There are now more than 15,000 nuclear warheads on Earth- this is enough to blow everything to hell with a dog. Even more than enough. But how many nuclear explosions will be required to destroy the enemy? How many nuclear warheads can an aggressor country drop on an adversary before the consequences of a nuclear winter return to it? A new study was conducted to find answers to precisely these questions, but you won’t like the results.
From a work published last week inSafety magazine, it follows that no country should have more than 100 nuclear warheads. This is the maximum number, according to Joshua Pearce, a professor at the University of Michigan and David Denkenberger, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee. Anything above this number will come back to the aggressor country in the form of environmental, socioeconomic and agricultural destruction, and also seriously shorten local life - even if the enemy does not respond with his own nuclear strike. At the same time, scientists believe that hundreds of warheads are still enough for nuclear deterrence, reducing the risk of war (and clashes), and, as a result, preventing a catastrophic nuclear winter.
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Clean up the nuclear arsenal and reduce the numbernuclear stocks of up to 100 warheads are a great offer. Sotochka will look great on the negotiating table. But upon closer inspection, this figure is still quite arbitrary. Modern nuclear weapons, even if they are used in limited quantities, can destroy entire cities and cause disastrous environmental consequences. Nuclear war, whether it be 100 or 1000 nuclear strikes, will be a terrible event, from the consequences of which the whole planet will shudder. Ideally, the safest, most rational, and humane number of nuclear weapons would be zero.
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Should nuclear stockpiles be reduced?
Currently, the United States has 6550nuclear warheads; Russia has 7010. Add the reserves of Great Britain, France, Israel, Pakistan, India, China and North Korea and the number of total reserves approaches 15,000. But if Pierce and Denkenberger’s proposal comes true, this number will drop to less than 900. It will become less by 94%. Less nuclear weapons - less chance of a collision, scientists say, as well as less money needed to service all these warheads. They themselves also believe that “it is not rational for any of these seven countries to maintain stockpiles of weapons of more than 100 units, given the enormous potential impact that it may have on their own citizens.”
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The whole point of the new job is to define"A pragmatic nuclear limit at which the direct physical negative consequences of nuclear weapons would be contrary to national interests." In other words, to understand when your own nuclear strike will bite your ass, even if the enemy does not respond.
"Studies considering nuclear scenariosThe wars used to be focused primarily on Russia's full-scale war against the United States and asked questions like “Will humanity survive?” Pierce says. “Studies of small regional wars have focused on environmental impacts. This is the first study on a one-way attack and its consequences, especially for the food chain, for the aggressor, suggesting the best scenario. ”
Under the “best case scenario,” Pierce describes a purelya hypothetical (and completely unrealistic) situation in which, besides the fact that the aggressor nation does not face a return launch, it is not tormented by terrorist attacks, mass civil unrest, minimal nuclear fallout and myriad of other things that can manifest themselves against the background of a sudden nuclear attack . The authors tried to determine the maximum number of nuclear strikes that can be dropped on the enemy before a nuclear winter sets in and leads to the collapse of trade, industry, and agriculture.
Everyone knows that nuclear winter is scary. Here is what the authors of the work write:
“Nuclear winter is a potential seriousthe long-term global climate effect of cooling, which may appear after large-scale fire storms caused by the detonation of a certain number of nuclear warheads. Nuclear war will burn extensive forest areas, arable land, fossil fuel reserves, cities and industrial centers. These fires form a thick layer of smoke in the Earth’s atmosphere, dramatically reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface and causing a “nuclear twilight”.
In addition to abnormally low temperatures,the heavily damaged ozone layer will no longer block harmful ultraviolet rays. Global food production will drop dramatically. Food chains and industry will cease to function fully, and in some cases will disappear.
To determine when nuclear explosions will beginto pose a problem for the aggressor country, scientists calculated the consequences of 7,000, 1,000, and 100 nuclear warheads dropped on a separate country. Each warhead was arbitrarily assigned a capacity of 15 kilotons. The authors calculated how much material will burn in each city and how much smoke will be emitted into the atmosphere. Climate models were used to predict the impact on agriculture and the global food supply chain.
According to one hypothetical scenario, if the USAdropped 100 nuclear warheads on the most populous cities in China, the initial explosions will kill about 30 million people. “Regional nuclear war” will provoke a nuclear fall, cause a temperature drop of 1 degree and a 10-20% decrease in world food production. Famine will kill many people in China, but for the most part, American citizens will remain unharmed. If the United States drops 1,000 to 7,000 warheads on China, the story will be completely different: 140,000 million Chinese and 5 million US residents will die.
"How destructive the use ofeven a modest share of our nuclear arsenal for US stability is shocking, ”says Pierce. “We thought America had so much land and so much wealth that any scenarios of nuclear bombing would leave us untouched. We were wrong. The number of dead Americans who die after our own bombing is astonishing - it is much higher than the number of deaths from terrorist attacks today. ”
Pierce believes that analysis, due to optimistic and conservative estimates, generally underestimates the number of US deaths in these scenarios. In reality, it will be much higher.
“For example, we assumed that anyone who diedfrom hunger, will immediately be cut off from food. But it’s hard to believe that the American elite will sacrifice their children for the common good of the nation. I think many people will die from internal unrest caused by a lack of calories. "
Beyond the radical and unrealisticspeculation, this study also suffers from another serious limitation related to the size and power of modern nuclear weapons. This study suggests the use of 15-kiloton bombs, which in fact makes little sense. This is the power of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Modern bombs are much bigger and stronger. Most modern bombs are 25 times more powerful than those used in World War II, from 100 to 500 kilotons. The largest bomb in the world is 5 megatons, and the largest in the US is 1.4 megatons. The difference is huge.
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Scientists came to the same conclusion a year ago instudy published in Environment Magazine. Adam Liska and his colleagues at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have shown that “limited strikes,” such as those proposed by Pierce and Denkenberger, can still cause both local and global climatic consequences. In addition, they found that the United States, Russia, and China possess weapons that could cause a nuclear fall after five bombs have been used. Therefore, "100 strokes" as a magic number lose their meaning in the context of modern weapons.
“The most sensitive parameter in these calculations is the size of the bombs, which varies from 25 to 5000 kilotons,” says Liska. "Today, only the biggest bombs are counted."
Despite this, it is fair to say that reducing nuclear stockpiles will continue to be a smart move.
“It is irrational to invest billions inmaintaining an excessive amount of weapons that destabilizes our own country if used, ”says Pierce. “This logic works for everyone. Other countries are worse off because they are poorer, like Russia, or they don’t have enough land of their own, like Israel. ”
North Korea may abandon nuclearweapons, but it is not known whether other nations will follow her. Probably no. Maybe we will partially get rid of this dangerous cargo, but a complete disposal of it is impossible or even undesirable. This conclusion was reached by the authors of the study.