100 nuclear explosions - a billion people starve to death
April 24, 2012
A new IPPNW study released today at the annual Nobel Peace Laureates Summit in Chicago offers compelling scientific evidence that most of the nuclear arsenals in the world —whether large or small—threaten everyone on Earth. The consequences for global agriculture of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan, for example, would be so severe and long lasting that we must now fundamentally change our thinking about nuclear weapons and redouble our efforts to eliminate them, according to the study’s author, Ira Helfand.
Dr. Helfand has been working in close consultation with climate scientists Alan Robock, O. B. Toon, and others since 2007, when their research into the global climate effects of a nuclear war using only 100 Hiroshima-sized weapons was featured at an IPPNW conference held in London with the Royal Society of Medicine.
Robock, Toon, and their colleagues—many of whom had worked together with Carl Sagan on the “nuclear winter” studies produced during the Cold War—had come to the startling and largely unexpected conclusion that even a fraction of the nuclear weapons contained in the bloated US and Russian arsenals could disrupt the global climate so severely that the world’s major agricultural centers would sustain unprecedented damage for at least a decade.
Based on existing data about global food reserves, the nutritional status of impoverished populations, and historical evidence about the relationship between volcano-induced climate change and past famines, Dr. Helfand came to a tentative conclusion that a famine caused by the climate effects of a nuclear war on this scale could leave a billion people or more without sufficient food to survive.
What the climate studies did not spell out were the likely percentage declines in specific crops, such as corn and rice, in specific agricultural regions, along with the effects on food availability and prices and the resultant nutritional impact on at-risk populations. A grant from the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs enabled Dr. Helfand to organize a research project that could start to produce some concrete and reliable data with which to address these questions.
Nuclear Famine: A Billion People at Risk—Global Impacts of Limited Nuclear War on Agriculture, Food Supplies, and Human Nutrition, released today with IPPNW’s US affiliate Physicians for Social Responsibility, outlines research findings soon to be published in the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change.