13:17 03 October 2007
NewScientist.com news service
A nuclear war between India and Pakistan could cause one billion people to starve to death around the world, and hundreds of millions more to die from disease and conflicts over food.
damage that such a war could inflict on the ozone layer.
Helfand is an emergency-room doctor in Northampton, Massachusetts, US, and a co-founder of the US anti-nuclear group, Physicians for Social Responsibility. In his study he attempted to map out the global consequences of India and Pakistan exploding 100 Hiroshima-sized nuclear warheads.
Earlier studies have suggested that such a conflict would throw five million tonnes of black soot into the atmosphere, triggering a reduction of 1.25°C in the average temperature at the earth's surface for several years. As a result, the annual growing season in the world's most important grain-producing areas would shrink by between 10 and 20 days.
The global death toll from a nuclear war in Asia "could exceed one billion from starvation alone", Helfand concludes. Food shortages could also trigger epidemics of cholera, typhus and other diseases, as well as armed conflicts, which together could kill "hundreds of millions".
The smoke would warm the stratosphere by up to 50°C, accelerating the natural reactions that attack ozone, he says. "No-one has ever thought about this before," he adds, "I think there is a potential for mass starvation."
Such dire predictions are not dismissed by nuclear experts ...full text