The threat of nuclear war has felt uncomfortably real in recent years as tensions between Russia and the west have risen.
Researchers have calculated that if a nuclear war were to break out between the two nations, it would be devastating not only for their own populations but for the rest of the world, killing 5 billion people due to global famine.
In a paper published in the Nature Food journal, the peer-reviewed study said that a full-scale nuclear war would threaten food security and lead to billions starving.
Deepak K. Ray from the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota penned the paper, explaining that soot from a nuclear exchange being blasted into the atmosphere would be enough to block out the sun and stop crops from growing.
Temperatures would also plummet, sending large swathes of the world into a so-called nuclear winter.
As part of the study, researchers tested climate models simulating six different nuclear war scenarios to determine what would happen to agricultural production and trade, one of which was a full-scale war between the two powerful nations of Russia and the US.
It found that in that scenario, over 75 per cent of the world would be starving within two years. All countries would be affected except for Australia and some nations in Africa and South America.
They also modelled what would happen to agricultural production and trade in a relatively small-scale nuclear war between India and Pakistan.
In that case, the result would still be catastrophic as over two billion people could die as a result of famine.
Crop declines would be seen most heavily in mid-high latitude nations, which include the US and Russia who both export goods to important-reliant countries in Africa and the Middle East.
Much like what happened around 66 million years ago when an asteroid wiped out about three-quarters of all species on Earth, many who weren’t directly impacted at the impact would have succumbed to starvation. Researchers suggest a nuclear war would have a similarly grim outcome.
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