By Vincent Lyn
As escalating tensions among the Russian invasion of Ukraine revive old fears of nuclear war, some researchers are warning that even a limited-scale exchange could have catastrophic consequences for global food supplies and trigger mass death worldwide.
A nuclear conflict involving less than 3% of the world’s stockpiles could kill a third of the world’s population within two years, according to a new international study led by scientists at Rutgers University. A larger nuclear conflict between Russia and the United States could kill three-fourths of the world’s population in the same timeframe according to new research.
“It’s really a cautionary tale that any use of nuclear weapons could be a catastrophe for the world,” said climate scientist and study author Alan Robock, a distinguished professor in Rutgers’ Department of Environmental Sciences.
Nuclear war is almost unbearable to think about so people prefer to avoid the subject. Related to this, most people have been hypnotized for decades by the notion of ‘deterrence,’ and the comforting narrative that ‘mutually assured destruction’ will forever prevent politicians from launching nuclear weapons. A dramatic deterioration in international relations in recent months, with explicit threats by Russian President Vladimir Putin to use such weapons has now shaken people out of that view.
Everywhere you look in the news about Ukraine, there is talk of nuclear war. Some people say that Putin would never use them and that if he did the United States would annihilate Russia in one quick swoop and that we would grind Russia down to the point where they will never attack another country again. But those same people can’t explain how they will whittle Russia down to size and still prevent Russia from starting World War III, at the same time.
There is no us and them in a threat of nuclear war. Everyone is threatened. They feel it. I feel it and you should as well.
The United States and the United Kingdom will tell us they’ve got the world’s back. I’m not sure they’ve got this figured out. We all remember 9/11 and the U.S. hadn’t figured out enough to stop it.
During the recent United Nations General Assembly 66 countries expressed their deep concerns that the Ukraine-Russia conflict could widen into a full-scale nuclear war. Statements of 66 countries provided excerpts of various speeches, all with the same point and tone.
None of the major news agencies are talking about 66 countries that pleaded with Ukraine, Russia, America, and the U.K., to stop the war. The heads of state of many of those other countries cited the U.N. Charter as reason enough for Ukraine and Russia to lay down their arms and come to the table. They don’t care who started it. They are worried about who will end it and how. And considering Ukraine does not possess nuclear weapons its obvious who would raise the stakes.
One of the more interesting statements about the war came from India:
India’s Foreign Minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, claimed the moral high ground and championed peaceful diplomacy,
“As the Ukraine conflict continues to rage, we are often asked whose side we are on. And our answer, each time, is straight and honest. India is on the side of peace and will remain firmly there. We are on the side that respects the UN Charter and its founding principles. We are on the side that calls for dialogue and diplomacy as the only way out. We are on the side of those struggling to make ends meet, even as they stare at escalating costs of food, fuel and fertilizers. It is therefore in our collective interest to work constructively, both within the United Nations and outside, in finding an early resolution to this conflict.”
I only ask, what is so valuable that grown men and women are willing to risk nuclear war? When I invoke the phrase “nuclear war” I flash on pictures of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I flash on children’s skin melting, a flash on mushroom clouds, a flash of serious economic declines, lost generations, worldwide famine, and poverty, America included.
What part of Ukraine’s ego is worth more than the risk of nuclear war? What part of Russia’s ego is worth nuclear war? At what point will America and the U.K support a cease-fire? I ask because they didn’t support one in the beginning. They shot down the first negotiations for peace in March of this year.
But 66 countries have now expressed their concern. They feel threatened by the prospect of nuclear war. Their voices don’t matter to Ukraine, Russia, America, or the U.K. Ukraine wants their land back, and let the rest of the world be dammed.
Some people say that there could be a “limited” nuclear war with small bombs that are “tactical”. You know, like we can decide when to stop eating a box of chocolates. I don’t think anyone is smart enough to know how to “limit” war beyond a cease-fire. Seriously, the so-called expert strategists believe that it’s possible, but let’s be realistic there is no such thing as a “limited” nuclear war. A new study published in the Nature Food journal urgently warns us led by Dr. Lili Xia of Rutgers University, this staggering report concludes that even a limited exchange of nuclear weapons between any two nuclear-armed states — using less than three percent of the global nuclear weapons supply — could lead to mass starvation and death of up to 2.5 billion people around the world. Even worse, they estimate that an all-out nuclear war between the United States and Russia would result in more than 5 billion deaths.
You read that right. Five. Billion. Deaths. This does not include the millions of people who would die immediately from the blasts, fires, and prompt radiation, nor those who would die in subsequent days, weeks, or years due to radiation exposure.
We have not evolved with the weapons of war that we have now. Sticks and stones? We’re familiar with them. We’ve used them. But beyond anything that was introduced within the last 200 years, we have not adapted to them. We’re not smart enough to handle them.
The only thing we know for sure is that when we adhere to ceasefires, they work. When we err on the side of peace, that works, too. When we are forgiving, it works. When we are willing to admit that we’re not even remotely smart enough to calculate when to stop escalating before a nuclear war starts, we have a much better chance of survival, than if we refuse. We can’t refuse.
The world is waking up from a fantasy where the nine nuclear armed states and their allies convinced people that nuclear weapons could exist without ever being used. The past month has made it clear that nuclear weapons do not prevent war, and nuclear war is closer than ever.
CEO/Founder at We Can Save Children
Deputy Ambassador of International Human Rights Commission (IHRC)
Director of Creative Development at African Views Organization
Economic & Social Council at United Nations
Editor in Chief at Wall Street News Agency
Rescue & Recovery Specialist at International Confederation of Police & Security Experts