I’ve studied nuclear war for 35 years — you should be worried. | Brian Toon | TEDxMileHigh

I’ve studied nuclear war for 35 years — you should be worried. | Brian Toon | TEDxMileHigh


Translator: Nastya Lichman
Reviewer: Queenie Lee 66 million years ago, a mountain-sized asteroid traveling 10 times faster
than a bullet from an assault rifle slammed into the shallow seas covering what is now
the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The immense energy of that impact
hurled rocks as far north as Canada, and it vaporized the asteroid, part of Mexico
and part of the shallow sea. Well, this fireball
of vaporized rock and water rose far above the earth’s atmosphere and spread over the planet. As it cooled, molten drops of rock about the size
of a grain of sand solidified into an immense swarm of shooting stars. The shooting stars re-entered
the earth’s atmosphere and heated the upper atmosphere
to a thousand degrees Fahrenheit. Standing at the ground, the dinosaurs saw the blue sky
become a sheet of red-hot lava. The scientific artist David Hardy imagines the fate of the dinosaurs
in this painting. They broiled to death
under the glowing skies. The energy in the sky is like
that in the glow bar in an electric oven. If you’re dying to experience
what the the dinosaurs did when they died, turn your oven on broil and hop in. (Laughter) The glowing skies
started everything on fire. Great clouds of smoke rose into the upper atmosphere
and blocked the sun so that no sunlight reached the ground. It became cold and dark. Photosynthesis stopped, and plants and animals,
in the ocean or on the land, either starved or froze to death. The dinosaurs didn’t do anything wrong
that caused their death. It was just fate
that an asteroid hit the earth and killed 70% of the species
that we know of on the planet. Unfortunately, in our lifetimes, we may experience the same fate
as the dinosaurs. But I’m not talking
about another asteroid collision, I’m talking about a nuclear war. A nuclear war would have
many of the same phenomena that the dinosaurs experienced. But this time it absolutely
would be our fault. Fortunately, there are things that we
can do to prevent this from happening. If you live in a city
that has a military base, there’s a missile
that’s aimed at you right now. If you live in a city
that has an important industry, a major university, a large airport, an oil refinery or oil storage facilities, there’s a hydrogen bomb
that’s aimed at you right now. We live in a perilous era. There are 15,000
nuclear weapons on the planet. And the 9 nuclear weapon states
are in conflict with each other. The United States and North Korea, NATO and Russia, India and Pakistan. We’re just one misunderstanding, one mistake, or one fanatic politician
away from a nuclear conflict. In World War II, fleets of hundreds
or even a thousand airplanes were used to bomb a single city. But with the invention of the atomic bomb, only one airplane and one bomb was needed. The Enola Gay carried one atomic bomb with the power of 15,000 tons of TNT. And when it dropped that bomb
on Hiroshima, Japan, a hundred thousand people died. Over time, even more powerful
bombs were built. Hydrogen bombs. This 1960s airplane
carried five hydrogen bombs, the red and white things there, and had the power of 500 Hiroshima bombs. And of course the United States
and Russia don’t just use airplanes. They have intercontinental ballistic
missiles with hydrogen bombs on them, and they have nuclear
submarines with missiles. A single Trident missile submarine can carry a hundred hydrogen bombs with the explosive power
of a 1,000 Hiroshima bombs. Knowing the power
of the bombs and their targets, we can understand the destructiveness
and loss of life that might occur if these were ever used. Let us imagine, for example,
that the United States attacks Pyongyang,
North Korea, the capital, with the smallest bomb
carried on a Trident missile submarine. 500,000 people – about the population
of Sacramento or Baltimore – would die. Nuclear weapons kill people
in four different ways. In this orange circle,
there’s a shock-wave so powerful that it knocks down concrete buildings
and kills everyone within that zone. In the red circle, there’s radiation that’s released
from the atomic bomb as it fissions. The radiation would kill 50 to 90%
of the North Koreans, over the next few weeks. In this green circle,
the shock-wave continues out with enough power to knock down
residential buildings. And in this yellow circle,
six miles in diameter, there’s a blast of light so bright that if your skin was exposed, you’d get third-degree burns,
which can be fatal, and flammable things like leaves,
newspapers and your clothes would burst into flames. And of course, if we attack North Korea, they’re likely to attack us back. If they use the same size
weapon that we used, and they’ve already tested one like this, they could kill 150,000 people
in this 6-mile diameter circle in Denver. And these terrifying scenarios
I’m talking about are just each if side
uses one nuclear weapon. But Russia and the United States
each have 4,000 strategic nuclear weapons. That’s enough to attack each city
with more than 100,000 people, in each country, with 10 atomic bombs. In a war like that, 400 million people
would probably die on the planet, in China, in Russia, in Europe
and in the United States. But wait, that’s not all. (Laughter) I’ve just been talking about
the damage near ground zero. That’s all the military considers
in their war plans. But there will be collateral effects. Remember the dinosaurs:
it was the burning forests that killed three quarters of the species
we know about on the planet. And the same would happen
after a nuclear war; cities would catch on fire and burn. It’s this damage, the damage the military
doesn’t even consider, the damage that’s just
thought of as an accident, that might destroy human civilization. Even a war between India and Pakistan, two of the smallest nuclear powers, with only a few hundred weapons
of about the size of the Hiroshima bomb. We might die as unintended consequences that the Indian and Pakistani generals
never even gave a thought about. My colleagues Luke Oman and Alan Robock
calculated the spread of smoke after a war between India and Pakistan. It only takes about two weeks
for the smoke to cover the entire Earth. And it would rise to altitudes between 20
and 50 miles above the surface. At those altitudes, it never rains. The smoke would stay there for years. This farmer, maybe in Europe
or in the United States, but many thousands of miles
from Pakistan and India, is looking at the smoky sky above him
and down at the crops that have died in his field
from lack of light and cold temperatures. It’s estimated that in a war
between India and Pakistan, we would lose 10 to 40%
of the yields of corn, wheat and rice for years afterward
because of the bad weather. The entire world only has enough food
to feed the population for 60 days unless agriculture produces more food. Ira Helfand, a member
of the Nobel Peace Prize winning International Physicians
for the Prevention of Nuclear War, has estimated that one
to two billion people would die after a war between India
and Pakistan, of starvation. And after a full-scale nuclear war, temperatures would plunge
below ice age conditions. We would be in a nuclear winter. No crops would grow. It is estimated that 90%
of the population of the planet would starve to death,
and civilization would be destroyed. And no one would be safe. Not those in countries
with no nuclear weapons, not those in countries
that didn’t participate in war, and not those
on the other side of the planet from where the explosions occurred. No one would be safe. I bet you’re not getting a warm
and fuzzy feeling out of this talk. (Laughter) But we don’t have to just keep
plodding on like we have been, walking toward disaster. We can do things to stop a nuclear war and prevent global starvation
and the end of human civilization. In the 1980s, politicians recognized
the dangers of a nuclear conflict and did things about it. Nowadays, politicians don’t seem
to understand the dangers of these wars. And the younger generations
hardly give nuclear conflict a thought. We baby-boomers had this drummed into us. In grade school, we were taught
“duck and cover” drills and how to get under our desk in a hopeless attempt
to avoid a nuclear explosion. (Laughter) In middle school, our mothers told us, “You can’t drink your milk anymore, because the 500 atmospheric
nuclear weapons test had poisoned the earth with radiation. And the popular culture
was dominated by radioactive mutants, such as Godzilla, which is a Japanese
nightmare from Nagasaki and Hiroshima. In the 1980s, I worked with Richard Turco,
Carl Sagan, Russian scientist and others to tell Mikhail Gorbachev
and Ronald Reagan about the dangers of a nuclear war. We told him a nuclear war
would cause a nuclear winter that could end civilization as we know it. And they listened. (Applause) Ronald Reagan said, “A great many
reputable scientists are telling us that such a war could just
end up in no victory for anyone because we would wipe
out the earth as we know it. And Mikhail Gorbachev said, “Models made
by Russian and American scientists showed that a nuclear war
would result in a nuclear winter that would be extremely destructive
to all life on earth; the knowledge of that
was a great stimulus to us, to people of honor and morality, to act in that situation. In September of 2017,
the United Nations passed a resolution banning nuclear weapons like landmines, chemical and biological weapons
have been banned. Unfortunately, the nuclear weapons states
want to ignore that ban and just plod on like they have been. It’s up to us to wake them up before they sleepwalk
into a nuclear disaster. What can you do about this? Talk to your political representatives. Tell them you’d like
the Department of Defense to report to us on what would happen
after a nuclear war. They did this in the 1980s. How many people would die in Korea if we attack them with nuclear weapons? How many people would die in Russia, China, South Korea and Japan, the countries that surround North Korea? What will happen if like every other
war we have ever fought, it does not go as planned
and expands beyond North Korea? And you should ask your politicians
to stop “launch on warning.” In launch on warning, the American president can launch
nuclear-armed missiles within minutes without consulting anyone,
using the nuclear football, which is carried everywhere
the president goes by a military officer. In 1968, the United States
and 190 other countries signed the treaty to prevent
a proliferation of nuclear weapons. In that treaty, we promised to build our nuclear arsenals
down to zero as soon as we could. We need to keep that promise. All of our lives may depend on it. (Applause) Thank you.

10 thoughts on “I’ve studied nuclear war for 35 years — you should be worried. | Brian Toon | TEDxMileHigh

  1. Hello, I've been hearing that for more than 30 yrs. Pray & read the Douay-Rheims
    Bible everyday & don't worry, worry is useless. Own an AK rifle.

  2. 5 nuclear bombs would be enough to destroy earth …slowly with radiation …. Why r u making thousands ….wanna destroy galaxy 😆😆

  3. PM Imran Khan.. kindly listen to this and stop talking about nuclear war with India.
    Now that we know from you japan/Germany comment that you have got a low iq, this short video will act as a crash course and open your eyes on how nuclear war can lead to the destruction of entire earth

  4. I'm here from India after some media and general reports Pakistan has declared war on India on the end of November or early October so prepare to brace yourself,,, to the world we are already near code Red ,,,,

  5. Tell this to India so pak and india can avoid nuclear war which would kill 30-40% of earth's population..look what they are doing in kashmir..And this could bring us face to face with each other in the next 1-2 months….
    Hope world listens to us this time..

  6. Pakistan is the danger for india, all humanity and planet earth bcoz there thinking is like suicide bombers and 40,000 active terriost are in pakistan.pakistan is a lier, irresponsible, terriost and bakrupt country they know that they don't have any future. So everyday they threat india that they will attack india by nuclear weapons and kill India and themselves also

  7. The major problem of conflict between any country in the world is those forums which were created for peace and human rights are malfunctioning or in flight mode. Like UN they are only with powerful nations or with economic giants or with big 5. There is no forum for humans all these for their own interests and politics. UN forum is becoming more and more handicap since last 20 years.

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