The “best” scenario of nuclear war has shown dismal results

On Earth now more than 15 000 nuclear warheads — enough to blow everything to hell. Even more than enough. But how many nuclear explosions would it take to destroy the enemy? How many nuclear warheads a country-aggressor can throw at the enemy before the effects of nuclear winter would return to her? New research was conducted to find answers to these questions, but the results you do not like.

From the work published last week in the journal of Safety, it follows that no country should have more than 100 nuclear warheads. This is the maximum number, I believe Joshua Pearce, Professor at Michigan technological University, and David Denkenberger, associate Professor of the University of Tennessee. Anything over that number will haunt the aggressor country in the form of environmental, socio-economic and agricultural destruction, but also seriously podsokratit local life — even if the opponent does not respond with its own nuclear strike. At the same time, scientists believe that hundreds of warheads is still enough for nuclear deterrence, reduce the risk of war (and conflict), and, consequently, prevent a catastrophic nuclear winter.

To clean up the nuclear Arsenal and to reduce the number of nuclear weapons to 100 warheads — excellent suggestion. “Hundreds” would look great on the table. But upon closer inspection, this figure is still fairly arbitrary. Modern nuclear weapons, even if used in limited quantities, able to destroy entire cities and cause catastrophic environmental consequences. Nuclear war, whether 100 or 1,000 nuclear strikes, will be a horrible event, the effects of which will shake the entire planet. Ideally, the most safe, humane and rational number of nuclear weapons is zero.

Do I need to reduce nuclear stockpiles?

Currently, the United States in 6550 disposal of nuclear warheads; Russia — 7010. Add the reserves of Britain, France, Israel, Pakistan, India, China and North Korea, and the number of common stocks closer to 15 000. But if the proposal of the Pier and Denkenberger to become a reality, this number will fall to less than 900. Will be less than 94%. Fewer nuclear weapons — less likely to clash, say scientists, and less money needed to service all those warheads. They also believe that “no one of these seven countries is not rational to maintain a stockpile of weapons with more than 100 units, given the huge potential impact it may have on private citizens.”

The whole point of the new work is to define a “pragmatic nuclear limit at which the negative direct physical effects of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the national interest.” In other words, to understand when your a nuclear strike will bite you in the ass, even if the opponent does not answer.

“Studies that considered the scenario of a nuclear war before, were focused primarily on full-scale war of Russia against the United States and asked questions like “will humanity survive?”, says pierce. “Studies of small regional wars have focused on the environmental consequences. This is the first study devoted to unilateral attack and its consequences, especially for the food chain for the aggressor, assuming a best-case scenario”.

Under the “best scenario” pierce describes a purely hypothetical (and totally unrealistic) situation in which, apart from the fact that the nation of the aggressor is faced with the return run, it is not plagued by terrorist attacks, mass civil unrest, minimal fallout and the myriad other things that can occur on the background of sudden nuclear attack. The authors tried to determine the maximum number of nukes that can be dropped on the enemy before there was a nuclear winter and lead to the collapse of Commerce, industry and agriculture.

Everyone knows that nuclear winter is scary. Here is what they write the authors:

“Nuclear winter is a potential serious long-term global climatic cooling effect, which can appear after a widespread fire storms caused by the detonation of a certain number of nuclear warheads. A nuclear war would burn extensive forest areas, arable land, fossil fuel reserves, cities and industrial centers. These fires form a thick layer of smoke in the Earth’s atmosphere, dramatically reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface and triggering a “nuclear twilight”.

In addition to abnormally low temperatures, severely damaged the ozone layer will no longer block harmful ultraviolet rays. Global food production will drastically decrease. The food chain, and the industry will cease to fully function, and in some cases disappear.

To determine when nuclear explosions start to pose a problem for the aggressor, scientists have calculated the consequences of 7000, 1000 and 100 nuclear warheads, dropped on a certain country. Each warhead arbitrarily appointed a power of 15 kilotons. The authors calculated how much material will burn in every city and how much smoke will be emitted into the atmosphere. For forecasting the impact on agriculture and the global supply chain of food used climate models.

In one hypothetical scenario, if the US dropped 100 nuclear warheads on the most densely populated cities of China, the initial explosions will kill about 30 million people. “Regional nuclear war” will trigger a nuclear autumn, will cause the temperature drop 1 degree and 10-20% decline in world food production. Hunger will kill many people in China, but American citizens for the most part will remain intact. If the United States dropped from 1,000 to 7,000 warheads to China, the story will be completely different: die 140 000 million people in China and 5 million people in the US.

“How destructive is the use of even a modest fraction of our nuclear Arsenal for the stability of the United States, shocking to us,” says pierce. “We thought that America has so much land and so much wealth that any scenario of a nuclear bomb will leave us untouched. We were wrong. The number of dead Americans who will be killed after the bombing, striking — it’s way above the number of fatalities from terrorist attacks to date”.

Pierce believes that the analysis for the optimistic and conservative estimates generally underestimate the number of deaths the US in these scenarios. In reality it will be a lot higher.

“For example, we assumed that anyone who dies from hunger, will be immediately cut off from food. But it’s hard to believe that the American elite would sacrifice their children for the common good of the nation. I think many people are going to die from internal strife caused by lack of calories”.

In addition to radical and unrealistic assumptions, this study also suffers from other serious limitations associated with the size and power of modern nuclear weapons. In this study it is assumed the use of 15-kiloton bombs that have little meaning. It is the power of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Modern bombs are much bigger and stronger. Most modern bombs in 25 times more powerful than those used in world war II, from 100 to 500 kilotons. The biggest bomb in the world — 5 megatons, and the largest in the United States and 1.4 megatons. The difference is huge.

This is the same conclusion reached by scientists a year ago in a study published in Environment Magazine. Adam Liska and colleagues at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln showed that “limited strikes”, like the proposed Pier and Denkenberger, still can cause both local and global climatic consequences. In addition, they found that the US, Russia and China have weapons that can cause a nuclear autumn after application of five bombs. Therefore, “100 blows” as the magic number lose their meaning in the context of modern weapons.

“The most sensitive parameter in these calculation is the size of the bombs, which ranges from 25 to 5000 kilotons,” says Liska. “Today I think only the biggest bomb.”

Despite this, it is fair to say that the reduction of nuclear stockpiles will continue to be a reasonable step.

“It is irrational to invest billions in maintaining an excessive number of weapons that destabilizie our own country in the case of using,” says pierce. “This logic works for all. Other countries in a worse position because they are poorer, like Russia, or do not have enough of their own land, as Israel.”

Maybe North Korea will give up nuclear weapons, but it is unknown if they follow other Nations for it. Maybe not. Maybe we will get rid of this dangerous cargo, but full cure is not possible or even desirable. This is the conclusion reached by the authors of the study.

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