflicts.) due to its small mass and developed surface (that is, the relief area of ​​​​particles that is excessive for a small mass), with ascending hot air flows, it rose above the level of clouds.

According to the NAPF, about a billion people died from nuclear weapons (poisoning by decay products, lack of qualified medical care, radiation contamination). Soot prevented up to ten percent of sunlight from reaching the Earth, which led to a decrease in average temperatures. At the same time, annual precipitation worldwide began to decrease, with the largest decrease, up to 40 per cent, occurring in the Asian region. The climate effect quickly spread to the rest of the world, affecting East and South Asia, the United States and Eurasia the most.

According to the calculations of the World Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the consequences of a nuclear conflict were most acutely felt over the next ten years. During this time, the cultivation of grains, which account for up to 80 percent of the total food consumption among the poor, in the United States has decreased by an average of ten percent - compared to pre-war levels. The biggest drop, 20 percent, came in the fifth year after the nuclear war. By the fifth year, US soybean production was down 20 percent. In China, rice cultivation declined by 21 percent in the first four years and by an average of 10 percent in the next six years.

In the first year after the local nuclear war in Hindustan, wheat production in China declined by 50 percent and an average of 31 percent over ten years. Maize cultivation in the same country has declined by an average of 15 percent over ten years. In an effort to meet its grain needs, China first ran out of government stocks and then switched to active imports of agricultural products. With China buying food abroad, food prices, already up 98.7 percent in a decade, have gone up even more. In South Asia, due to shortages and panic, prices rose by 140.6 percent by the end of the decade.

In addition to the 870 million people who were starving before the war, another 1.52 billion people around the world were added, 1.3 billion of which were in China. Starvation mortality statistics are unknown, but it is known that the world's grain reserves (509 million tons) were eaten by mankind within 77 days after the yield dropped significantly. Malnutrition is the cause of epidemics of cholera, typhoid, malaria and dysentery (humanity has already encountered a similar effect, for example, in 1943 in the same Bengal, where epidemics of cholera, malaria, smallpox and dysentery were recorded). Epidemics, which developed into pandemics in some regions, have killed several hundred million people.

Nuclear twilight

The “Nuclear Hunger” study is far from the first, but the most complete in terms of approximate calculations of the impact of nuclear conflicts for agriculture. However, other studies are also interesting that try to paint a picture of a post-apocalyptic world that has survived a global nuclear war, or at least a massive nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia. Doctors limited themselves to a local nuclear conflict in Hindustan, but most nuclear war theorists argue that such conflicts are highly likely and in the shortest possible time can develop into global ones.

According to the calculations of the Nuclear Darkness portal (maintained by NAPF), Russia and the United States in the event of a nuclear conflict can use 4.4 thousand warheads with a total capacity of more than 440 megatons. As a result of such a war, 770 million people will die almost simultaneously. 180 million tons of soot will be released into the atmosphere at a time, which will rise to the upper layers of the atmosphere and block up to 70 percent of sunlight over the surface of the entire northern hemisphere and up to 35 percent of the southern hemisphere. This effect is called "nuclear twilight". In North America, the air temperature will quickly drop by 20 degrees Celsius, and in Eurasia by 30 degrees.

Simultaneously with the decrease in the illumination of the planet, a 45 percent decrease in precipitation will also occur. The world will enter a new ice age (similar to the one that took place 18 thousand years ago). Up to 70 percent of the world's crop will be lost. At the same time, a significant reduction in the sowing period will lead to mass starvation on Earth. A sharp drop in agricultural production will be affected not only by the cooling and a significant decrease in illumination, but also by an increase in ultraviolet radiation due to significant destruction of the Earth's ozone layer. As a result of a nuclear war between the US and Russia, many animals at the top of the food chain will die out, including almost all of humanity.

According to the calculations of various researchers, due to the large-scale Russian-American nuclear conflict around the world, from one to four billion people can die. After a sharp decline in the population due to war, the decrease in the number of people on the planet will continue due to pandemics, the reduction of habitable territories, radioactive fallout and food shortages. Most of the countries of the world will plunge into the Stone Age. "Nuclear twilight" will dissipate within ten years. But this is not the end - because of the small remnants of soot in the atmosphere, reminiscent of haze, they will become a "nuclear fog" that will hang over the planet for more than one year.

Source: Vasily Sychev