189757 An assessment of the extent of projected global famine resulting from limited, regional nuclear war

Monday, October 27, 2008: 12:40 PM

Ira Helfand, MD , International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Leeds, MA
The recent study by Robock et al on the climatic consequences of regional nuclear war shows that even a “limited” nuclear conflict involving as few as 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs, would have global implications with significant cooling of the earth's surface and decreased precipitation in many parts of the world. A conflict of this magnitude could arise between emerging nuclear powers such as India and Pakistan. Past episodes of abrupt global cooling, due to volcanic activity, caused major crop failures and famine; the predicted climate effects of a regional nuclear war would be expected to cause similar shortfalls in agricultural production. In addition large quantities of food might need to be destroyed and significant areas of crop land might need to be taken out of production because of radioactive contamination. Even a modest, sudden decline in agricultural production could trigger significant increases in the prices for basic foods and hoarding on a global scale, both of which would make food inaccessible to poor people in much of the world. While it is not possible to estimate the precise extent of the global famine that would follow a regional nuclear war, it seems reasonable to postulate a total global death toll in the range of one billion from starvation alone. Famine on this scale would also lead to major epidemics of infectious diseases, and would create immense potential for war and civil conflict.

Learning Objectives:
At the end of this presentation participants will be able to: Describe the climatic consequences of regional nuclear war; Analyze the impacts of these climatic consequences on the food supply and associated adverse effects on public health.

Keywords: Food Security, War

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Dr. Ira Helfand is an emergency room physician who for decades has been a prominent leader in the global movement of physicians who support the abolition of nuclear weapons. He has spoken widely on the public health impacts of nuclear weapons, with related publications on these issues in the N Engl J Med, Lancet, and the BMJ.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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