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There’s be no escape from the horrible consequences of nuclear war – not even in New Zealand

According to various experts, New Zealand would indeed likely be the best place to be in the event of a nuclear holocaust. But “best” is a relative term, and this belies just how hellish life could become on one of the world’s last inhabitable countries.

It’s a reminder that whatever happens on June 12 and at future global nuclear negotiations, New Zealand is not a disinterested bystander – and neither are those around the globe who want to treat this country like their own personal bomb shelter. No one gets to opt out of nuclear war.

What happens to NZ if global nuclear war breaks out?  News Hub, 4 June 18 Anxiety over nuclear annihilation is lodged in our collective psyche. And fair enough: we’ve blundered our way to the precipice of nuclear warfare so many times by this point that it’s a wonder how we never made it over the edge.

This month, Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un will, all going well, attempt to alleviate these fears somewhat, in what is arguably the best opportunity in decades to end conflict in the Korean peninsula and drive nuclear tensions down. But even if North Korea successfully de-nuclearises and the US stops its sabre-rattling, the world won’t be safe from the threat of future catastrophe: there remain around 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, nearly 14,000 of which are held by Russia and the United States, two countries currently experiencing a renaissance of mutual loathing.

Of course, the question on everybody’s lips is: should global nuclear war break out, what will happen to New Zealand? We after all currently enjoy the status of being the “bolt hole” for the world’s terrified billionaires, and our geographic distance and general disentanglement from the rest of the world’s geopolitical jostling suggests that should the worst happen, we at the very least won’t be in the firing line.

This is a small consolation. According to various experts, New Zealand would indeed likely be the best place to be in the event of a nuclear holocaust. But “best” is a relative term, and this belies just how hellish life could become on one of the world’s last inhabitable countries.

……… some have tried to map out a potential aftermath. In a 2014 paper for Earth’s Future, a team of scientists attempted to model the effects of a limited, regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan that would see each country use 50 warheads, each with a yield of 15 kilotons, about the same as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

The results weren’t pretty. Even a “limited” war like this would send five megatonnes of smoke into the stratosphere, heating it by up to 100degC and wiping out most of the earth’s ozone layer for as long as a decade. This means the average burn time in the sun would halve for humans, while the resulting surge of UV radiation would wreak havoc on the world’s vegetation and sealife, including, in the latter case, disrupting the entire food chain of the ocean and damaging marine life in its early, developmental stages.

More alarming is the fact that the colossal amount of black carbon sitting up in the stratosphere would cause a global nuclear winter, the coldest average surface temperatures in 1,000 years. That means shorter growing seasons and the destruction of crops by killing frosts, which Brian Toon, one of the authors of the report, has said would reduce yields of corn, wheat and rice by 10-40 percent for years afterwards.

And this is just for a “limited” war.

“After a full scale nuclear war, temperatures would plunge below Ice Age conditions,” Toon explained to a TED audience earlier this year. “No crops would grow. It’s estimated 90 percent of the population of the planet would starve to death.”

Where does New Zealand fit into all this? Based on what several experts have told me, there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is, we would likely be spared the worst consequences of all this. Experts like Toon and Brian Martin, a social scientist at the University of Wollongong who has a PhD in theoretical physics, say that we’d have little to fear from radiation drifting our way. The most harmful isotopes would decay before reaching our shores, and even fallout drifting over from a potential attack on Australia would likely be blown eastward, where it would be rained out.

It’s a similar story when it comes to surface temperature. According to the 2014 study, the scenario it’s based on would produce a drop of around somewhere between 1 and 1.5 degrees – nothing to sneeze at, but substantially less than the 5-7 degrees below normal predicted in the centres of North America and Eurasia.

“In New Zealand, you can still be growing crops,” says Michael Mills, an atmospheric scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, and another of the study’s authors.

Brian Toon, however, sees a less cheerful forecast in the case of a full-scale nuclear war. “It would cause low light levels and winter conditions in New Zealand for several years, perhaps up to a decade,” he says. “No one has evaluated the impact directly on New Zealand, but I would imagine nothing would grow for several years.”

……… It’s a reminder that whatever happens on June 12 and at future global nuclear negotiations, New Zealand is not a disinterested bystander – and neither are those around the globe who want to treat this country like their own personal bomb shelter. No one gets to opt out of nuclear war. https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2018/06/what-happens-to-nz-if-global-nuclear-war-breaks-out.html

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June 4, 2018 - Posted by | New Zealand, weapons and war

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