Nuclear war prevention: ‘Global famine if India, Pakistan unleash nukes’

Published: April 25, 2012
New study says weapons would dramatically drive down food production.

New study says weapons would dramatically drive down food production.


More than a billion people around the world would face starvation if India and Pakistan unleash nuclear weapons — even if that war is regionally limited, a study released on Tuesday warned.

That’s because the deadly and polluting weapons would cause major worldwide climate disruption that would dramatically drive down food production in China, the US and other countries.

“The grim prospect of nuclear famine requires a fundamental change in our thinking about nuclear weapons,” said study author Dr Ira Helfand of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

“The new evidence that even the relatively small nuclear arsenals of countries such as India and Pakistan could cause long-lasting global damage to the Earth’s ecosystems and threaten hundreds of millions of already malnourished people demands that action be taken,” Helfand said in a statement.

“The needless and preventable deaths of one billion people over a decade would be a disaster unprecedented in human history. It would not cause the extinction of the human race, but it would bring an end to modern civilization as we know it.”

The study, set to be published in the peer-reviewed journal Climate Change, was released at the World Summit of Nobel Laureates in Chicago.

It found that corn production in the US would decline by an average of 10%

for an entire decade and soybean production would drop by about 10%, with the most severe decline occurring five years after the nuclear war.

It also determined that rice production in China would drop by an average of 21% for the first four years and 10% for the next six years.

The resulting increase in food prices and agricultural shortfalls would almost certainly lead to panic and hoarding on an international scale, further reducing access to food. 

Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • bharat
    Apr 25, 2012 - 9:30AM

    Actually the Nuclear weapon tests by India and Pakistan have done a great deal of good for both countries .The two countries will avoid fighting wars due to the fear of them


  • dpd
    Apr 25, 2012 - 10:57AM

    Both countries spend millions of dollars for arming themselves. Both countries have millions that live below the poverty lines. ??????????????


  • Indian
    Apr 25, 2012 - 12:02PM

    We Indians should focus on poverty, something that is eating us. Let’s admit we cannot compete with Pakistan. Pakistanis have more nukes than us. We will simply lose. Rather than this war mentality, time to focus on pressing issues :)


  • Deb
    Apr 25, 2012 - 1:38PM


    I agree.Every night I go to bed fearing next morning I will wake up in Pakistan.


  • Pakistani Canadian
    Apr 25, 2012 - 2:01PM

    Strange report. The US, USSR, and France carried out thousands of atmospheric tests yet humanity didn’t face any famines, that too in countries half way around the world. Nor were there any recorded climate disruptions. I question the veracity and motives of this report.

    That’s not to say I condone the use of nukes, or even the possession of them. India felt it needed them, and forced our hand as well. Now, we have deranged people on both sides with itchy fingers who would gladly use them if they were given command and control.


  • Mj
    Apr 25, 2012 - 6:21PM

    The report makes too many assumptions and takes only into account the worst case scenario. The report would be more palatable if it focused more on the agricultural yield affected and the subsequent toll food shortages would take on 1.5 Billion people within India and Pakistan. Other countries would be relatively unaffected except for the increase in food prices, which is to be expected and is addressed by the report.


  • Feroz
    Apr 25, 2012 - 7:17PM

    @Pakistani Canadian:
    India has declared a policy of no first use which Pakistan has not.Recommend

  • antanu g
    Apr 25, 2012 - 8:05PM

    why name only india and pakistan…there are several countries with this destructive biotechnology. anothe double speak by west when it comes to third world countries.


  • Pakistani Canadian
    Apr 25, 2012 - 8:28PM


    How is that relevant? South Asia is a nuclear weapon zone because of India’s ambitions. Just because India has made a declaration of no first use in no way guarantees it also plans on sticking with it irrespective of the circumstances. Your declaration is non-enforceable by the international community, has no legal basis,, and is utterly meaningless. Otherwise how about handing over your nukes to the US, or any other friendly Weapons State, only to be handed back over in case we ever nuke you?


  • roma
    Apr 25, 2012 - 9:44PM

    @dpd: – even in the WEST there are loads, millions of people living below the poverty line .- living under storefront roofs and the like – at least in INdia the climate is warm eve hot – so that mitigates the suffering


  • Defender
    Apr 25, 2012 - 11:22PM

    @Pakistani Canadian:

    ” South Asia is a nuclear weapon zone because of India’s ambitions. “

    India’s ambition was mostly to defend itself from China, a country which tested nuclear weapons in 1964, 2 years after invading India. Pakistan followed up India’s loss in 1962 by attacking India in 1965 under the codename Operation Gibralter. It was only after these events that India started researching nuclear technology because of the fear of a two-front war against 2 countries which did not respect any of their neighbors.

    ” Your declaration is non-enforceable by the international community, has no legal basis,, and is utterly meaningless. “

    I agree with your first point, partially on your second point, but not on the third.
    It is pretty much non-enforceable by the international community, that is true.

    As for having a legal basis, it is difficult to question why only 5 countries should have nuclear capabilities because they tested their weapons before a certain date. Many smaller countries question this to be discrimination, and feel that either everyone (who’s responsible), or no one should have the right to bear nukes. India never questioned Pakistan’s right to bear nuclear weapons, it only questioned Pakistan’s policy of using nukes first in case it started a war with India, as the foreign secretary Shamsad Ahmed had once said before the Kargil War.

    And as for your third point, I disagree with your assumption that it’s meaningless. The main reason India tested its nuclear weapons was for deterrence, and the fact that such a weapon would be used only for retaliation, and not prematurely, shows India’s intention of being a defensive nation and not a revisionist one.


  • Canadian
    Apr 26, 2012 - 1:10AM

    100% agree with the comments of Defender. Pakistan is forcing India to take defense measures in to there own hands. How can you allow a neighbouring country, who has attacked you before to have nuclear weapons, and not do something about it?


  • John B
    Apr 26, 2012 - 1:43AM

    @Pakistani Canadian:
    You hit it in the head.

    There will be regional calamity but global food production decline in other parts are nonsense. That said, India and china have moved on beyond nuclear bombs, and India has been in tune with global ban on nuclear bombs. PAK has to raise up to the challenge of the modern world.

    It will be foolish for any nation to use even tactical nuclear weapons let alone the big ones and what is worrying the world right now is the spread of such technologies to unstable part of the world, thanks to PAK. Recommend

  • Pollack
    Apr 26, 2012 - 2:15AM

    Wont there be global famine if the US,UK,France or the chinese unleash nuclear weapons? Are famine only created by brown people unleashing weapons?


  • Pakistani Canadian
    Apr 26, 2012 - 2:58AM


    The reasons for India’s ambitions are of no consequence. The end result is that South Asia is today weaponized because India chose to develop nuclear weapons. It was entirely India’s own perspective that it needed them. Given the relations between our countries, Pakistan was forced into action because of India’s decision. That is just facts. No need to get into long discussions about it.

    As far as the ‘no-first use’ policy is concerned, the legal basis I spoke of had nothing to do with the NPT, which is what you’re talking about. India has most recently signed cooperation deals with the US and Canada for your civilian nuclear program. That, until your country’s case, was only a privilege for signatories of the NPT. You’re getting full benefits of the NPT, and are still a weapon state outside the treaty. It’s time to stop whining about how unfair the world is.

    The legal basis I spoke of was domestically. Who is going to stop the Indian government from using nukes during a war? Is your judiciary going to issue a stay order? Is your PM going to remind the military that India must wait for Pakistan to use nukes while your country is facing defeat (hypothetically speaking)? Be real, man!

    What’s this talk about questioning Pakistan’s right to possess nuclear weapons? No nation in the world can question it. We’re a sovereign non-NPT nation. We are well within our legal rights to develop nukes. And who are you to question our ‘policies’ during a war? This isn’t a Bollywood number that you can choreograph! Pakistan will defend itself how it sees fit. If a nuclear Pakistan makes you uneasy, hold your government responsible for bringing this on us both (Pakistanis and Indians). I know I certainly do.


  • DJ
    Apr 26, 2012 - 5:00AM


    24% US population lives below poverty line (source: wiki) but US defense budget is over $500 billion. Security has heavy cost.


  • DJ
    Apr 26, 2012 - 5:03AM

    Another so called scientist and closet racist making such statements. Conveniently forgetting that only country to use nukes: USA sitting on pile of 10000 nukes or totalitarian regime like China with 4000 nukes are not even mentioned in his ‘research’ about this nuke war.
    It sounds like this pseudo-scientist thinks that Indians and Pakistani people are not smart enough to know how to handle their nukes…but yes, no doubt the West does. If they hadn’t conveniently forgotten that US used nukes in Japan, used chemical weapons in Vietnam and will use them in future if deemed right then the topic of this study would have been very different.
    Chances of China fighting some country in East Asia (could go nuclear) is as much if not more than India Pakistan fighting. US or Israel invading Iran (both nuclear) is also very high.


  • bharat
    Apr 26, 2012 - 10:14AM

    India and Pakistan fight a war every 10 years, Only the Nuclear weapons have prevented these regular wars.


  • Sparrows345
    Apr 26, 2012 - 1:37PM

    Neither of them have very good command and control, those thinking cooler heads will prevail will offer what kind of guarantee if it doesn’t work out? Another thing no one talks about: nuclear power plants would be targeted, and would all melt down. Oh yeah, and no one mentions the extinction of many animals in that part of the world.


  • Lala Gee
    Apr 26, 2012 - 2:59PM


    “India has declared a policy of no first use which Pakistan has not.”

    And Pakistan has the policy of first use. But when the time come, Pakistan will miserably fail again and it will ultimately be India using them first.


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