The Nuclear Winter

I feel embarrassed to be unaware of the subject, one that I have not even heard mentioned before. On the contrary, I would have understood much earlier that the risks of a nuclear war were far more serious than I imagined. I assumed that the planet would be able to withstand the explosion of hundreds of nuclear bombs calculating that, in both the United States and the USSR, countless tests have been carried out over the years. I had not taken into account a very simple reality: it is not the same thing to explode 500 nuclear bombs over 1,000 days as it is to do the same thing in one day.

I was able to learn more about it when I requested information from several experts on the subject. One can imagine my surprise when I learned that we do not need a nuclear world war for our species to perish.

A nuclear conflict between the two weakest nuclear powers would be sufficient, such as India and Pakistan – who nevertheless possess far more than 100 weapons of this kind – and the human race would disappear.

I will think carefully about the elements of judgment given to me by our experts on the subject, taken from what has been presented by the most eminent scientists in the world.

There are things that Obama knows perfectly well:

“…a nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union would produce a ‘nuclear winter’.

“The international debate regarding that prediction, led by astronomer Carl Sagan, forced the leaders of the two superpowers to face up to the possibility that their arms race had not only placed themselves at risk but also the entire human race.

“…models drawn up by Russian and U.S. scientists showed that a nuclear war would result in a nuclear winter which would be tremendously destructive for life on Earth; knowing this, for us, for people with morals and honor, signified a tremendous incentive…

“…regional nuclear wars could unleash a similar global catastrophe. New analyses reveal that a conflict between India and Pakistan in which 100 bombs – just 0.4% of the 25,000-plus warheads in the world – could be dropped on cities and industrial areas would generate enough fallout to destroy the world’s agriculture. A regional war could result in the loss of lives even in countries far removed from the conflict.”

“With modern computers and new climatic models, our team has demonstrated that not only were the ideas of the 1980s correct, but that the effects would last for at least 10 years, far longer than was previously believed […] the fallout from a regional war would be heated by the sun and would rise and remain suspended in the upper atmosphere for years, masking the sunlight and cooling off the Earth.”

“India and Pakistan, which – between the two of them – possess more than 100 nuclear warheads…”

“Some people believe that the theory of nuclear winter developed during the 1980s has fallen into disrepute. Perhaps that is why they may be surprised by our assertion that a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan, for example, could devastate agriculture across the entire planet.

“The original theory was thoroughly validated. Its scientific base was supported by research undertaken by the National Academy of Sciences, studies sponsored by the U.S. Armed Forces and the International Council for Science (ICSU), which included representatives from 24 national science academies and other scientific bodies.”

“Perhaps the cooling off does not appear to be something of particular concern. But it is worth knowing that a slight drop in temperature could lead to serious consequences.”

“The total amount of grains being stored on the planet today could feed the world population for a couple of months (see ‘Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?’ by Lester R. Brown; INVESTIGACIÓN Y CIENCIA, July 2009).”

“Sometimes the smoke from major forest fires penetrates the troposphere and the lower stratosphere and is dragged over great distances, generating a cooling off. Our models also agree with those effects.”

“Some 65 million years ago, an asteroid crashed into the Yucatán Peninsula. The resultant dust cloud, mixed with smoke from the fires, concealed the sun, killing the dinosaurs. Massive volcanic activity which occurred in India at the same time could have                             aggravated the effects.”

“…the growing number of nuclear states increases the possibility of a war breaking out, either intentionally or unintentionally.

“North Korea has threatened war if its ships are stopped and searched for nuclear materials.”

“Some extremist leaders in India proposed attacking Pakistan with nuclear weapons as a result of the latest terrorist attacks on India.”

“Iran has threatened to destroy Israel, already a nuclear power, which in turn has sworn never to allow Iran to become a nuclear power.”

“The first two nuclear bombs shocked the world so deeply that, despite the massive increase in those weapons since then, they have never been used again.”

A nuclear war is inevitable from the moment that the UN Security Council term has expired; anything could happen when the first Iranian vessel is inspected.

“Within in the framework of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, the U.S and Russia have committed themselves to leaving their arsenal of deployed strategic nuclear weapons at 1,700 and 2,200 by the end of 2012.”

“If those weapons were to be used on urban targets, they would kill hundreds of millions of people and a vast cloud of smoke – of 180 teragrams – would inundate the earth’s atmosphere.”

“The only way to eliminate the possibility of a climatic disaster is to eliminate nuclear weapons.”

At midday, I met with four Cuban experts: Tomás Gutiérrez Pérez; José Vidal Santana Núñez; Col. José Luis Navarro Herrero, head of the Science and Technology Secretariat of the MINFAR; and Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart, with whom I analyzed the issue I am dealing with in this Reflection.

I requested the meeting yesterday, August 22. I didn’t want to lose a second. Without any doubt, it was a productive encounter.

Fidel Castro Ruz
| castro signature | MR Online
August 23, 2010
5:34 p.m.