The Guardian newspaper reported on 30 December that the Home Office dismissed the threat of a “nuclear winter” impact of the use of nuclear WMDs as “scaremongering”, as recorded in the National Archive papers release for 1984
(“Home Office dismissed nuclear winter threat as scaremongering, files show, “
Unfortunately, the current Government appears to have the same ‘in- denial’ response to this very real threat to humanity in its obsession to retain - and replace - the Trident nuclear WMD system.
At the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons, hosted by the Austrian Government from 8 to 9 December 2014 - which received powerful supportive messages from both The United Nations’ Secretary General and Pope Francis - the British representative, Ambassador Susan le Jeune d'Allegeershecque, told delegates of nearly 160 countries - along with hundreds of representatives of civil society - that she had “listened to the debate very carefully” but nonetheless concluded :" We will maintain a minimum credible nuclear deterrent for as long as it is necessary". (http://www.bmeia.gv.at/fileadmin/user_upload/Zentrale/Aussenpolitik/Abruestung/HINW14/Statements/HINW14_Statement_UK.pdf)
Amongst the conclusions by international scientific experts convened by Austria for the conference, based on evidence collectively presented, was that any use of nuclear weapons could cause gravest humanitarian emergencies and have catastrophic global consequences on the environment, climate, health, social order, human development and the global economy.
Dr. Michael J. Mills of the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research gave a chilling presentation on the likelihood of global famine after even a “limited” nuclear exchange of nuclear WMDs - 50 out of the global stockpile of some 17,000 nuclear warheads. It would lead to global crop yield losses of tens of percent, leading to worldwide famine, in great part due to the “nuclear winter “ effect of sooty smoke and ozone layer loss.
This would have the combined effects of colder temperatures; shortened frost-free growing seasons; cold spells during growing seasons; slower growth causing lower yield; increased daytime darkness and less rainfall.
Dr Micah Lowenthal of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control of the US National Academy of Sciences observed after presenting a scenario of a single (comparatively) small (10kt) nuclear bomb detonated over Washington DC: “We have a poor understanding of what infrastructure would still be effective after such an event.”
Our Ambassador told me after her presentation, when I asked her whether she was indeed listening, as her presentation seemed singularly detached from reality, that she was merely conveying official government policy, which seems a dereliction of duty to me.
The late, great cosmologist and astronomer Professor Carl Sagan, contemplating the nuclear winter threat, said three decades ago: “Elementary planetary hygiene demands that we eliminate nuclear weapons faster.” I agree.