Nuclear apocalypse looms over humanity, yet it’s not even on the political radar. Let’s work to change that
In the next few hours, the end of human civilisation may commence. We’ve had a good run – about 6,500 years, actually – and now we will perish in fire, famine, drought, never-ending winters, disease and chaos. A single megaton nuclear weapon dropped on the House of Commons would kill more than a million people outright. Nearly 2.5 million would be burned, maimed and injured. The fireball radius – the area that represents total annihilation – would stretch for nearly a kilometre.
That’s just one bomb, of course. What if 100 nuclear warheads with a much lower yield – 15 kilotons, say, the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima – were exchanged on the Indian subcontinent? Well, scientists have modelled this scenario, and the calamity extends far beyond the borders of India and Pakistan. As five megatons of black carbon instantly enter the atmosphere, temperatures will suddenly fall, rainfall will decline, the ozone layer will thin dramatically and the frost-free growing period for crops will shorten by between 10 and 40 days. According to the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, 2 billion people could starve in the aftermath. In a full east-west exchange billions would also die. Infrastructure would collapse. The survivors would, it is often said, envy the dead. They would suffer torturous protracted deaths from radiation; they would scrabble for food in irradiated soil; as healthcare systems implode, their illnesses and cancers would be untreated. For the diminishing minority who remained alive, it would be everyone for themselves in a struggle for survival in a ravaged hellscape.