Ira Helfand MD International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War Physicians for Social Responsibility NUCLEAR FAMINE A BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK Global Impacts of Limited Nuclear War on Agricult - PDF document

Ira Helfand MD International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War Physicians for Social Responsibility NUCLEAR FAMINE A BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK Global Impacts of Limited Nuclear War on Agricult
Ira Helfand MD International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War Physicians for Social Responsibility NUCLEAR FAMINE A BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK Global Impacts of Limited Nuclear War on Agricult

Ira Helfand MD International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War Physicians for Social Responsibility NUCLEAR FAMINE A BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK Global Impacts of Limited Nuclear War on Agricult - Description

Special thanks to Madison Marks for her research assistance on this second edition Copyright 57513 November 2013 In April of 2012 we released the report Nuclear Famine A Billion People at Risk which examined the climatic and agri cultural consequenc ID: 8069 Download Pdf


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International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear WarNUCLEAR FAMINE:ABILLION PEOPLE AT RISK?Global Impacts of Limited Nuclear War on Agriculture, Food Supplies, and Human NutritionSECONDEDITION Credits and AcknowledgementsThe first edition of this briefing paper was made possibleDepartment of Foreign Affairs.Special thanks to Madison Marks for her research assistance In April of 2012 we released the report Nuclear Famine: Acultural consequences of a limited, regional nuclear war.risk of starvation.Since then new research by Lili Xia and Alan Robock haswar would affect Chinese maize production as severely asrice production and it would affect wheat production muchmore severely than rice output. Their new findings suggestthe consequences of a limited nuclear war. In addition to thepossible starvation, 1.3 billion people in China would confrontsevere food insecurity. The prospect of a decade of wide-spread hunger and intense social and economic instability inthe worlds largest country has immense implications for theentire global community, as does the possibility that the hugeattempts toextent of the worldwide catastrophe that will result fromeven a limited, regional nuclear war.NUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK? 2NUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK?nuclear war between India and Pakistan wouldTwo studies published in 2012 examined theimpact on agricultural output that would resultmost severe decline, about 20%, in year 5. ThereAsecond study found a significant decline inChinese middle season rice production. DuringAthird study, completed in the fall of 2013,in Chinese winter wheat production. Productionwould fall 50% in the first year, and, averagedover the entire decade after the war, it would bethe worlds poorest. Even if agricultural marketscontinued to function normally, 215 million people However, markets would not function normally.Significant, sustained agricultural shortfalls overan extended period would almost certainly leadto panic and hoarding on an international scaleas food exporting nations suspended exports inown populations. This turmoil in the agriculturalmarkets would further reduce accessible food. The 870 million people in the world who are chron-ically malnourished today have a baseline con-sumption of 1,750 calories or less per day. Even a10% decline in their food consumption would putthis entire group at risk. In addition, the anticipat-ed suspension of exports from grain growingcountries would threaten the food supplies of sev-eral hundred million additional people who haveadequate nutrition today, but who live in countriesthat are highly dependent on food imports.Finally, more than a billion people in China wouldalso face severe food insecurity. The number ofnuclear weapons and the danger of nuclear war. Executive Summary between the United States and the Soviet Unionin precipitation and average surface temperature. AUS National Academy of Sciences study on thethat, in the aftermath of such a war, the primarymechanisms for human fatalities would likely notbe from blast effects, not from thermal radiationburns, and not from ionizing radiation, but, rather,from mass starvation.ŽWhile the direct mortali-that even a very limitedŽ regional nuclear war,less than 0.5% of the worlds nuclear arsenal,although the impact on temperature and precipi-tation would be less profound.there were no data on the effect that the predict-production. The historical experience followingcooling events caused by volcanic eruptions,most notably the Tambora eruption in 1815, sug-impact on food production and human nutrition. A2007 report by the International Physicians forthe Prevention of Nuclear War and its US affili-ate, Physicians for Social Responsibility, sug-gested that up to one billion people might starveThis report is an initial attempt to quantify theimpact of a limited nuclear war on agricultural pro-duction and the subsequent effects on global foodprices and food supply, and on human nutrition. I Harwell, M., and C. Harwell. 1986. Nuclear Famine: The Indirect Effects of Nuclear War. In, Solomon, F. and R. Marston (Eds.). Implications of Nuclear War. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. 117-135.Robock, A., L. Oman, G. Stenchikov, O. Toon, C. Bardeen and R. Turco, 2007, Climatic consequences of regional nuclear conflictsAn Assessment of the Extent of Projected Global Famine Resulting from Limited, Regional Nuclear War. UN PHOTO / ALBERTGONZALEZ FARRAN NUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK? 4NUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK?2007 study by Toon et albetween India and Pakistan and showed thatsuch a conflict would loft up to 6.6 Tg (6.6 tera-bon aerosol particles into the upper tropo-sphere. Robock et al then calculated the effectclimate assuming a war in South Asia occurringin mid May. Their study used a state of the art general cir-Goddard Institute for Space Studies, andemployed a conservative figure of only 5 Tg ofblack carbon particles. They found that, Aglobal average surface cooling of -1.25°C per-sists for years, and after a decade the coolingis still -0.50°C. The temperature changes arelargest over land. Acooling of several degreesoccurs over large areas of North America andEurasia, including most of the grain-growingregions.Ž In addition the study found significantdeclines in global precipitation with markeddecreases in rainfall in the most important tem-perate grain growing regions of North Americaand Eurasia, and a large reduction in the Asiansummer monsoon.Two additional studies, one by Stenke et al, andthe other by Mills et al, each using a different cli-mate model have also examined the impact onglobal climate of this limited nuclear war scenarioand they have both found comparable effects. Toon, Owen B., Richard P. Turco, Alan Robock, Charles Bardeen, Luke Oman, and Georgiy L. Stenchikov, 2007: Atmospheric effects and societalconsequences of regional scale nuclear conflicts and acts of individual nuclear terrorism. Robock, Alan, Luke Oman, Georgiy L. Stenchikov, Owen B. Toon, Charles Bardeen, and Richard P. Turco, 2007: Climatic consequencal nuclear conflicts. UN PHOTO / ESKINDER DEBEBE Mills, M., Toon, O. B., Taylor, J., Robock, A., Multi-decadal global cooling and unprecedented ozone loss following a regional Ozdogan, Mutlu, Alan Robock, and Christopher Kucharik, 2012: Impacts of Nuclear Conflict in South Asia on Crop Production in thUnited States. how these climate alterations would affectexamined the impact on corn andmore than 70% of US grain is produced.Localized climate data were generated for fourseparate sites in the Corn Belt, one each in ecosystem model, the Agro-Integrated Biospherenuclear war in South Asia. The calculated changeitation, solar radiation, growing season length,Robocks study. Localized climate data were generated for four sites in the US Corn Belt. From left to right, Iowa, The impact UN PHOTO / MARTINE PERRET Row cropsNUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK? 6NUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK?other environmental factors which would bein yield. It did not factor in the increase in UVlight secondary to ozone depletion, and, perhapsmore importantly, it did not consider daily temper-failure. The observed weather following theTambora eruption suggests that these dailyextremes may be the largest determinant of totalcrop losses. The average global deviation in tem-In the northeastern United States and easternCanada, which were particularly hard hit, temper-early part of the year, and even during the sum-four severe cold waves, June 6-11, July 9-11, andAugust 21 and August 30, brought killing frostsas far south as the Mid Atlantic States, and in Stommel H, Stommel E. 1979. The year without a summer. UN PHOTO / MARTINE PERRET TEMPERATUREEXTREMES MAYLEADTOCOMPLETE CROPFAILUREAfarmer in Timor-Leste packs up bundles ILLINOISMAIZE IOWA Declines in US corn (maize) production. To generate an estimate of the probable change in cropyield, computer simulations were run to obtain 300 different baseline crop yield levels using random selec-tion of actual annual climate data over the past 30 years. The x axis shows the percent change in crop yield[Figure 7 from Ozdogan et al.](300 in total)(300 in total)(300 in total)(300 in total)caused extensive damage to crops. Asimilarpattern in Northern Europe caused crop losses infamine in European history.In addition, the study did not consider severalother factors which might limit food production.Modern agriculture is very dependent on gaso-line to power tractors and irrigation pumps andto transport produce to market, and on otherpetroleum products used in the manufacture offertilizer and pesticides.Amajor conflict in SouthAsia would be very likely to affect petroleum sup-plies and prices which would have an additionalnegative impact on agricultural output. Further,given the intense demand for petroleum prod-ucts, some of the grain produced might bediverted to ethanol production to try to offset theshortfall in petroleum. bean production. Averaged over 10 years, corn(Figure 2). But there would be a great deal ofvariation from year to year, and losses would be NUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK? 8NUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK? Xia, Lili, and Alan Robock, 2012: Impacts of Nuclear Conflict in South Asia on Rice Production in Mainland China. Reduction of maize production over time, with whiskers showing one standard deviation foreach year after the nuclear war. The gray area shows ±1 standard deviation from the control runs, illus-trating the effect of interannual weather variations. [Figure courtesy of M. Ozdogan.] Years After Nuclear War Relative Yield Change [%]In a separate study, Xia and Robockduction in response to this 5 Tg event. This studyused a different model, the Decision SupportSystem for Agrotechnology Transfer model 4.02(DSSAT). It is a dynamic biophysical crop modeland simulates plant growth on a per hectarebasis, maintaining balances for water, carbonand nitrogen. The required inputs include thetices. The outputs from this model are potentialyields. Perturbed climate data in 24 provinces intions in China from 198 weather stations from1978 to 2008 (China Meteorological DataSharing Service System). The simulated changetation, solar radiation and temperature. This study also did not consider the effect of UVthe possible decline in available fertilizer, pesti-cide and gasoline. Again, despite this conserva-Averaged over 10 years, the decline would beabout 15% (Figure 5 on pg 10). During the first 4years, rice production would decline by an aver-The impact on rice production was found to varywidely by province (Figure 7 on pg 11). In someareas in the South and East of China, productionwould actually rise. For example, in Hainan rice Declines in US soy production. The graphs were generated using the same methodology as inFigure 2 on pg 7. [Figure 8 from Ozdogan et al.] (300 in total)(300 in total)(300 in total)(300 in total)NUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK? ILLINOISSOY IOWA- yield would increase by 5 to 15% per year. Inother areas to the North and West the declineaverage. In Heilongjian province, home to 36 mil-the rice crop in year 1 following the war. Rice pro-duction would remain 60 to 70% below baselinefor most of the rest of the following decade (Figure8 on pg 11).In their 2013 study, Xia, Robock and their col-leagues looked at the impact of the climatetions of Stenke et al. and Mills et al. There weresome variations in the crop outputs found usingthe different climate models, but they all showedsignificant declines in crop size. For maize thedecade. For middle season rice the projectedthe course of 10 years. The most disturbing newmiddle season rice production. The effect on win-decade. In the first year, the projected decline in Xia, L., Robock, A., Mills, M., Stenke, A., Helfand, I., Global famine after a regional nuclear warŽ submitted to Earths Future 10NUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK? Reduction of rice production with whiskers showing one standard deviation for each year afterthe nuclear war. The gray area shows ±1 standard deviation from the control runs, illustrating the effectof interannual weather variations. [Figure 2(a) from Xia and Robock.] Distribution of rice production change (%): The gray area shows ±1 standard deviation from thecontrol runs, illustrating the effect of interannual weather variations. [Figure 2(b) from Xia and Robock.11] Reduction of rice yield over time in Heilongjiang Province, with whiskers showing one standarddeviation for each year after the nuclear war. [Redrawn from Figure 6 of Xia and Robock.] Map of rice yield reduction (%) for the first 4 years after regional nuclear conflict. Brown indi-did not conduct model simulations. [Redrawn from Figure 5 of Xia and Robock.]NUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK? 12NUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK he world is particularly vulnerable at thistime to a major decline in food production.In June 2013, the UN Food and AgricultureOrganization estimated that grain stocks were509 million metric tons, 21% of the annual con-Expressed as days of consumption, this reservewould last for 77 days. The US Department ofAgriculture estimates were somewhat lower at432 million metric tons of grain stocks, a mere19% of their estimated annual consumption, ofof consumption, this reserve would last for only68 days. Furthermore, the UN Food and Agricultureextent of their impact on human nutrition are dif- The impact on human affects food consumption by raising the cost ofof food that people can afford to buy, is muchactual agricultural output. The impact of risingly because they cannot, at baseline prices, affordA2011 study by Webb et aldata generated by Ozdogan, attempted to esti-mate the effect that the shortfall in agriculturalon the price of food, and therefore on its accessi-bility. Using a global economy-wide model, theGlobal Trade Analysis Project (GTAP), the studyexamined the effects on food prices, and thenumbers of people who are malnourished. Inorder to simulate the shocks effect on cereal andsoybean prices, the study assumed that all cropsproduced globally suffer yield declines to thesame extent that Ozdogan predicts for maize and UN PHOTO / STUARTPRICE malnourished. The cumulative effect over 10years would cause a total of 215 million people todecline in crop yield would cause crop prices torise 19.7%. But this rise would be very uneven-ly distributed across the globe. In East Asia therise would be 21.4% and in South Asia 31.6%.The relationship between crop yield and foodprices is not linear: a further decline in yieldwould lead to a much larger increase in prices.While the current crop studies do not predict adecline of 40%, should that occur, it would causeglobal crop prices to rise an average of 98.7%.Again the price rise would be very uneven. InSouth Asia as a whole prices would rise 140.6%,and in India 159.6%.It is hard to calculate with certainty the effect ofthese price rises on caloric intake, but the studyliterature that this parameter [the percentagechange in caloric intake given a one percentand a 10% decline in caloric intake. The muchexpected to have a profound effect on the num-Anumber of factors suggest that the accessiblenumbers suggest. The GTAPmodel looks onlyat market behavior and assumes that marketsbehave normally.Ž In fact, experience suggeststhat, in the aftermath of nuclear war, marketswould not behave normally. As the authorsexplain, Markets react.. with commodity specu-lation, hoarding (withholding of products from thetransaction transparency), each of which con-tributed to higher price volatility and marketuncertaintyŽ in recent years. For example, insient jumps in price were prompted by events farless significant than a nuclear war. Somalia Suffers from WorstAwoman holding her malnour-southern Somalia. In 2011, UNSecretary General Ban Ki-moonthats nearlyof assistance. Webb, P. 2010. Medium to Long-Run Implications of High Food Prices for Global Nutrition. UN PHOTO / STUARTPRICE NUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK? New York: WW Norton & Co. 2004.Khrennikov, I. Medvedev orders review of Russian grain export ban at harvest end. 2010. there was not a famine. But in 1943, afterthe Japanese occupation of Burma, which hadin food production was coupled with panic hoard-fold, making food unaffordable to large numberssevere increase in rice prices, caused an effec-the actual shortfall in production.We would have to expect panic on a far greaterscale following a nuclear war, even if it were alimitedŽ regional war, especially as it becameclear that there would be significant, sustainedagricultural shortfalls over an extended period. pended exports in order to assure adequate foodof nations banning grain exports. In Septembersuspended wheat exports for a year. The nextdid Russia. And in August 2004, Vietnam indicat-India banned rice exports in NovemberVietnam, Egypt, and China in January 2008, con-drought conditions that year, again suspendedgrain exports.In the event of a regional nuclear war, the grainexporting states would be faced with major croplosses and the prospect of bad harvests for thetake similar action, and refuse to export whatev-er grain surplus they might have, retaining itagricultural markets. dicted by the Global Trade Analysis Project(GTAP) model used in the Webb et al study.Even if we do not take into account the way thatrising food prices exacerbate the effects of afall in food production, the declines in available 14NUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK? 150,000 displaced Afghans living sons) camp in mud huts and tents.UN PHOTO / ESKINDER DEBEBE 15 at the Tunisia Transit Camp. devastating. nourished, the majority of their caloric intake isthe figure is about 78%. We cannot know withcertainty that a 10-20% decline in grain produc-tion would translate directly into a 10-20%might not decline. But we do know that theicant, sustained further decline in their caloricintake. With a baseline consumption of 1,750calories per day, even a 10% decline would leadto an additional deficit of 175 calories per day.the first year, it is realistic to fear that they wouldEven if minimal, life-sustaining, levels of caloriescant health effects. As Webb et al point out inmore on staples and less on qualityfoodsmeat, eggs, vegetables, etc.)... The specific impacts of reduced diet quality asof low birth weights, and outbreaks of micronu-a nuclear shock would result in similar shifts inSouth Asia) away from nutrient-rich, higher costfoods towards core staples (with a view tobuffering at least a minimum energy intake).There are insufficient data to allow for the morenutrition outcomes in terms of increasedcompromise or low birth weight. However, it isclear that the human impacts would be huge„with impaired growth and development of chil-dren, increased morbidity (due to failinga rise in excess mortality.Ž UN PHOTO / OCHA/ DAVID OHANA Webb et al, op. cit. 2011. FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK? tion, China has significantly larger reserves ofgrain than the world as a whole. In the summerof 2013, wheat reserves totaled nearly 167 daysof consumption, and rice reserves were 119new study. While rice (144 million tons per year)is the most important grain in China in terms oftons) is a close second and accounts for moreand Chinaswheat consumption amounts to 19% of worldAs a 2012 Australian governmentcereals is of uttermost importance in China andtherefore food security in China often refers tograin securityŽ. Not surprisingly, China payssufficiency in these two crops.ŽA31% shortfall in wheat production, coupled withduction, would end that state of self-sufficiency.Even the large reserves that China maintainswould be exhausted within 2 years. At that pointsive purchases on world grain markets drivinghave to dramatically curtail rice and wheat con-would further affect food security. Maize is actu-ally Chinas largest grain crop, at 177 million tonsNUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK? are dependent on food imports. The nations ofNorth Africa, home to more than 150 million peo-ple, import more than 45% of their food.Malaysia, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, aspated suspension of exports from grain growingcountries might cause severe effects on nutritionin all of these countries. The wealthier amongthem might initially be able to obtain grain by bid-ding up the price on international markets, but asbecame clear, exporting countries would proba-bly tighten their bans on exports threatening thewheat production by Xia and Robock suggestsother impacts that need to be considered. Priorwould be spared the worst effects of the globalfamine. But these new data raise real questionsabout Chinas ability to feed its own people.At baseline, China is in a better position to with-stand the effects of decreased food productionthan the poorer nations of the world. Caloricintake has risen significantly with the dramaticeconomic expansion of the last 3 decades andthe average Chinese now consumes about 3000calories per day.more diversified with some decline in the pro-portion of calories obtained from grains and arise in the amount obtained from fruits, vegeta-bles and meat products, although cereals stillaccount for more than40% of caloric, Pand Cheng, F, Case Studies in Food Policy for Developing Countries. Ithaca, New York. Cornell University PrViewed at human consumption, but for animal feed. Thedecline in maize production would primarily affectthe 20% of caloric intake currently provided bymeat and poultry.Taken together, the declines in rice, maize, andin average caloric intake in China. However, thisis the average effect, and given the great eco-nomic inequality seen in China today the impactpoor would probably be much greater. It is diffi-actually starve. It is clear that this dramaticeconomic and social instability in the largestcountry in the world, home to the worlds secondlargest and most dynamic economy, and a largenuclear arsenal of its own.The data on Chinese grain production also raisetion in other parts of the globe. Most of theworlds wheat is grown in countries at latitudessimilar to Chinas. Will there be similar impactson wheat production in North America, Russia,the European Union? Will the decline in maize the US also occur in other countries? There is anurgent need to determine the impact that climatedisruption after limited nuclear war will have onthese critical food crops.the food importing countries, the 1.3 billionTwo other issues need to be considered as well.infectious diseases. The prolonged cooling andresultant famine in 536-545 AD was accompa-oped over the next half century into a global pan-implicated in the first global cholera pandemic.cholera, malaria, smallpox, and dysentery.Catastrophe.London: Century. 1999.Stommel, H. Volcano weather: The story of 1816, the year without a winter. NUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK?Stommel, H, Stommel, E. op. cit. 18NUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK? UN PHOTO / JOHN ISAAC Ahusband watches over his severely malnourished wife as last half century, a global famine on the scale antic-ipated would provide the ideal breeding ground forparticular, the vast megacities of the developingworld, crowded, and often lacking adequate sanita-tion in the best of times, would almost certainly seehealth threats. Finally, we need to consider the immense potentialwidespread, there would almost certainly be foodriots, and competition for limited food resourcesties. Among nations, armed conflict would be a veryreal possibility as states dependent on importsattempted to maintain access to food supplies.given the worldwide scope of the climate effects, 19 According to the World Food Programme, the number of under-the population of North America and Europe combined. UN PHOTO / PETER MAGUBANE NUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK? The newly generated data on the decline in agricultural pro-South Asia raise the concern that a global famine could result,and further conflict spawned by such a famine would put addi-tional hundreds of millions at risk. These findings support theexamine the effect on key crops in other impor-tant food producing countries.There is a need to explore in more detail the sub-sequent effects that these shortfalls would havethe decline in caloric intake that would result fromdecline in caloric intake.The need for further study notwithstanding, thepreliminary data in these studies raises a giantonly by the nuclear arms race in South Asia butweapons states. These studies demonstrate theof nuclear war.20NUCLEAR FAMINE: TWO BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK? Ira Helfand, a physician from Northampton, Massachusetts, hasnuclear war on behalf of IPPNW and its US affiliate, Physiciansfor 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 environmentalQuestions, and comments can be directed to: (PSR), the US affiliate ofIPPNW, is a non-profit organization that isand to slow, stop and reverse global warming1111 14th Street NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC, 20005 Web: psr.orgPrevention of Nuclear War ical students, other health workers, and con-IPPNW received the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.Somerville, MA02143 Web:

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