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Nuclear Famine: Report: How a Small, Limited, Regional Nuclear War Would Kill 2 Billion People


December 11, 2013
Ira Helfand, MD / International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War Physicians for Social Responsibility

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and Physicians for Social Responsibility have co-published a new report that concludes more than two billion people -- a quarter of the world's population -- would be at risk of starvation in the event of a limited, regional nuclear exchange, such as one that could occur between India and Pakistan. A nuclear war using only a fraction of existing arsenals would produce massive casualties on a global scale.

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ACTION ALERT: ICAN has an active petition both on www.goodbyenuk.es and www.icanw.org.
The petition is available online at:
http://www.goodbyenuk.es/petitions/iframe

Nobel Laureate Warns: Two Billion at Risk from Nuclear Famine
John Loretz / International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

(December 5, 2013) -- International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), the 1985 Nobel Peace Laureate, and its US affiliate Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) today released a new report concluding that more than two billion people -- a quarter of the world's population -- would be at risk of starvation in the event of a limited, regional nuclear exchange, such as one that could occur between India and Pakistan.

"A nuclear war using only a fraction of existing arsenals would produce massive casualties on a global scale -- far more than we had previously believed," said the report's author, IPPNW co-president Ira Helfand.

Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People at Risk? updates a study originally written by Dr. Helfand in 2012. Like the previous edition, the report released today is based upon research published by climate scientists who have assessed the impact of nuclear explosions on the Earth's atmosphere and other ecosystems.

The report comes as momentum builds internationally to reframe disarmament efforts around a renewed understanding of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.

In October, 125 nations issued a joint statement at the UN calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons as a humanitarian imperative. [See story below.] Next February, more than 100 nations will convene in Mexico to discuss the humanitarian consequences posed by nuclear weapons and the need to act on that knowledge.

"Countries around the world -- those who are nuclear-armed and those who are not -- must work together to eliminate the threat and consequences of nuclear war," Dr. Helfand said. "In order to eliminate this threat, we must eliminate nuclear weapons."

Former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev has said the nuclear famine findings underscore that, "we must discard Cold War-style plans for the possible use of these weapons and move rapidly to eliminating them from the world's arsenals."

ICAN -- the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) -- was launched by IPPNW in 2007 and now comprises more than 300 partner organizations in 80 countries campaigning for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons and to mandate their elimination. The report published today lends added weight to ICAN's call to convene negotiations on such a treaty without further delay.

Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People at Risk? is available at www.ippnw.org.

See: "The growing call to ban nuclear weapons," now available online at:
http://www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/BanPoster.pdf



A Debate in the Knesset between Dr. Helfand
And MK Feiglin of the Likud Party

(June 19, 2013) – [English after the first 30 seconds.]




Nuclear Famine: Global Impacts of Limited Nuclear War on Agriculture, Food Supplies, and Human Nutrition
Ira Helfand, MD International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War Physicians for Social Responsibility

Executive Summary

Over the last several years, a number of studies have shown that a limited, regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan would cause significant climate disruption worldwide. Two studies published in 2012 examined the impact on agricultural output that would result from this climate disruption.

In the US, corn production would decline by an average of 10% for an entire decade, with the most severe decline, about 20%, in year 5. There would be a similar decline in soybean production, with the most severe loss, again about 20%, in year 5.

A second study found a significant decline in Chinese middle season rice production. During the first 4 years, rice production would decline by an average of 21%; over the next 6 years the decline would average 10%.

A third study, completed in the fall of 2013, showed that there would be even larger declines in Chinese winter wheat production. Production would fall 50% in the first year, and, averaged over the entire decade after the war, it would be 31% below baseline.

The decline in available food would be exacerbated by increases in food prices, which 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.

However, markets would not function normally. Significant, sustained agricultural shortfalls over an extended period would almost certainly lead to panic and hoarding on an international scale as food exporting nations suspended exports in order to assure adequate food supplies for their own populations. This turmoil in the agricultural markets would further reduce accessible food.

The 870 million people in the world who are chronically malnourished today have a baseline consumption of 1,750 calories or less per day. Even a 10% decline in their food consumption would put this entire group at risk.

In addition, the anticipated suspension of exports from grain growing countries would threaten the food supplies of several hundred million additional people who have adequate nutrition today, but who live in countries that are highly dependent on food imports.

Finally, more than a billion people in China would also face severe food insecurity. The number of people threatened by nuclear-war induced famine would be well over two billion.
These studies demonstrate the need for additional research and underscore the urgent need to move with all possible speed to the negotiation of a global agreement to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons and the danger of nuclear war.

Conclusions and Recommendations
The newly generated data on the decline in agricultural production that would follow a limited, regional nuclear war in South Asia support the concern that more than one billion people would be in danger of starvation. Epidemic disease and further conflict spawned by such a famine would put additional hundreds of millions at risk. These findings support the following recommendations:

1) There is an urgent need for further study to confirm the declines in corn and rice production predicted by Ozdogan and Xia, and to examine the effect on other key crops, such as wheat, and in other important food producing countries.

2) There is a need to explore in more detail the subsequent effects that these shortfalls would have on human nutrition including both the extent of the decline in caloric intake that would result from these crop losses and the extent of micronutrient deficiencies that would, in turn, result from this decline in caloric intake.

3) The need for further study notwithstanding, the preliminary data in these studies raises a giant red flag about the threat to humanity posed not only by the nuclear arms race in South Asia but also by the larger and more dangerous nuclear arsenals possessed by the other nuclear weapons states. T

hese studies demonstrate the need for additional research and underscore the urgent need to move with all possible speed to the negotiation of a global agreement to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons and the danger of nuclear war.

Ira Helfand, a physician from Northampton, Massachusetts, has been writing and speaking about the medical consequences of nuclear war on behalf of IPPNW and its US affiliate, Physicians for Social Responsibility, since the 1980s.
For the past five years, he has been working with climate scientists Alan Robock, O. B. Toon, and others to help document the health and environmental disaster that would ensue from a range of possible nuclear wars.

Questions and comments can be directed to: irahelfand@gmail.com


124 States Condemn Unacceptable Effects of Nuclear Weapons
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

"The very survival of humanity depends on nuclear weapons never being used."

(October 22, 2013) -- A joint statement on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons was delivered by New Zealand today at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Expressing deep concern for the catastrophic consequences that any use of nuclear weapons would entail, as well as for their uncontrollable destructive capability and indiscriminate nature, the New Zealand statement was signed by 123 other member states.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a campaign coalition with more than 300 members in 80 countries welcomes the statement and the initiative shown by non-nuclear-weapon states including some nuclear-umbrella states to drive a new discourse around the global humanitarian threat posed by nuclear weapons, a discourse that can only conclude with the decision to make these weapons illegal once and for all.

In 2013 alone the number of states and international organizations compelled by the undeniable evidence of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons to express deep concern about the limited progress of nuclear disarmament has grown exponentially.

In March 2013, the conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons held in Oslo concluded that no international response plan could effectively be put in place to respond to a nuclear detonation.

In September, the first high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament convened by the UNGA, despite resistance from nuclear-armed states, showed a strong focus on the humanitarian approach and numerous calls to ban nuclear weapons.

Building on this momentum, Mexico announced a conference to continue the discussion around the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, to be held next February in Nayarit.

"The humanitarian focus on nuclear weapons has again proven to be successful. A growing number of states are showing concern about the unacceptable harm that these weapons of mass destruction threaten to unleash. This debate strengthens our confidence and resolve that there is a credible way forward towards the prohibition of nuclear weapons," says Beatrice Fihn, member of ICAN's International Steering Group.

A single nuclear weapon detonation in an urban area would kill hundreds of thousands immediately and leave hundreds of thousands more in desperate need.

A wider use of nuclear weapons could cause climatic changes that would impair global crop production and lead to a mass famine among the world's most vulnerable populations. Study upon study has pointed to the inability to prevent or care for civilian casualties on a mass scale. Mitigation is simply impossible.

"The 124 governments that have co-sponsored this important statement on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons are putting the security of their people above the militarist justifications for some states to have nuclear weapons," said Dr Rebecca Johnson, Co-Chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. "Diplomatic action to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons will be the best way to prevent a nuclear catastrophe in the future."

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.


Nobel Laureate Warns Two Billion at Risk from Nuclear Famine
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

(December 10, 2013) -- This post is also available in: French, Spanish, Portuguese

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), the 1985 Nobel Peace Laureate, and its US affiliate Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) today released a new report concluding that more than two billion people -- a quarter of the world’s population -- would be at risk of starvation in the event of a limited, regional nuclear exchange, such as one that could occur between India and Pakistan.

“A nuclear war using only a fraction of existing arsenals would produce massive casualties on a global scale -- far more than we had previously believed,” said the report’s author, IPPNW co-president Ira Helfand.

Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People at Risk? updates a study originally written by Dr. Helfand in 2012. Like the previous edition, the report released today is based upon research published by climate scientists who have assessed the impact of nuclear explosions on the Earth’s atmosphere and other ecosystems.

The report comes as momentum builds internationally to reframe disarmament efforts around a renewed understanding of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.

In October, 125 nations issued a joint statement at the UN calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons as a humanitarian imperative. Next February, more than 100 nations will convene in Mexico to discuss the humanitarian consequences posed by nuclear weapons and the need to act on that knowledge.

“Countries around the world -- those who are nuclear-armed and those who are not -- must work together to eliminate the threat and consequences of nuclear war,” Dr. Helfand said. “In order to eliminate this threat, we must eliminate nuclear weapons.”

Former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev has said the nuclear famine findings underscore that, “we must discard Cold War-style plans for the possible use of these weapons and move rapidly to eliminating them from the world’s arsenals.”

ICAN -- the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons -- was launched by IPPNW in 2007 and now comprises more than 300 partner organizations in 80 countries campaigning for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons and to mandate their elimination. The report published today lends added weight to ICAN’s call to convene negotiations on such a treaty without further delay. (www.icanw.org)

Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People at Risk?
is available at www.ippnw.org.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a global campaign coalition working to mobilize people in all countries to inspire, persuade and pressure their governments to initiate and support negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. www.icanw.org


Comments and Feedback
John Loretz / International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

IPPNW appreciates the concerns raised on this list over the past day or two, and takes them very seriously. We want to assure you that the Nuclear Famine report, which we will release on December 10 with your help, is in no way intended to single out India and Pakistan unfairly, or to suggest that the nuclear arsenals in those countries are somehow more dangerous than others.

From the very beginning (in 2007, when the first of these climate studies were published), the climate scientists who conducted the research and those of us in IPPNW who have taken up their work have been very careful to explain that the Indian and Pakistani weapons have been chosen only as examples, and to show that even these relatively small arsenals can have catastrophic global effects.

A comparable use of nuclear weapons in Europe, or the Middle East, or Southeast Asia, or by the US and Russia, would have equally disastrous climate consequences. The focal point of these studies is the weapons themselves…not any particular possessor State.

Ira Helfand, who wrote the report, frequently says that the missiles on a single US Trident submarine could produce these same effects. On the other hand, India and Pakistan have chosen to follow the other nuclear-armed States down this same dangerous road, so using them as examples for this kind of study is more than appropriate, as long as we keep that context clear.

Nuclear famine would result if the US and Russia used only a small fraction of their weapons. What we learn from these new studies is that even much smaller arsenals pose the same global threat to our very existence.

We are using these studies to support a global ban and global elimination, not to put certain nuclear-armed States on the hook while letting others off it somehow. We urge anyone doing media outreach around this report to make sure its purpose is not misinterpreted, and to keep the focus on the weapons themselves.

We're grateful to the ICAN campaigners who have made the release of Nuclear Famine a priority for their own work next week, and have every confidence that it will make a compelling addition to our case for a global ban treaty.

John Loretz is the Program Director for IPPNW
66-70 Union Square, Suite 204, Somerville, MA 02143
Tel: +617 440 1733, ext. 308


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