chapter  6
9 Pages

The Long-Term Ecological Effects of Nuclear War: Twilight for the Species?

WithGeorge M. Woodwell

The potential long-term effects of a nuclear war, from 1,000 weapons of 0.1 Mt to the total arsenal of more than 12,000 Mt, include mobilization of sufficient dust and soot into the atmosphere to darken and cool the eapth. Temperatures can be expected to drop to sub-freezing levels for several weeks or several months. The biotic effects of the climatic changes, plus the effects of high exposure to ionizing radiation, will lead to the biotic impoverishment of the earth that includes the destruction of agricultural potential, the loss of as much as 50 percent of the earth's species, and the loss of primary productivity. These changes will follow the direct effects of blast, heat, and radiation from the fireballs themselves, and will be extensive and severe enough to raise question as to whether Homo sapiens will survive as a species.