Nuclear weapons and war have effects that will fundamentally change the Earth’s ecosystem in the blink of an eye. Even a small nuclear war could bring us to the brink of extinction. But how?
The United States and Russia recently announced that they have agreed to negotiate the New START Agreement, the only agreement regulating the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. While this is undoubtedly good news, it should not compel us to complacency. For the first time since the cold war, the danger of a nuclear war has come to such a threatening and loud position.
There are more than 10,000 nuclear warheads in the world, and most of them are in the arsenals of the USA and Russia. The number of nuclear warheads in 9 countries is estimated to be around 15,000, and approximately 12-13 thousand of them are located in two countries: the USA and Russia.
A nuclear war with a minor impact could have devastating effects beyond the dire fate of the victims living in the region, including large-scale environmental changes and profound changes in the climate system. Moreover, the stories told by the survivors of the atomic bombings dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and on Nagasaki three days later confirm these.
On the other hand, scientific studies conducted in this area show that even a local nuclear conflict can lead to climate disaster in today’s world.
Global Famine and Climate Collapse
In 1982, a group of scientists, including Carl Sagan, warned of a climate apocalypse that could follow nuclear war. Using simple computer simulations and historical volcanic eruptions as natural analogues, their work showed how smoke rising into the stratosphere from urban firestorms can obscure the sun for years.
In this study by scientists, including Carl Sagan, it was discovered that a small nuclear war would result in a “nuclear winter”, triggering a catastrophic famine far from the battlefield. Referring to this scientific work, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev declared in the 1980s that a nuclear war could not be won.
What does Current Research Show?
New research reveals the potential climate impact of nuclear war. Thanks to up-to-date simulation and computational techniques, it is revealed that a nuclear conflict would greatly disrupt the climate system and cause global famine. Beyond that, the effects of a possible conflict will last for tens or even thousands of years and will greatly affect the ocean ecosystem.
The Baltic Sea will Freeze
Researchers have shared the results by examining the scenario of a nuclear war between the US and Russia that resulted in 150 billion tons of soot (the mass of impure carbon particles produced by the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons) reaching the upper atmosphere from burning cities.
Low light and rapid cooling will cause major physical changes in the ocean, including the dramatic expansion of Arctic sea ice. The freezing of the seas around Europe will block all shipping opportunities, including fishing. According to the simulation, just three years after the war, the Baltic Sea will be covered with ice all year, with Copenhagen and St. Important ports such as St. Petersburg will be closed and famine will ensue. Even in a more limited scenario of conflict between India and Pakistan, between 27 and 47 billion tons of soot would be released into the upper atmosphere, and the resulting cooling would seriously endanger shipping through northern Europe.
The Oceans will Be Affected the Most
The environmental effects of nuclear war bring with it long-term problems. We see this when we examine the examples. It takes tens or even hundreds of years for the ecological system to return to normal in the place where a nuclear war or bomb was dropped. However, these numbers do not apply to the ocean and sea. Oceans and seas are made up of layers, just like the atmosphere, and by nature, water heats and cools much more slowly. Therefore, the oceans and seas have a much longer “memory” than the atmosphere.
Sudden changes such as nuclear war cause irreversible effects on the oceans within a human lifetime. In fact, these effects may never return to their original state, and the ocean ecosystem may radically change. It is important to remember that the ecosystem is a whole and a permanent change in one place affects all the wheels. Contrary to what is known, the oceans, not forests, form the main source of oxygen in the world, so the change in this area affects everything.