Science

Nuclear war between the US and Russia ‘would cause a global famine’

A nuclear war between Russia and the US would trigger a global famine that would wipe out almost two-thirds of the world’s population, a new study suggests.

More than five billion people would die of hunger during the fallout from a full-scale conflicts, researchers say, with computer simulations showing that firestorms would release soot into the upper atmosphere and block out the sun.

This would in turn spark crop failure across the world. 

Lead author Professor Lili Xia, of Rutgers University in New Jersey, said: ‘The data tell us one thing. We must prevent a nuclear war from ever happening.’

Catastrophic: A nuclear war between Russia and the US would trigger a global famine that would wipe out almost two-thirds of the world’s population, a new study suggests 

Dreadful: More than five billion people would die of hunger during the fallout from a full-scale conflicts, researchers say, with computer simulations showing that firestorms would release soot into the upper atmosphere and block out the sun. This graphs show how air and sea surface temperatures would change in the immediate aftermath of nuclear war

Dreadful: More than five billion people would die of hunger during the fallout from a full-scale conflicts, researchers say, with computer simulations showing that firestorms would release soot into the upper atmosphere and block out the sun. This graphs show how air and sea surface temperatures would change in the immediate aftermath of nuclear war

Russia warns Europe will ‘disappear’ in a nuclear apocalypse if the West gives Ukraine missiles

Last month, Russia warned that Europe would ‘disappear’ in a nuclear apocalypse in the Kremlin’s latest doomsday threat for supplying Ukraine with missiles.

Viacheslav Volodin, the head of the State Duma, lashed out after Poland’s former foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski said Western allies could send more weaponry to besieged Kyiv.

Sikorski claimed Vladimir Putin had violated the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances of 1994, which justifies the Western delivery of nuclear weapons.  

He told Ukrainian channel Espreso TV the supplies would ‘give Ukraine the opportunity to defend its independence’.

Ukraine agreed to give up all its nuclear weapons left over from the fall of the Soviet Union, and joined the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  

Volodin slammed the remarks, writing on Telegram: ‘With such deputies, the Europeans will have much more serious problems than those they have already faced today (refugees, record inflation, energy crisis).

‘Sikorski is provoking a nuclear conflict in the centre of Europe.’

The modelling sheds fresh light on what would happen under six war scenarios — five smaller India-Pakistan conflicts and a large US-Russia war. 

Such threat has been brought to the fore following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Researchers based their calculations on the size of each country’s nuclear arsenal.

Nine nations, including the UK, currently control more than 13,000 nuclear weapons.

Even a clash between new nuclear states would decimate food production and result in widespread starvation, the experts found. 

A climate forecasting tool called the Community Earth System Model enabled effects to be estimated on maize, rice, spring wheat and soybean country-by-country.

The researchers also examined projected changes to livestock pasture and marine fisheries.

In the event of a localised war between India and Pakistan, the global average caloric production decreased seven per cent within five years under the modelling.

In the worst case scenario – involving the US and Russia – this would rise to 90 per cent three to four years after the fighting ended.

The experts said crop declines would be the most severe in the mid-high latitude nations, including major exporters such as Russia and the US.

It could also trigger restrictions and cause severe disruptions in import-dependent countries in Africa and the Middle East, which would induce a catastrophic disruption of global food markets. 

Even a seven per cent decline would exceed the largest since records began in 1961.

Under the largest war scenario, more than 75 per cent of the planet would be starving within two years and more than five billion people would die. 

The world’s current population stands at around eight billion. 

Using crops fed to livestock as human food or reducing waste would have minimal benefits, the researchers wrote.

Prof Xia said: ‘Future work will bring even more granularity to the crop models.

‘For instance, the ozone layer would be destroyed by the heating of the stratosphere, producing more ultraviolet radiation at the surface, and we need to understand that impact on food supplies.’

Climate scientists at Colorado University are creating detailed soot models for specific cities — such as Washington DC.

Inventories of every building will provide a more accurate picture of how much smoke would be produced.

Firestorms would release soot and smoke into the upper atmosphere that would block out the sun and result in crop failure around the world. Pictured: Russia tests the Zircon nuclear-capable hypersonic missile

Firestorms would release soot and smoke into the upper atmosphere that would block out the sun and result in crop failure around the world. Pictured: Russia tests the Zircon nuclear-capable hypersonic missile

The modelling sheds fresh light on what would happen under six war scenarios — five smaller India-Pakistan conflicts and a large U.S.-Russia war. Under the largest war scenario, more than 75 per cent of the planet would be starving within two years

The modelling sheds fresh light on what would happen under six war scenarios — five smaller India-Pakistan conflicts and a large U.S.-Russia war. Under the largest war scenario, more than 75 per cent of the planet would be starving within two years

These graphs show how crops and the ocean would be impacted by solar radiation following nuclear war

These graphs show how crops and the ocean would be impacted by solar radiation following nuclear war

Co-author Prof Alan Robock, also from Rutgers, said researchers already have more than enough information to know a nuclear war of any size would obliterate global food systems — killing billions of people in the process.

He said: ‘If nuclear weapons exist, they can be used, and the world has come close to nuclear war several times.

‘Banning nuclear weapons is the only long-term solution. The five-year-old UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has been ratified by 66 nations, but none of the nine nuclear states.

‘Our work makes clear that it is time for those nine states to listen to science and the rest of the world and sign this treaty.’ 

Earlier this year another US team found nuclear war between the US and Russia would trigger a ‘Little Ice Age’ lasting thousands of years.

In the first month following detonation, average global temperatures would plunge by about 13 degrees Fahrenheit – more than during the most recent Ice Age. That ended 11,700 years ago, killing off the woolly mammoth.

Once the smoke is released into the upper atmosphere it spreads globally  and affects everyone.

Marine ecosystems would also be devastated both initially and in a new ocean state, resulting in long-term impacts to fisheries and other services. 

The new study has been published in the journal Nature Food.

WHAT IS THE DOOMSDAY CLOCK AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

What is the Doomsday Clock? 

The Doomsday Clock was created by the Bulletin, an independent non-profit organization run by some of the world’s most eminent scientists.

It was founded by concerned US scientists involved in the Manhattan Project, which developed the world’s first nuclear weapons during World War II.

In 1947, they established the clock to provide a simple way of demonstrating the danger to the Earth and humanity posed by nuclear war.

The Doomsday Clock not only takes into account the likelihood of nuclear Armageddon but also other emerging threats such as climate change and advances in biotechnology and artificial intelligence.

The Doomsday Clock was created by the Bulletin, an independent non-profit organization run by some of the world's most eminent scientists

The Doomsday Clock was created by the Bulletin, an independent non-profit organization run by some of the world’s most eminent scientists

 It is symbolic and represents a countdown to possible global catastrophe.

The decision to move, or leave the clock alone, is made by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in consultation with the bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, which includes 16 Nobel laureates.

The clock has become a universally recognised indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in life sciences.

In 2020, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, an expert group formed in 1945, adjusted the Doomsday Clock 100 seconds to midnight, the closest we’ve ever come to total destruction – and it remained there in 2021.

That sent a message that the Earth was closer to oblivion than any time since the early days of hydrogen bomb testing and 1984, when US-Soviet relations reached ‘their iciest point in decades.’ 

The Bulletin also considered world leaders response to the coronavirus pandemic, feeling it was so poor that the clock needed to remain in its perilously close to midnight position. 

The closer to midnight the clock moves the closer to annihilation humanity is. 

How has the clock changed since 1947?

  • 1947 – 48: 7 minutes
  • 1949 – 52: 3 minutes
  • 1953 – 59: 2 minutes
  • 1960 – 62: 7 minutes
  • 1963 – 67: 12 minutes
  • 1968: 7 minutes
  • 1969 – 71: 10 minutes
  • 1972 – 73: 12 minutes
  • 1974 – 79: 9 minutes
  • 1980: 7 minutes
  • 1981 – 83: 4 minutes
  • 1984 – 87: 3 minutes
  • 1988 – 89: 6 minutes
  • 1990: 10 minutes
  • 1991 – 94: 17 minutes
  • 1995 – 97: 14 minutes
  • 1998 – 2001: 9 minutes
  • 2002 – 06: 7 minutes
  • 2007 – 09: 5 minutes
  • 2010 – 11: 6 minutes
  • 2012 – 14: 5 minutes
  • 2015 – 16: 3 minutes
  • 2017 – 2.5 minutes
  • 2018 – 2 minutes
  • 2019 – 2 minutes
  • 2020 – 100 seconds
  • 2021 – 100 seconds 


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