At least 50 million people could die and the world will be hit by a 10-year-long global atmospheric catastrophe if a nuclear war broke out between India and Pakistan, according to a new study which was published on Wednesday, though Indian experts labelled the possibilities of such a conflict vanishingly small.
The new study which was published in the journal Science Advances looks at a nuclear war scenario between the two neighbours in 2025.
Under the scenario, simulated using state-of-the-art global climate models, both nations- India and Pakistan use 100 and 150 strategic nuclear weapons, releasing 16-36 million tonnes of soot (black carbon) in smoke that would rise into the upper atmosphere and thereby completely blocking solar radiation.
This could also lead to a decline in sunlight reaching the Earth by 20 to 35% and thereby cooling the surface by between two and five degree Celsius.
“In addition, severe short-term climate perturbations, with temperatures declining to values not seen on Earth since the middle of the last Ice Age, would be triggered by smoke from burning cities,” read the paper.
This could also cut down precipitation by up to 30% and diminish the rate at which plants store energy as biomass by almost a third on land. “Crops would be affected by colder temperatures, less precipitation, less sunlight, and more ultraviolet radiation due to ozone depletion,” Alan Robock, a professor at Rutgers University and one of the authors of the paper, told HT.
The paper found a high casualty number because both India and Pakistan are more populated, and based its estimation on a scenario where both nations assault urban centres. In this scenario, Pakistan’s losses would be about 2 times those of India in terms of a percentage of the urban population.
“Smoke from burning cities will rise into the stratosphere and spread globally within weeks. Widespread agricultural failures are likely,” Owen B Toon, lead author and professor at the University of Colorado was quoted as saying by HT.
According to Robock, such instant climate change was only experienced after super volcanic eruptions like the Toba eruption approximately 74,000 years ago in present-day Sumatra in Indonesia. It is considered as one of the largest Earth’s largest known eruptions.
Nuclear rhetoric in the sub-continent has been charged to an extent in the past couple of weeks, especially by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan who warned at the United Nations General Assembly of a possibility of a massive nuclear war over Kashmir.
But according to experts, the chances of such a conflict realistically breaking out are next to none. “The possibility is almost non-existent is because of the shared culture and communities. The two countries have never fought wars of annihilation because you’re literally cutting too close to the bone. Our wars have been very limited,” said Bharat Karnad who works as a professor at the Centre for Policy Research in the national capital.
He went on to add saying that rhetoric around nuclear war is often used for deterrent purposes.
(With inputs from HT)