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Global food insecurity and famine from reduced crop, marine fishery and livestock production due to climate disruption from nuclear war soot injection

Global food insecurity and famine from reduced crop, marine fishery and livestock production due to climate disruption from nuclear war soot injection

Abstract

Atmospheric soot loadings from nuclear weapon detonation would cause disruptions to the Earth’s climate, limiting terrestrial and aquatic food production. Here, we use climate, crop and fishery models to estimate the impacts arising from six scenarios of stratospheric soot injection, predicting the total food calories available in each nation post-war after stored food is consumed. In quantifying impacts away from target areas, we demonstrate that soot injections larger than 5 Tg would lead to mass food shortages, and livestock and aquatic food production would be unable to compensate for reduced crop output, in almost all countries. Adaptation measures such as food waste reduction would have limited impact on increasing available calories. We estimate more than 2 billion people could die from nuclear war between India and Pakistan, and more than 5 billion could die from a war between the United States and Russia—underlining the importance of global cooperation in preventing nuclear war.

Main

Extraordinary events such as large volcanic eruptions or nuclear war could cause sudden global climate disruptions and affect food security. Global volcanic cooling caused by sulfuric acid aerosols in the stratosphere has resulted in severe famines and political instability, for example, after the 1783 Laki eruption in Iceland1 or the 1815 Tambora eruption in Indonesia2,3. For a nuclear war, the global cooling would depend on the yields of the weapons, the number of weapons and the targets, among other atmospheric and geographic factors. In a nuclear war, bombs targeted on cities and industrial areas would start firestorms, injecting large amounts of soot into the upper atmosphere, which would spread globally and rapidly cool the planet4,5,6. Such soot loadings would cause decadal disruptions in Earth’s climate7,8,9, which would impact food production systems on land and in the oceans…

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