Even ‘Limited’ Nuclear War Would Disrupt Global Food Production: Report

April 25, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Epoch Times Photo
Photo from Iranian ISNA news agency on Dec. 16, 2009, shows the test-firing at an undisclosed location in Iran of an improved Sejil 2 medium-range missile, which Tehran says can reach targets inside Israel. (Vahi Reza Alaee/AFP/Getty Images)

The impacts of even a “limited” regional nuclear war could have disastrous consequences for the entire global food production through climate disruptions, according to research by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).

The report, “Nuclear Famine: A Billion People At Risk,” published this week paints a foreboding picture of what’s at stake, should nuclear weapons be used in a conflict. 

So far, 2012 has been a tense year with respect to nuclear proliferation and the growing threat of an actual nuclear exchange. 

This month, the West watched with angst as North Korea attempted—and failed—to launch a long-range rocket assessed to be a test of nuclear delivery systems. Since then, Pyongyang has threatened to reduce targets in South Korea “to ashes,” and an inside source told Reuters North Korea is about to test a nuclear device. Restive nuclear neighbors India and Pakistan both just test-launched missiles with nuclear capability. And there is growing speculation about Israel or the United States acting to pre-emptively take out Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program. 

Viewed in this light, the PSR/IPPNW report is a sobering read. According to studies quoted by author Dr. Ira Helfand, the expected climate disruptions caused by an imagined nuclear war between India and Pakistan would cause a serious decline in agricultural output worldwide. 

From corn and soybean production in the United States to rice yields in China, everything would be adversely affected by the calculated 6.6 million metric tons of soot that a “limited” war involving 0.5 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal, or 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs, would send into the upper troposphere. This could in turn cause a significant chain reaction on the world food market. 

“Even if agricultural markets continued to function normally, 215 million people would be added to the rolls of the malnourished over the course of a decade,” the report states. “However, markets would not function normally.”

Panic and hoarding would further reduce availability, and with 925 million malnourished people in the world already, surviving on 1,750 calories or less, even a small drop in their food consumption could put them at serious risk. 

And as the recent report “Nuclear Challenges in 2013” from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) points out, “There is no shortage of nuclear challenges as we immerse ourselves in 2012.”

CSIS report author, Sharon Squassoni, points to Iran and North Korea as the two most likely flashpoints, but also states that the United States should “get serious about bringing India into the nonproliferation mainstream.” 

India, Pakistan, and North Korea, which all say they possess nuclear weapons, are not part of the nonproliferation treaty. 

Israel, believed to possess undeclared nuclear weapons, is understood not to be willing to tolerate a nuclear Iran—a country whose leader, President Ahmadinejad, has declared that he wants to see Israel wiped off the map.