Rapidly expanding nuclear arsenals in Pakistan and India portend regional and global catastrophe

The title of a new study by Toon et al, published this week in Science Advances, speaks volumes: “Rapidly Expanding nuclear arsenals in Pakistan and India portend regional and global catastrophe.”

advances.sciencemag.org | PSR’s  press statement | usatoday.com | icanw.org

The study models the potential impacts of a regional nuclear conflict and found that, given the increased size and power of their respective nuclear arsenals, the effects of a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan would have even more catastrophic impacts than previously thought.

In a scenario where Pakistan uses 150 nuclear weapons and India uses 100 weapons on urban targets, and the two countries use an additional 85 weapons on non-urban targets, over the course of one week:

  • Up to 125 million immediate deaths, killing 2.5 times as many people died worldwide in World War II.
  • Smoke from the fires would trigger massive climate disruption, reducing surface sunlight by 20 to 35% and abruptly decreasing global land temperatures by 4~8˚C.
  • Precipitation would be reduced from 15 to 30% globally, with even more severe regional variations: while the US Northeast and Midwest could lose up to 50% of their rainfall, rainfall would practically cease over India and Central China.
  • It would take more than a decade for temperatures and precipitation to return to normal.
  • The decrease in sunlight and precipitation would severely disrupt net primary production, and thereby the entire global food chain. Two billion people would be at risk of famine.
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