Nuclear Weapons

New scientific report warns regional nuclear war has global effects

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Governments built fallout shelters during the Cold War to “protect” people from the effects of all out nuclear war. Maybe they’ll pass out free sunscreen now that a new scientific report shows that even a “limited” nuclear war will have devastating effects on the ozone layer, putting human health at risk.

Wired Science
summarizes some of the report’s findings.

Imagine that the long-simmering conflict between India and Pakistan broke out into a war in which each side deployed 50 nuclear weapons against the other country’s megacities. Karachi, Bombay, and dozens of other South Asian cities catch fire like Hiroshima and Nagasaki did at the end of World War II.

Beyond the local human tragedy of such a situation, a new study looking at the atmospheric chemistry of regional nuclear war finds that the hot smoke from burning cities would tear holes in the ozone layer of the Earth. The increased UV radiation resulting from the ozone loss could more than double DNA damage, and increase cancer rates across North America and Eurasia.

"Our research supports that there would be worldwide destruction," said Michael Mills, co-author of the study and a research scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder. "It demonstrates that a small-scale regional conflict is capable of triggering larger ozone losses globally than the ones that were previously predicted for a full-scale nuclear war."

Combined with the climatic impact of a regional nuclear war — which could reduce crop yields and starve hundreds of millions — Mills’ modeling shows that the entire globe would feel the repercussions of a hundred nuclear detonations, a small fraction of just the U.S. stockpile.

Meanwhile, our government is pursuing its own nuclear agenda. We’ve got until this Thursday to submit comments to the Department of Energy telling them to stop Complex Transformation, the Bush administration’s proposal to build up the US nuclear complex so that we can create more nuclear weapons each year and pursue new ones, like the Reliable Replacement Warhead. Despite requests from disarmament advocates and members of Congress, the DOE has refused to extend the deadline for comments, so click here to submit your comment today.

Photo from Operation Upshot-Knothole. US Department of Energy photograph.

Categories: Nuclear Weapons