Author Topic: The Global Impact of a Limited Nuclear War in South Asia: Famine, Disease and War  (Read 730 times)

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by Alexander Pearson

Earlier this week, the nuclear watchdog group Physicians for Social Responsibility, published their report authored by Ira Helfand  “Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People at Risk?” The report summarizes, synthesizes and expands upon a number of findings made in previous scientific studies by independent sources on the likely consequences of a ‘limited’, regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan on global food supplies.

For the purposes of the study, Helfand assumes this ‘limited’ war to be one in which a total of 100 15 kiloton nuclear weapons would be detonated (less than 0.1% of the current global nuclear arsenal). Using conservative estimations, these 100 nuclear explosions would release 5 million metric tons of black carbon aerosol particles into the earth’s upper atmosphere.

The expulsion of these particles would, in turn, provide the initial spark for a chain reaction of processes that could potentially lead to billions of people around the world facing starvation, disease and civil and international conflict.

1. A 5 million metric ton expulsion of black carbon aerosol particles would cause a significant average drop in world surface temperature. According to a 2006 academic study, the release of these particles would cause global average surface cooling of -1.25 °C for up to a decade after the conflict. Most of this cooling would occur over grain-growing regions and cause declines in global precipitation.

2. Average crop yields would fall across the globe causing a shortage of agricultural produce in many regions. Due to the absence of studies investigating the effects of climate change on global agricultural output, Helfand extrapolates the effects from previous, country-specific studies. These studies used a number of sophisticated meteorological models to predict changes in crop yields over time.

A 2012 study concluded that the change in climate would, averaged over 10 years, cause corn and soybean production in the US to decline by 10%. A 2013 study concluded that this climate change would, averaged over 10 years, cause maize, rice and wheat production in China to decline by 16%, 17% and 31% respectively.

According to Helfand, these numbers are conservative insofar as the studies did not consider other factors that would affect agricultural production. These include, among others, the effects of the increase in UV light and temperature, along with the decline in available fertilizer and gasoline. Taking these factors into account, the impact of this climate change on world agricultural output would be far more severe.

3. As crop output declines, global food prices would skyrocket, potentially leaving billions of people at risk of malnutrition and starvation. A decline in agricultural production would lead to higher food costs as demand remains constant in the face of shrinking supply. A 2011 study concluded that a one year 20% decline in crop yields would cause a 19.7% rise in crop prices. Cumulative over ten years, a total of 215 million people would become threatened by famine as a result of such a price increase.

Helfand, building on the previous 2013 study on the decline in crop output in China, argues that a further 1.3 billion poor Chinese would also be threatened from famine after China’s grain reserves had been depleted in the years after the nuclear war. Taking into account the 870 million people already suffering from malnutrition, a limited nuclear war in South Asia could eventually result in over two billion people threatened by famine a decade later. Over ten years, it is unlikely that the majority of this figure would be able to survive.
 
Again, Helfand points out that these figures are conservative. They do not take into account the historical trend that, following traumatic events, global food markets usually react with commodity speculation and hoarding. Nor do they consider the fact that, as crop yields decline, food exporting countries would likely halt exports in order to ensure their own food security. All of these factors would cause world food prices to increase even more significantly.

4. Correspondingly, the resulting food shortage would likely lead to medical pandemics and a conflict-prone international security environment. Historically, famines have triggered epidemics in their wake including cholera, malaria, smallpox, and the plague. Due to globalization and urbanization, it is unlikely that modern medicine would be able to resolve what most likely would be global pandemics as diseases break out in concentrated population areas and then spread quickly around the globe. Pandemics of this scale would result in significant loss of life; particularly among developing countries of the global south.

Furthermore, the potential for armed conflict between and within states would increase exponentially as states and individuals fear for their own food security in the face of food shortages. The competition for limited food resources could also exacerbate existing regional, ethnic and/or religious tensions that could lead to war. If these conflicts were to break out, the resulting casualty rate and loss of life could be catastrophic.

These conclusions should remind us of the terrifying global consequences that would result from the use of nuclear weapons even in a situation as relatively restrained as a ‘limited’, regional nuclear war using low-yield weapons. They should also, in turn, remind the international community to refocus their efforts not just on deescalating South Asian tensions, but on non-proliferation and disarmament efforts worldwide. The consequences of failing to do so are just too great to be ignored.

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http://www.nukesofhazardblog.com/print/2013/12/13/93654/594

SPQR

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This could also be placed in the science section

Offline Chieftain

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My wife's uncle was a technical adviser to the publisher of "The Effects of Nuclear Weapons", and he gave me a copy of the latest edition when he was here at Thanksgiving.  I've been reading through it and it is sobering, to say the least....


Offline Oceander

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Some of the assumptions seem questionable.  First, some writings - from organizations that don't have an interest in twisting the facts to suit a political agenda - indicate that neither India nor Pakistan has the types of weapons necessary to detonate 100 15 kiloton devices (here's one source).  Second, the assumption doesn't take any account of the likelihood that India and Pakistan would launch their weapons in waves, as opposed to all at once at the onset of hostilities, and therefore that a significant number of their available weapons may be destroyed before they can be used.

I'm not saying that such a war would not have catastrophic consequences, just that the study's conclusions are suspect because the assumptions the study is based on are suspect.

SPQR

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Some of the assumptions seem questionable.  First, some writings - from organizations that don't have an interest in twisting the facts to suit a political agenda - indicate that neither India nor Pakistan has the types of weapons necessary to detonate 100 15 kiloton devices (here's one source).  Second, the assumption doesn't take any account of the likelihood that India and Pakistan would launch their weapons in waves, as opposed to all at once at the onset of hostilities, and therefore that a significant number of their available weapons may be destroyed before they can be used.

I'm not saying that such a war would not have catastrophic consequences, just that the study's conclusions are suspect because the assumptions the study is based on are suspect.


If anyone wants to see a sobering view of a nuclear war see this movie. It will change your mind:



<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MCbTvoNrAg" target="_blank" class="aeva_link bbc_link new_win">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MCbTvoNrAg</a>

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFwbDd4lEa8" target="_blank" class="aeva_link bbc_link new_win">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFwbDd4lEa8</a>

« Last Edit: December 14, 2013, 12:46:03 AM by SPQR »

Offline Oceander

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If anyone wants to see a sobering view of a nuclear war see this movie> It will change your mind:



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MCbTvoNrAg




Why would it change my mind?  I don't think a nuclear war is something to wish for, nor something that would be a walk in the park; however, neither do I think it would be as earth-shattering (pardon the pun) as the doomsayers would have it - especially when they have political axes to grind.  The group Physicians for Social Responsibility is not a collection of scientists, it is a political action group; the mere fact that its members are scientists in their other lives is irrelevant to the political - hence unscientific - nature of the group and its positions.

SPQR

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Why would it change my mind?  I don't think a nuclear war is something to wish for, nor something that would be a walk in the park; however, neither do I think it would be as earth-shattering (pardon the pun) as the doomsayers would have it - especially when they have political axes to grind.  The group Physicians for Social Responsibility is not a collection of scientists, it is a political action group; the mere fact that its members are scientists in their other lives is irrelevant to the political - hence unscientific - nature of the group and its positions.

Just watch the movie and judge for yourself. There is no happy ending like "The Day After"It gives an entirely different perspective of a nuclear war movie.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2013, 12:41:10 AM by SPQR »

Offline Oceander

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Just watch the movie and judge for yourself. There is no happy ending like "The Day After"It gives an entirely different perspective of a nuclear war movie.

Nope.  Doesn't change my perspective all that much.  Like I said, a nuclear war is no walk in the park.  Then again, neither was Dresden, or Tokyo, or Stalingrad; none of those involved nuclear weapons.  War is hell, no matter what toys you use to play it.

SPQR

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Nope.  Doesn't change my perspective all that much.  Like I said, a nuclear war is no walk in the park.  Then again, neither was Dresden, or Tokyo, or Stalingrad; none of those involved nuclear weapons.  War is hell, no matter what toys you use to play it.
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You just do not want to have your horizons expanded .You can't see a nuclear war movie if Threads is involved. Just see the movie. Humor me please.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2013, 12:53:06 AM by SPQR »

Offline Oceander

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. Just see the movie. Humor me please.

I did.  I'm not going to sit through all two hours of it; skimming through it was more than sufficient.  It doesn't materially change my view on nuclear war or the use of nuclear weapons.

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I did.  I'm not going to sit through all two hours of it; skimming through it was more than sufficient.  It doesn't materially change my view on nuclear war or the use of nuclear weapons.

Its your prerogative. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink

Offline Oceander

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Its your prerogative. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink

And your point is?  That nuclear war is terrible?  You'll get no disagreement from me on that point.  Conventional war is hell on Earth too.

SPQR

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And your point is?  That nuclear war is terrible?  You'll get no disagreement from me on that point.  Conventional war is hell on Earth too.

again,You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink

Offline Oceander

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again,You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink

If you aren't going to state the point in some detail, then there isn't any water there as far as this horse is concerned.

SPQR

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If you aren't going to state the point in some detail, then there isn't any water there as far as this horse is concerned.

You are making judgements on a film you have not seen. There are many films I have not seen but I do not make judgements on them. I make judgements after the fact.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2013, 01:04:08 AM by SPQR »

Offline Oceander

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You are making judgements on a film you have not seen

No.  I'm asking you to tell me what lesson I'm supposed to draw from this movie.

SPQR

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No.  I'm asking you to tell me what lesson I'm supposed to draw from this movie.

That is what you supposed to decide as the viewer. I cannot make that decision. I have already made my judgement because I have seen it(more than once).
« Last Edit: December 14, 2013, 01:26:56 AM by SPQR »


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