Climate, Agricultural, and Health Effects of Regional Nuclear War How a catastrophic global cooling could produce a “nuclear famine” Ira Helfand, MD Based upon research by Alan Robock, PhD and O. B. Toon, PhD
Hiroshima August 6, 1945 A 15 kT bomb killed 150,000 people Note: 15 kT = 0.015 MT = 1/1,000,000 of the 1985 world arsenal = 3/1,000,000 of the current world arsenal While current weapons are mostly more powerful than the initial one, it would take one Hiroshima-sized bomb dropped every hour from the end of World War II to 1993 to use up the current arsenal.
Nuclear Holocaust Cities burn Ground bursts Massive amounts of smoke Massive amounts of dust Sunlight absorbed Sunlight reflected Very little sunlight reaches the ground Rapid, large surface temperature drops “ Nuclear Winter”
What would be the consequences of a regional nuclear war using 100 15-kt (Hiroshima-size) weapons? This would be only 0.03% of the current world arsenal. Scenario: Weapons dropped on the 50 targets in each country that would produce the maximum smoke. 20,000,000 people would die from direct effects, half of the total fatalities from all of World War II. Portions of megacities attacked with nuclear devices or exposed to fallout of long-lived isotopes would likely be abandoned indefinitely. 5 Tg of smoke injected into the upper troposphere, accounting for fuel loading, emission factors and rainout.
Global climate change unprecedented in recorded human history
Agricultural effects will include those on temperature, precipitation, reduction of sunlight, and enhancement of ultraviolet radiation.
Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, Bull. Atomic Scientists, http://www.thebulletin.org Current Nuclear Arsenals Country No. of weapons Russia 10,000 United States 10,000 France 350 China 200 Britain 200 Israel 75-200 India 40-50 Pakistan <50 North Korea <15
1783-84, The Lakagígar (Laki), Iceland volcano erupted for 8 months, filling the atmosphere with particles, cooling the Eurasian continent and causing a collapse of the African and Indian monsoons.
“ The inundation of 1783 was not sufficient, great part of the lands therefore could not be sown for want of being watered, and another part was in the same predicament for want of seed. In 1784, the Nile again did not rise to the favorable height, and the dearth immediately became excessive. Soon after the end of November, the famine carried off, at Cairo, nearly as many as the plague; the streets, which before were full of beggars, now afforded not a single one: all had perished or deserted the city.” By January 1785, 1/6 of the population of Egypt had either died or left the country in the previous two years. M. C-F. Volney, Travels through Syria and Egypt, in the years 1783, 1784, and 1785, Vol. I , Dublin, 258 pp. (1788) reports on the famine in Cairo and the annual flood (inundation) of the Nile River.
In addition there was Famine in India and China in 1783 The Chalisa Famine devastated India as the monsoon failed in the summer of 1783. The Great Tenmei Famine in Japan in 1783-1787, caused by the collapse of the East Asian monsoon, was locally exacerbated by the Mount Asama eruption of 1783.
Tambora in 1815 , together with an eruption from an unknown volcano in 1809, produced the “Year Without a Summer” (1816)
“ From the Baltic to Breslau the greater part of the land sewn with winter wheat has been obliged to be ploughed up, and of the corn that remains standing scarcely one third part of a crop is to be expected.”
<ul><li>Ways Agriculture Can be Affected by Nuclear War </li></ul><ul><li>Colder temperatures </li></ul><ul><ul><li>shortened frost-free growing season </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>cold spells during growing season </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>slower growth lower yield </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Darkness </li></ul><ul><li>Less rainfall </li></ul><ul><li>Enhanced UV-B (later) </li></ul><ul><li>Radioactivity </li></ul><ul><li>Toxic chemicals in atmosphere, soil, and water </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of water supplies </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of fertilizer </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of fuel for machinery </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of pesticides (but not of pests) </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of seeds (and those that do exist are genetically engineered for the current climate) </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of distribution system </li></ul>
Annual Grain Consumption: 2,098 million tons World Grain Stocks: 322 million tons Enough to last 49 days
<ul><li>Chronic Malnutrition Today </li></ul><ul><li>1,800-2,200 calories </li></ul><ul><li>minimum daily requirement </li></ul><ul><li>800 million people at or below </li></ul><ul><li>this level of daily intake </li></ul>
<ul><li>Great Bengal Famine of 1943 </li></ul><ul><li>Food production declined only 5% </li></ul><ul><li>Actually 13% higher than 1941 </li></ul><ul><li>when there was no famine </li></ul><ul><li>3 million people died </li></ul>
<ul><li>War and Civil Conflict </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Food riots </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Civil wars </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wars between nations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Further use of nuclear weapons? </li></ul></ul>
Acknowledgments IPPNW gratefully acknowledges the research published by Alan Robock, PhD; Department of Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University ( http://envsci.rutgers.edu/~robock) , Owen B. Toon, PhD; Department of Atmospheric & Oceanic Science, University of Colorado at Boulder and their colleagues, upon which this presentation is based. Professor Robock’s slides are used with permission.
Bibliography Toon, Owen B., Richard P. Turco, Alan Robock, Charles Bardeen, Luke Oman, and Georgiy L. Stenchikov, 2007: Atmospheric effects and societal consequences of regional scale nuclear conflicts and acts of individual nuclear terrorism. Atm. Chem. Phys. , 7 , 1973-2002. Robock, Alan, Luke Oman, Georgiy L. Stenchikov, Owen B. Toon, Charles Bardeen, and Richard P. Turco, 2007: Climatic consequences of regional nuclear conflicts. Atm. Chem. Phys. , 7 , 2003-2012. Helfand, Ira. An Assessment of the Extent of Projected Global Famine Resulting From Limited,Regional Nuclear War. IPPNW. Cambridge, MA. October 2007. (www.ippnw.org) Complete list of relevant articles and additional resources at: http://envsci.rutgers.edu/~robock