Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Famine, Ira Helfand (Co-President of IPPNW, USA), February 2017
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW)
Russian Pugwash Committee under the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS)
INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON GLOBAL SECURITY
Moscow, February 21, 2017
Co-President of IPPNW (USA)
Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Famine
For 25 years after the end of the Cold War the world assumed that it did not have to worry about large scale war between the US and Russia. The significant deterioration in relations between the nuclear powers and the election of an erratic US President with little understanding of international relations, have upended that assumption. It is imperative that we again educate ourselves and the general public about the dangers of large scale nuclear war. A large scale conflict between the US and Russia in which only 300 warheads got through to each country would kill 150-200 million people in the first half hour. It would also destroy the essential economic infrastructure of both countries leading to the deaths of most of the remaining population. A war involving most of the warheads still allowed under the New START treaty would cause a decade long nuclear winter with temperatures falling an average of 8 degrees C across the planet, 25-30 degrees in the interior regions of North America and Eurasia. Under these conditions ecosystems would collapse, most agriculture would stop and the vast majority of the human race would die.
Even a limited nuclear war, as might occur between India and Pakistan would cause worldwide climate disruption with temperatures dropping an average of 1.3 degrees C. The resulting decline in food production would trigger a global famine that could put up to 2 billion people at risk of starvation. It is unlikely modern civilization would survive a shock of this magnitude.