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Dec 12, 2006

Regional nuclear war could devastate global climate

Posted by in category: nuclear weapons

From Eurekalert, a warning about the dangers of nuclear war:

Even a small-scale, regional nuclear war could produce as many direct fatalities as all of World War II and disrupt the global climate for a decade or more, with environmental effects that could be devastating for everyone on Earth, university researchers have found.

These powerful conclusions are being presented Dec. 11 during a press conference and a special technical session at the annual meeting of American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The research also appears in twin papers posted on Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions, an online journal.

A team of scientists at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder); and UCLA conducted the rigorous scientific studies reported.

Against the backdrop of growing tensions in the Middle East and nuclear “saber rattling” elsewhere in Asia, the authors point out that even the smallest nuclear powers today and in the near future may have as many as 50 or more Hiroshima-size (15 kiloton) weapons in their arsenals; all told, about 40 countries possess enough plutonium and/or uranium to construct substantial nuclear arsenals.

Owen “Brian” Toon, chair of the department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and a member of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at CU-Boulder, oversaw the analysis of potential fatalities based on an assessment of current nuclear weapons inventories and population densities in large urban complexes. His team focused on scenarios of smoke emissions that urban firestorms could produce.

“The results described in one of the new papers represent the first comprehensive quantitative study of the consequences of a nuclear conflict between smaller nuclear states,” said Toon and his co-authors. “A small country is likely to direct its weapons against population centers to maximize damage and achieve the greatest advantage,” Toon said. Fatality estimates for a plausible regional conflict ranged from 2.6 million to 16.7 million per country.

So it does look like global cooling from soot emitted by nuclear firestorms really is a big problem. All countries should suspend any research towards nuclear weapons, and countries like the United States should openly state that they will withhold from using nuclear weapons during specific engagements.