Diego Ramos Environment Nuclear War Original

The Understated Effects of Nuclear War on the World

The atomic cloud over Nagasaki 1945. Charles Levy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By Diego Ramos / Original to ScheerPost

With nuclear war becoming a growing concern in the world, scientists, in an authoritative study published by Nature Food, dug deeper into the expected, horrid outcomes of such an event. Apart from the Hiroshima style obliteration of all signs of life in the directly affected areas, the new study led by Rutgers University scientists finds “global famine” and long term environmental damage on the Earth’s population from nuclear war would put much of the rest of humanity in fatal risk.

Read the Nature Food study here.

As Alexandra Witze from Nature points out, “Even a small conflict in which two nations unleash nuclear weapons on each other could lead to worldwide famine, new research suggests. Soot from burning cities would encircle the planet and cool it by reflecting sunlight back into space. This in turn would cause global crop failures that — in a worst-case scenario — could put five billion people on the brink of death.”

Witze says researchers Lili Xia, Alan Robock and their colleagues “wanted to look at the consequences farther afield from the scene of war, to explore how people all around the planet could also suffer.”

With PSAs telling people how to protect themselves in case of an explosion, and op-eds flooding the public hypothesizing what nukes bring to the table, the topic of nuclear war has a new wave of relevancy and urgency following the war in Ukraine and U.S. entanglements with China.

In analyzing six war scenarios, scientists broke down how different aspects of the Earth would be affected by such warfare.

Watch this video from Max Tegmark—a professor at MIT and president of the Future of Life Institute—explaining and simulating what nuclear war would look like from space.

“A full-out nuclear war between the United States and Russia could produce 150 million tonnes of soot. The globe-encircling pall would persist for years until the skies eventually cleared,” Witze mentions.

The study puts into perspective data like how many calories people would consume following the disruption of the global food system and international trade. In the case of a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia—the worst case scenario—calorie production could drop 90% in only a few years after the war. Even in the smallest war scenario involving India and Pakistan, 5 million tons of soot could be produced and global calorie production could drop by 7%.

Watch this video from the Future of Life Institute detailing what a “nuclear winter” means and honoring the people behind the research into the impact of nuclear war.
Diego Ramos
Diego Ramos

Diego Ramos is a journalist from Queens, NY. He graduated from the University of Southern California in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He serves as the New York Bureau Chief for ScheerPost and has previously worked at BuzzFeed News. He’s covered and researched a myriad of topics including war, politics, psychedelic research and drug policy.

11 comments

  1. The article is good, but all you need to do is read Andrei Sakarov’s essay on the long and short-term effects of such a war, and it all is extremely clear and terrible. The essay he wrote 25 or 30 years ago, still very pertinent.

  2. Is this what we are coming to here? A 22 year-old kid with dopey hair who can’t possibly understand a complex military/environmental issue that has been studied by endless people for 70 years? It’s getting near time to stop bothering Scheerpost, it’s becoming a farce.

    1. Please don’t shoot the messenger. I have been following article comments in the New York Times and Washington Post since the beginning of the Ukraine war, and a surprisingly large number of people, most of whom consider themselves liberal, advocate full-on nuclear war against Russia. Those people believe that nuclear war is winnable.

      Articles like this one by Mr. Ramos are needed to reinforce and rebuild the understanding that nuclear war will be catastrophic for everybody. There will be no winners. You know it and I know it, but a lot of people don’t. And they aren’t all MAGA-hat right-wingers.

  3. Calorie reduction? First of all, in a US/Russia nuclear war the grids are going down across the Northern hemisphere which means the 440 nuclear power plant spent fuel pools cook off and you have Fukushima x440 except this time with no attempt to contain them at all because a nuclear war just happened.

    Hence any food grown in the Northern hemisphere would be too toxic to eat assuming there was even any way remaining to grow and distribute such at scale.

    The only people remaining alive after a few years will be a handful of prepper sociopaths hiding out with their guns and tinned food while nursing their blossoming cancers.

    Abolishing and banning nuclear weapons is the most obvious thing to do in the history of obviousness, which certainly assures it won’t happen here on this Planet of the Knuckleheads.

  4. What do people think will happen to the fallout? Are we really that stupid? WE WON’T SURVIVE MORONS! And, well, maybe that is for the best. Humans don’t deserve this beautiful planet. Maybe she can finally rest in peace once we annihilate ourselves…

    1. Einstien said that two things were infinite: ‘ the universe and human stupidity, and he was not sure about the universe’.

  5. it is unconscionable that we are knocking on the nuclear door – truly sickening

  6. All empires eventually face the war they are trying to avoid – defeat. Everyone wants to avoid nuclear Armageddon. Fulfilling the syllogism, powers have to deny the logic: convincing themselves the conflict can be avoided, limited in extent or (most catastrophic of all) won. They do this by ignoring history.
    https://patternofhistory.wordpress.com/

  7. We witnessed Japan nuked only twice and they recovered nicely.
    Also hundreds of nuclear tests were conducted last century and not much bad stuff happened, so it is only human nature that we dismiss the end of the world scares.

    And Nature allows humans to behave badly/ goodly then takes its toll.
    Nature seems to want human decimation to return to balance… Sounds like the super villain: Thanos

    Sorry about that, Iron Man.

  8. For those who have not seen the 1984 BBC film “Threads”, and want to have a palpable sense of the long term effects of a nuclear conflagration, it is highly recommended. The film chillingly and artfully depicts a 15 year period following an initial nuclear detonation in England after a US/ UK war with Russia – and was based on the current science in the ’80’s [which apparently hasn’t dated]. A Police State, food rationing leading to riots, mass death and radiation sickness, and myriad other diseases, complete societal collapse, the end of functional literacy for the new generation, mass trauma….and all quite plausible. Don’t make popcorn for this one.

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