A study of the impacts of nuclear explosions shows that nuclear war, even on a small scale, could quickly devastate the world’s climate and ecosystems, bringing consequences for all living beings.

“Nuclear weapons are the planet’s greatest environmental hazard to humans, not global warming or the destruction of the ozone layer,” study co-author Alan Robock told the Guardian Unlimited newspaper.

By designing climate models on modern computers, it was not only proved that the ozone layer would be significantly destroyed but that the effects of the nuclear weapons would be felt for at least ten years, much more than previously predicted. Through calculations that evaluate entire decades and include the oceans and the whole atmosphere it was found that even the smoke of a remote localized war would be heated and suspended by the action of the Sun. The particles would remain for years in the atmosphere blocking sunlight and thereby cooling the Earth.

Decades ago, international teams of scientists have shown that an atomic war between two superpowers could result in a “nuclear winter.” The smoke from the vast fires triggered by bombs thrown over cities and industrial areas would envelop the planet and absorb so much sunlight that the earth’s surface would be cold, dark and dry. Plants would die on a global scale and our food sources would be extinct. In summer, surface temperatures would record winter values. All superpowers are confronted by the possibility that the arms race did not only threaten their own existence, but that of the entire human race. It isn’t a matter of war but a matter of survival.

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