Re: Nuclear war is not an existential threat

From: Phillip Huggan (
Date: Wed Sep 28 2005 - 10:56:36 MDT

As far as I know the bulk of the atmospheric modeling research was done in the late 80s using computers of that era, I don't think anyone has ponied up the cash to do any significant computer simulations since then. The 1979 civil defense paper referenced earlier in this thread is 5 years obsolete until I see nuke winter refutation links. The total blast yield launced in a nuclear exchange is of minor consequence in instigating a nuke winter. It is the smoke and soot caused by burning chemicals and synthetics in almost certain to be targeted cities and oil infrastructures, which make up the bulk of the surface area "blanket". These heated particles rise above the troposphere; weather will not filter them out quickly (plants die). I think it is the dioxins which would destroy a good portion of our ozone layer and blind all non-burrowing animals and people spending time outdoors in the years ahead. Volcanoes do not ignite human infrastructures. Ground burst weapons lift more
 tonnage of debris, but air burst nukes destroy a larger surface area of the target so will be used over cities. Air burst weapons ignite surrounding forest and grass fires along with all materials in a city. Novarupta probably change earth's albedo less than would a single 1 MT nuked city. There are enough arms on one modern American or Russian sub to instigate a nuke-winter.
Clearly, AGI and MNT are the most pressing extinction scenarios and the former is most relevant to this list. There is little we can do to lower nuke threats but by mistakenly lowering their extinction/shreik odds, you are screwing up your calculations when considering the well-being of humanity in the absence of AGI/MM research. A viable nukes-are-bad scenario slightly shifts AGI/MM research imperative higher in importance, despite the threat such research might make UFAI/MM-arms-race/MM-tyranny more likely. Nukes would force us to reboot society from a 10-100 million population base without oil, livestock or our social contract (but with engineering blueprints). Please post post-1984 links to discredit me and shift more of my attention towards other viable threats.

"J. Andrew Rogers" <> wrote:
On 9/26/05 11:17 AM, "Phillip Huggan" wrote:
> At the risk of being whipped by the list-sniper again... In 1984 the TTAPS
> committee realized the threat of nuclear winters triggered by nuclear
> detonations of low as 100MTs of arms.

You are less likely to be whipped for posting somewhat off-topic than you
are for posting something arguably off-topic that is also nonsense to any
person with a modicum of Google skills. You just provided an example:

- The "nuclear winter" study you cite has been discredited for a number of
reasons, but the important part is that it greatly over-stated the cooling
effect and very badly modeled atmosphere physics to the point of being

- The US has ~1500 MT of nuclear weapons. The Russians have a fair bit
more. Most of these are airburst weapons, with the greatly reduced
environmental impact implied. This is a relatively small aggregate yield in
comparison to many things.

- There are a few volcanic explosions every century with yields that exceed
the combined nuclear capability of the US and Russia, putting fantastic
quantities of junk in the atmosphere. Novarupta in 1912 (what, you've never
heard of it?) exceeded the combined yield of all nuclear arsenals, and
launched vast quantities of aerosols and particulates into the stratosphere,
yet a "nuclear winter" scenario never materialized.

- In studies of the climate effects of massive volcanic explosions that
launch cubic miles of aerosols and particulates into the stratosphere, the
only ones on record that had a significant short-term cooling effect had
yields that exceed nuclear arsenals by an order of magnitude, and in those
cases the significant effects were not global.

In other words, your position is pretty damn shaky. I don't see how a
reasonable person could look at the relevant facts in aggregate and assert
that a catastrophic nuclear winter would occur simply by using the nuclear
capability of the world. Nature has far more destructive potential than we
do, and uses it regularly.

Get off the nuclear weapons fixation already. It is a relatively minor
threat to your survival -- you are far more likely to be killed by a nasty
virus than a nuke.

J. Andrew Rogers

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