34.1 million people could die, and another 57.4 million could be injured, within the first few hours of the start of a nuclear war between Russia and the United States triggered by one low-yield nuclear weapon, according to a new simulation by researcher’s at Princeton‘s Science and Global Security programme.
But that’s not all. The overall death toll would be even higher due to long-term consequences of a nuclear war, including radioactive fallout and global cooling of the Earth’s atmosphere, researchers add. Even a limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan could put one billion people at risk of starvation and another 1.3 billion at risk of severe food insecurity due to global cooling, according to a 2013 study by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
The Princeton simulation, ironically entitled “Plan A,” comes as the United States works to develop brand new low-yield nuclear weapons, despite the opposition of leading Democratic members of Congress, and demonstrates that even lower-yield nuclear weapons can have devastating consequences.
The researchers used independent assessments of current U.S. and Russian nuclear force postures, including the number of warheads deployed and their yields, war plans and targets to create the simulation.
Equally alarming as the casualty toll of this nuclear war simulation is the growing probability that it becomes a reality.
“The risk of nuclear war has increased dramatically in the past two years as the United States and Russia have abandoned long-standing nuclear arms control treaties, started to develop new kinds of nuclear weapons and expanded the circumstances in which they might use nuclear weapons,” wrote the Princeton researchers on the project website.
“‘Plan A’ shows that there is no sane plan once a nuclear weapon is launched,” said Alicia Sanders-Zakre, Policy and Research Coordinator at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. “A better plan is to reject nightmare nuclear scenarios and support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”