(NaturalNews) While millions of people around the world have an innate fear of nuclear weapons and think that every country that has them should dismantle them, many foreign policy experts who have adopted a "realist" worldview maintain that those mighty weapons of mass destruction have actually kept the world safer since they were developed at the close of World War II.
While that sounds odd given their destructive power, these experts point out that without them -- and when there was relative military parity between the great nations -- the world experienced bouts of destructive global conflict in which tens of millions died. With the presence of nuclear weapons, there is "mutually assured destruction," which acts as a disincentive for nations to use them at all. That is the concept that kept the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. in a "Cold War" rather than a hot one.
Still, the very presence of nuclear weapons means there is always the possibility that they could be used -- or misused, as it were -- and that possibility served as a basis for recent research which examined what would happen to planet Earth following a nuclear exchange of some magnitude.
According to researchers using computer modeling, following a large nuclear exchange, "worldwide famine, deadly frosts, global ozone losses of up to 50 per cent and more would greet any inhabitants of the planet still remaining," Britain's Daily Mail reported, citing the new study.
The paper said researchers hope their study of what they call a relatively small nuclear war (100 warheads) will serve as a deterrent against such weapons ever being used in the future.
Black rains, global cooling, increased UV radiation
The chilling consequences of a nuclear exchange on that level were revealed in a paper called "Multidecadal global cooling and unprecedented ozone loss following a regional nuclear conflict." The paper can be viewed here: OnlineLibrary.Wiley.com.
In the paper, the researchers examined the outcome of a "limited, regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan in which each side detonates 50 15-kiloton weapons." They then used computer models to examine the impact on the earth and its environment.
"It makes for grim reading," the Daily Mail reported, adding:
The immediate result of 100 nuclear weapons roughly the size of those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki being detonated would be the release of five megatons of black carbon into the atmosphere.
Black carbon, not too dissimilar to soot, would block out the sun and can also be fatal to humans.
After an episode of black carbon rain, a deadly weather front that would most likely kill off what remained of human beings following the nuclear exchange, the earth's temperature would begin to drop substantially. After a year, the temperature, on average, would fall 2 degrees F; after five, it would be 3 degrees F cooler than now.
It would take two decades before the earth would begin to warm again, and then only modestly -- back up to 1 percent below today's average temperatures. And while these changes may not seem like much, colder temps would definitely disrupt growing seasons, if anything much could still be grown over most of the world.
In addition to what researchers call "the coldest average surface temperatures in the last 1,000 years" would be a major thinning of ozone levels. Scientists conducting the modeling say that global ozone losses of 20 to 50 percent would likely occur over many populated areas, "levels unprecedented in human history."
The drop in temps would then produce "killing frosts" that would reduce the world's growing season by 10 to 40 days. Meanwhile, loss of half of the ozone layer would cause a major increase in the sun's UV rays in some places by as much as 80 percent, which would then raise the risk of humans developing skin cancer by alarming rates.
'U.S., Russia, called on to discuss nuclear disarmament'
In combination with the global cooling, this "would put significant pressures on global food supplies and could trigger a global nuclear famine," the scientists said, adding that Earth's falling temperatures would also lead to a decrease in the amount of rainfall -- another factor that would affect growing seasons and food production.
The Daily Mail also reported:
Five years after the conflict Earth would see 9 per cent less rain, while 26 years after the war there would still be 4.5 per cent less rain.
The result of all this would be devastation and ultimately death for hundreds of millions, and perhaps billions.
That said, the researchers said they hoped that their example of a relatively small nuclear war between two modestly armed nuclear powers will encourage larger powers like the United States and Russia to get more serious about nuclear disarmament.
"Knowledge of the impacts of 100 small nuclear weapons should motivate the elimination of more than 17,000 nuclear weapons that exist today," the scientists wrote.