An international team of climate scientists calculated the consequences of a nuclear war for agriculture and came to the conclusion that an exchange of thermonuclear strikes between the United States and Russia would lead to mass starvation and the death of 5 billion people on the planet. The work was published in the journal Nature Food.
“The results of these calculations clearly indicate that we must exclude the very possibility of a nuclear conflict. The world has come close to this scenario several times already. A complete ban on nuclear weapons is the only long-term solution to this problem.”, – said Alan Robock, professor at Rutgers University (USA).
Today, many scientists believe that even a limited use of atomic weapons will give rise to a phenomenon that Soviet academician Georgy Golitsyn and his American associate Carl Sagan called “nuclear winter.” By this word, they mean a sharp cooling of the climate over several decades or centuries, caused by a huge mass of dust and soot released into the atmosphere after mutual nuclear strikes.
Professor Robock and his colleagues at the university were interested in how the onset of “nuclear winter” would affect the condition of the planet’s agriculture in the short and long term. To do this, scientists have developed a climate model that allowed them to study in detail all the climatic and environmental consequences of military operations with the use of thermonuclear weapons.
Using this information, the scientists calculated how a global nuclear conflict between Russia and the United States, as well as a smaller exchange of strikes between India and Pakistan, would affect the yield and ability to grow four key crops – rice, corn, wheat and soybeans. In addition, climatologists have studied how a nuclear war will affect domestic animals and aquaculture.
Calculations have shown that even a relatively limited conflict between India and Pakistan will lead to a sharp decline in the yield of all key crops for at least five years after the start of the war. On average, food production will fall by 7%, which will cause serious problems with access to food around the world and lead to the death of hundreds of millions of people from starvation.
In turn, a full-scale nuclear war between Russia and the United States will provoke catastrophic consequences for agriculture on all continents of the Earth, except for Australia. Professor Robock and his colleagues estimate that the overall productivity of world agriculture will decline by 90%, causing global famine and killing more than 5 billion people in addition to the 360 million victims of war.
Similar consequences of nuclear war and “nuclear winter”, according to scientists, are another argument in favor of accelerating negotiations on a ban on the development and use of nuclear weapons. As scientists hope, the information they have collected will convince representatives of the nine nuclear powers to participate more actively in these negotiations at the UN and other key international organizations.