Given the tense political climate, the hot issue on everyone’s mind is the possibility of nuclear war. Viral posts on Tumblr and Facebook lay out step-by-step instructions on what to do in case of a nuclear attack, and near constant coverage of the Trump-Korea tensions plays on every news station. But what really would happen if a nuclear bomb was dropped?
In 2014, a team of environmental scientists created a computer model of exactly what would happen to the Earth in the event of small-scale regional nuclear warfare. Their set up: 100 nuclear warheads dropped over India. This is a relatively small nuclear stockpile — The US currently has 4480 available nuclear weapons — but their results are still scarily significant.
First off, an attack would send 5 megatons of black carbon into the atmosphere. For reference, the entire population of the earth weighed together weighs around 316 megatons. So that is a huge, incomprehensible amount of carbon, and that carbon is the cause of most of our problems.
The carbon blocks out much of the sun, and the temperature of earth drops about 1.1 Kelvin in the first year. Falling temperatures mean that we receive much less rainfall, and our crops start to fail. An estimate by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War says that 2 billion people will starve.
In addition, atmospheric chemical reactions slowly degrade our ozone layer until its roughly 25% thinner than it was pre-warfare. This decreased UV protection causes a spike in skin cancer and reduced plant growth.
Of course, everyone in close radius of the blast is instantly killed and hundreds of thousands of others suffer from radiation poisoning. The land becomes inhabitable for over 50 years.
As stated before, these are the results of a small-scale nuclear attack. The nuclear arsenal held by the US is roughly 400 times larger, and the results of any kind of warfare could quite possibly be fatal to the majority of the human race.
The good news? Despite what news stations tell you, most experts believe the tensions between the US and North Korea will never actually lead to nuclear war. So while a conflict would be catastrophic, it will almost certainly never come to that. If you’re still worried, just know that organizations like the ones behind these studies are working to ensure nuclear war never occurs.