Ever wonder what a limited nuclear exchange between Asian countries such as India and Pakistan or Israel and Iran might mean? The impact – not just the fall out – would be worldwide, cutting food and crop yields and triggering mass starvation.
That's the grim bottom line of a report released yesterday by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and its U.S. affiliate, Physicians for Social Responsibility. More than a billion people would be at risk of a nuclear famine scenario, says Dr. Ira Hefland, co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility and an internal medicine physician from Springfield, Mass.
Even a limited regional nuclear weapons exchange in Asia would cause major worldwide climate disruption and drive down food production in China, the U.S. and other nations, according to the report. While it would not cause extinction of the human race, it would be an unprecedented, long-lasting, human-caused disaster, "and bring an end to modern civilization as we know it," claims Hefland, its chief author. Here are a few specific findings outlined in the report:
- U.S. corn production would decline by 10% for an entire decade, with the most severe decline (20%) in year five. Soybean production would decline by about 7%, with the most severe loss, more than 20%, also occurring in year five.
- China's middle-season rice production would decline 21% during the first four years and by 10% over the next six years.
- Resulting food price increases would make food inaccessible to hundreds of millions of the world's poorest. 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 925 million people in the world who are already chronically malnourished (with a baseline consumption of 1,750 calories or less per day), would be put at risk by a further 10% decline in their food consumption.
- Significant agricultural shortfalls over an extended period would almost certainly lead to panic and hoarding on an international scale, further reducing accessible food.