If there was an India-Pakistan nuclear war…

Both Pakistan an India are among the latest entrants to the prestigious (and dubious) nuclear club. They boast of having developed nuclear weapons as a deterrent from aggression oneither. Having nuclear weapons is a crazy idea, and gets even crazier when countries with ridiculous levels of hunger, poverty and disease spend billions developing nuclear weapons, and then billions more protecting them each year. There is also always that risk of technology leaking into the hands of people who may be interested in using them outside the silly deterrent rhetoric.

If there was to be a nuclear war between India and Pakistan, I somehow doubt atmospheric soot levels would be a top priority – nor do I think military policy makers would take this into consideration when deciding on who to bomb and where.

But that said, it is clear that even a low level nuclear “accident” can cause tremendous damage to people, ecology, and the security of that region. I also don’t think this pollution potential is limited to nuclear events. I am sure a ‘relatively’ standard bombing would also have similar impacts.

Here is a recent clippingabout a scholarly study on this topic in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

All out Indo-Pak nuke war will release 5-mln-tonnes of carbon soot into atmosphere


London, June 12 : An all out nuclear war between India and Pakistan will loft up to five million tonnes of black carbon soot into the atmosphere, and drop global temperatures by 1.4 0C, a Rutgers University study has said.

As part of their study, the researchers used a climate model shared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to calculate the effects of exploding 100 Hiroshima sized bombs over major cities.

The team found, besides polluting the atmosphere, the radiation would shorten growing seasons in the middle latitudes. In some cases, the growing seasons would fail entirely, they said.

‘By explaining the consequences to the world, we hope nothing like this will ever happen,’ said Alan Robock of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, who conducted the study.

He said while the US and Russia had destroyed thousands of warheads following their treaty on disarmament, India, Pakistan and North Korea had swelled their stockpiles.

As such, the threat of a ‘nuclear winter’ that would lower global temperature for a decade, always remained, New Scientist quoted him as saying.

The paper’s abstract is given below. You can read the paper in PDF format here.

Atmospheric effects and societal consequences of regional scale nuclear conflicts and acts of individual nuclear terrorism

O. B. Toon1, R. P. Turco2, A. Robock3, C. Bardeen1, L. Oman3, and G. L. Stenchikov3

1Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado,
Boulder, CO, USA

2Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Univ. of California, Los Angeles, USA
3Department of Environmental Sciences, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick, NJ, USA

Received: 15 August 2006 – Published in Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss.: 22 November 2006
Revised: 14 March 2007 – Accepted: 2 April 2007 – Published: 19 April 2007
Correspondence to: O. B. Toon (toon@lasp.colorado.edu)

Abstract. We assess the potential damage and smoke production associated with the detonation of small nuclear weapons in modern megacities. While the number of nuclear warheads in the world has fallen by about a factor of three since its peak in 1986, the number of nuclear weapons states is increasing and the potential exists for numerous regional nuclear arms races. Eight countries are known to have nuclear weapons, 2 are constructing them, and an additional 32 nations already have the fissile material needed to build substantial arsenals of low-yield (Hiroshima-sized) explosives. Population and economic activity worldwide are congregated to an increasing extent in megacities, which might be targeted in a nuclear conflict. We find that low yield weapons, which new nuclear powers are likely to construct, can produce 100 times as many fatalities and 100 times as much smoke from fires per kt yield as previously estimated in analyses for full scale nuclear wars using high-yield weapons, if the small weapons are targeted at city centers. A single “small” nuclear detonation in an urban center could lead to more fatalities, in some cases by orders of magnitude, than have occurred in the major historical conflicts of many countries.

We analyze the likely outcome of a regional nuclear exchange involving 100 15-kt explosions (less than 0.1% of the explosive yield of the current global nuclear arsenal). We find that such an exchange could produce direct fatalities comparable to all of those worldwide in World War II, or to those once estimated for a “counterforce” nuclear war between the superpowers. Megacities exposed to atmospheric fallout of long-lived radionuclides would likely be abandoned indefinitely, with severe national and international implications. Our analysis shows that smoke from urban firestorms in a regional war would rise into the upper troposphere due to pyro-convection. Robock et al. (2007) show that the smoke would subsequently rise deep into the stratosphere due to atmospheric heating, and then might induce significant climatic anomalies on global scales. We also anticipate substantial perturbations of global ozone. While there are many uncertainties in the predictions we make here, the principal unknowns are the type and scale of conflict that might occur. The scope and severity of the hazards identified pose a significant threat to the global community. They deserve careful analysis by governments worldwide advised by a broad section of the world scientific community, as well as widespread public debate.


4 Responses to If there was an India-Pakistan nuclear war…

  1. Alec Wakeley says:

    i am doing a project for my African Asians class, and i was curious if i could get an address and a name to write a letter to you. If you can i would be very grateful, thank you

  2. Joseph Surya Coimbatore says:

    Interesting! The article shows about the problems the world could face, in the event of an India-Pak N-conflict, altogether from a different angle. Atleast for this sake, the world powers should not and could not allow India and Pak, or any other nations to go to N-war!!

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