India-Pakistan Nuclear War Would Kill 2 Billion People, End Civilization, Says Report


By Palash Ghosh

A nuclear war between South Asian rivalsIndia and Pakistan would trigger a globalfamine that would immediately kill 2 billionpeople around the world and spell the “endof human civilization,” according to a studyby an anti-nuclear group. The InternationalPhysicians for the Prevention of Nuclear Warand Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR)also warned that even a limited nuclear conflictbetween India and Pakistan would destroycrop yields, damage the atmosphere and throwglobal food markets into chaos. China, theworld’s most populous country, would face acatastrophic food shortage that would lead toenormous social convulsions. “A billion people dead inthe developing world is obviouslya catastrophe unparalleledin human history,” saidIra Helfand, co-president ofPSR and the study’s lead author.“But then if you add tothat the possibility of another1.3 billion people in Chinabeing at risk, we are enteringsomething that is clearly theend of civilization.” Helfandexplained that China’s destructionwould be caused by longstandingtensions between itsneighbors, India and Pakistan,two enemies that have alreadyfought three wars since 1947.Moreover, given the apocalypticpower of contemporary nuclearweapons – which are farmore powerful than the atomicbombs dropped on Japan in1945 – the impact of an India-Pakistan war would be feltacross the globe.“With a large war betweenthe United States and Russia,we are talking about the possible,not certain, but possible,extinction of the human race,”Helfand said, according toAgence France Presse. “In thiskind of war, biologically thereare going to be people survivingsomewhere on the planet,but the chaos that would resultfrom this [SouthAsian nuclearwar] will dwarfanything we’veever seen.”Specifically,the study noted,a nuclear war inSouth Asia wouldrelease black carbonaerosol particlesthat wouldcut U.S. corn andsoybean production by 10 percentover a decade. Those particleswould also reduce Chineserice production by an averageof 21 percent over a four-yearperiod and by another 10 percentover the subsequent sixyears. Even more devastating,China’s wheat crop woulddrop by 50 percent in just thefirst year after the hypotheticalIndo-Pak nuclear war.CNN reported that thereare at least 17,000 nuclear warheads(other reports suggestthat there are perhaps as manyas 20,000) around the world,which present a far greaterthreat than the current obsessionwith Iran’s nascent atomicprogram. Most of these warheadsare currently owned bythe United States and Russia,while India and Pakistan arebelieved to have “only” about100 warheads each.But given the state of endlessenmity between India andPakistan, they are more likely tolaunch a nuclear war than thesuperpowers who possess farmore and far deadlier nuclearweapons. Helfand told CNNthat in an India-Pakistan nuclearwar scenario, more than 20million people would be deadwithin one week from the explosions,firestorms and immediateeffects of radiation. “Butthe global consequences wouldbe far worse,” he said.Indeed, the firestorms producedby this imaginary SouthAsian war “would loft 5 milliontons of soot high into theatmosphere, blocking out sunlightand dropping temperaturesacross the planet. Thisclimate disruption would causea sharp, worldwide decline infood production.” The subsequentglobal famine wouldplace the lives of 870 millionpeople in the developing worldat immediate risk of starvation.On the brighter side, Helfandindicated, a movement toban atomic weapons is gatheringstorm. Helfand calledfor the removal of all nuclearweapons as the only way toavoid Armageddon. “This is adisaster so massive in scale thatreally no preparation is possible.We must prevent this,” hesaid.In May of last year, 17 nationsissued a joint statementwarning of the humanitarianimpact of nuclear weapons andadvocated for their elimination.By the fall of 2013, 125 nationsattached themselves to thestatement. “The internationalcommunity should continueto take practical steps to preventadditional countries fromacquiring nuclear weapons,”Helfand said. “But this effortto prevent proliferation mustbe matched by real progress toeliminate the far greater dangerposed by the vast arsenals thatalready exist. Simply put, theonly way to eliminate the threatof nuclear war or risk of an accidentallaunch or mishap is toeliminate nuclear weapons.”Courtesy InternationalBusiness News

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