Login/Sign up

World Association of International Studies

Post Direct and Indirect Effects of Nuclear Weapons
Created by John Eipper on 05/25/12 4:36 AM

Previous posts in this discussion:


Direct and Indirect Effects of Nuclear Weapons (David Krieger, USA, 05/25/12 4:36 am)

In response to Cameron Sawyer (24 May), the direct effects of nuclear weapons are blast, fire and radiation. These effects took some 140,000 lives in Hiroshima and some 70,000 lives in Nagasaki by the end of 1945. These effects cause the threat or use of nuclear weapons to be illegal under international humanitarian law, because the weapons fail to discriminate between combatants and non-combatants, cause unnecessary suffering, and would be disproportionate to a preceding attack. Such threat or use of nuclear weapons would also be immoral for the same reasons.

In addition, highly reputable atmospheric scientists now tell us that a nuclear war between India and Pakistan, in which each side used 50 Hiroshima-size nuclear weapons (they have more than this number) on the other side's cities, would have the following consequences: fires from the burning cities would put enough soot into the upper stratosphere to reduce warming sunlight for a decade; temperatures would fall globally; growing seasons would be shortened; and crops would fail, resulting in widespread famine with hundreds of millions of people, and perhaps a billion, dying of starvation.

Thus, the indirect effects of a nuclear war, even a small one by the standards of today's thermonuclear weapons, would be far greater than the direct effects, which are already bad enough. Also, the indirect effects of nuclear famine resulting from a regional nuclear war would be global. No corner of the globe would be immune from these effects. They would affect primarily those with already marginal food supplies. This strikes me as important information about nuclear arsenals that is not widely known. It is not a fairy tale.

Since the nuclear explosive power used in the above study is less than .5 percent of existing nuclear arsenals, it can be projected that a major nuclear war between the US and Russia could trigger the extinction of complex life on the planet. This may not be probable, but it is certainly not impossible. I would describe the general complacency of the leaders of nuclear weapon states to such potential omnicide as a crime against the future. The nuclear famine scenarios may provide a means of stirring humanity from its complacency and demanding more of its political leaders in terms of negotiating a Nuclear Weapons Convention for the phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons. This would not be unilateral disarmament, and US leadership for this goal would certainly be helpful.

The scientists who have led the way on this issue are Alan Robock and Owen Brian Toon (see, for example, Robock and Toon, "Local Nuclear War, Global Suffering," Scientific American, January 2010). The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War also has a new study out, "Nuclear Famine: A Billion People at Risk, Global Impacts of Limited Nuclear War on Agriculture, Food Supplies, and Human Nutrition," by Ira Helfand, MD.

I'm pleased that Cameron Sawyer joins me in viewing nuclear weapons abolition as an imperative. An interesting question to contemplate is whether the abolition of nuclear weapons, assuming the political will, would be possible in a world with widespread use of nuclear power.

JE comments:  Calculating the indirect effects of an India-Pakistan nuclear war is an extremely valuable exercise, as many people outside South Asia have a "this wouldn't affect me" attitude.  As David Krieger illustrates, even a "limited" nuclear exchange would impact everyone on our small planet.

Rate this post
Informational value 
Reader Ratings (2)
Informational value60%

Visits: 94


Please login/register to reply or comment: Login/Sign up

Trending Now

All Forums with Published Content (44446 posts)

- Unassigned

Culture & Language

American Indians Art Awards Bestiary of Insults Books Conspiracy Theories Culture Ethics Film Food Futurology Gender Issues Humor Intellectuals Jews Language Literature Media Coverage Movies Music Newspapers Numismatics Philosophy Plagiarism Prisons Racial Issues Sports Tattoos Western Civilization World Communications


Capitalism Economics International Finance World Bank World Economy


Education Hoover Institution Journal Publications Libraries Universities World Bibliography Series


Biographies Conspiracies Crime Decline of West German Holocaust Historical Figures History Holocausts Individuals Japanese Holocaust Leaders Learning Biographies Learning History Russian Holocaust Turkish Holocaust


Afghanistan Africa Albania Algeria Argentina Asia Australia Austria Bangladesh Belgium Belize Bolivia Brazil Canada Central America Chechnya Chile China Colombia Costa Rica Croatia Cuba Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark East Europe East Timor Ecuador Egypt El Salvador England Estonia Ethiopia Europe European Union Finland France French Guiana Germany Greece Guatemala Haiti Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran (Persia) Iraq Ireland Israel/Palestine Italy Japan Jordan Kenya Korea Kosovo Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Latin America Liberia Libya Mali Mexico Middle East Mongolia Morocco Namibia Nations Compared Netherlands New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria North America Norway Pacific Islands Pakistan Palestine Paraguay Peru Philippines Poland Polombia Portugal Romania Saudi Arabia Scandinavia Scotland Serbia Singapore Slovakia South Africa South America Southeast Asia Spain Sudan Sweden Switzerland Syria Thailand The Pacific Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan UK (United Kingdom) Ukraine USA (America) USSR/Russia Uzbekistan Venezuela Vietnam West Europe Yemen Yugoslavia Zaire


Balkanization Communism Constitutions Democracy Dictators Diplomacy Floism Global Issues Hegemony Homeland Security Human Rights Immigration International Events Law Nationalism NATO Organizations Peace Politics Terrorism United Nations US Elections 2008 US Elections 2012 US Elections 2016 US Elections 2020 Violence War War Crimes Within the US


Christianity Hinduism Islam Judaism Liberation Theology Religion

Science & Technology

Alcohol Anthropology Automotives Biological Weapons Design and Architecture Drugs Energy Environment Internet Landmines Mathematics Medicine Natural Disasters Psychology Recycling Research Science and Humanities Sexuality Space Technology World Wide Web (Internet)


Geography Maps Tourism Transportation


1-TRIBUTES TO PROFESSOR HILTON 2001 Conference on Globalizations Academic WAR Forums Ask WAIS Experts Benefactors Chairman General News Member Information Member Nomination PAIS Research News Ronald Hilton Quotes Seasonal Messages Tributes to Prof. Hilton Varia Various Topics WAIS WAIS 2006 Conference WAIS Board Members WAIS History WAIS Interviews WAIS NEWS waisworld.org launch WAR Forums on Media & Research Who's Who