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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.

Reader Comments

  1. Pathogens I think that’s a more realistic end game scenario.
    The world spins around like a spun coin in the hands of megalomaniac powered up power ranger financiers they won’t burn the circus down if it goes off it will be selective and with portfolios intact😏.

  2. Ok at 6:57 is where its guy goes off the rails. He mixes fact with fear mongering in a fantastic sleight of hand. This is no better than yellow journalism. Ask a nuke engineer.

  3. I rather have humanity get whipped out by nuclear war than become a haven for vegans, vegetarians, feminists and their likes. I rather have humanity destroyed than continue the way it is. I will gladly watch the likes of Oprah and dr. Phill get roasted to death

  4. There's no money to be made on nuclear war, conventional war keeps the economy going..!!
    Nuclear War will never happen.

  5. Destroy all of NYC, Los Angeles and London…. Those people deserve to die in a burning nuclear war! World be a better place

  6. He's studied something that has never happened for 35 years lol. If I study unicorns for 35 years will I get a TED TALKS video?

  7. Ted Talks like this are fashionable again now that Trump is in office. If everything Leftists said about Trump were true, we would have all died a 1000 deaths from 1000 different causes by now.

  8. Let's leave this planet. No one gets to leave. Grab a gun and learn to use the damn thing. You have to love people.

  9. The Murphy's law: "If the nuclear weapons seize to exist, well … The war is inevitably. It will happen. Nothing we cant stop it from happening, if we cant dismantle all the weapons from the face of the earth."

    The great war, will happen, and its around the corner. Be prepared. Repent a lot, I mean a loooot. Thank God I believe in God.

  10. I wouldn't worry about nukes the elite are working on advanced robots to wipe us out without damaging the planet

  11. I agree there is a real danger. Hopefully China, Russia or Europe Union will take action. The USA is useless as a leader for worldly good. I have contacted my representative several times about serious issues. This politician is from the party I most identify with, but there is never a response-just silence.

  12. Ummm, he definitely should be talking about an asteroid. 2 times a year for 14 days we pass through the torrid meteor stream. Out of this stream came the rock that rendered all of the mega fauna in North America extinct 12800 years ago. The impact crater is in Greenland. To this day, twice a year, the earth puts on a blindfold and crosses the highway of the remnants of that exact rock. Some of which is up to 10 miles wide. Nukes are scary, but our bigger concern should be yet another meteor impact from that meteor stream that could render us extinct. Sooner or later our luck will run out. Much like the civilization that suffered through the younger dryas 11500-12800 years ago. It appears they were far more advanced than us judging by the megalithic structures on this planet. And today, they are not even acknowledged by quackademia.

  13. He’s studied nuclear war for thirty five years and there hasn’t been one nuclear war in that time ???i wonder why

  14. The biggest threat are religious fanatics that truly believe the afterlife is real and preferable. I hope none of those people ever get nuclear weapons. There is no deterrent for someone who welcomes death.

  15. The Word Of God Says That God Told adam and eve Repopulate the earth. why would they have to be repopulate the earth if they were first.

  16. the socalled elites, who are the ones behind all the puppet leaders we have, have secure bunkers built in mountains and deep underground, which they have equipped & stocked up to allow them to live there safely for quite a long time.

  17. 10:08 he talks about no one would he safe, he is right but you have to consider Switzerland. They have enough nuclear bunkers to hold around 110% of their country's population.

  18. Just for the record ALL of the United States Nuclear Missles are aimed at the center of the ocean the farthest away from any humans they can be aimed….. For safety…. So if you live in Russia or NK or Iran the US's Missles are not pointed at you. Also 90% of Russias Missles are for our nuclear silos. The only reason we still have nuclear Missles in silos are because they are nuke sponges. They are there to soak up the enemies nuclear Missles to keep as many of the nuclear weapons away from population centers as possible

  19. Nobody is ever going to disarm unless there is something even more devastating developed that makes retaliation impossible.

  20. Were any of these effects present after bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or was that not enough energy to see these effects?

  21. Damn, this is some scary stuff! What makes it even scarier is that we are on the brink of this possibly happening with everything going on now with NK, Iran, Russia, Europe and the U.S.

  22. I didn't even have to watch this this guy's full of s*** there hasn't been a nuclear war since the 40's of 1900…… Thanks 55 years ago. study for 35 ??? Hmmmm.. he's never seen or been in one . You know nuclear war ..

  23. So he thinks that ALL "cities that have an university or airport" around the world are less than 15 thousand cities? Sure, ted…

  24. Even after all your efforts , our Leaders still keep building these weapons and still use nuclear power .
    To borrow an American phrase {GO FIGURE]

  25. How can that statement be true ‘ I’ve studied nuclear war for 35 years ‘
    When there only been that internet film terminator!!!!

    This guy is delusional

  26. I cannot stand TED audiences. In this case the guy is talking about that which is extremely dangerous and which has already killed hundreds of thousands of people and the audience periodically laugh.

  27. it took him 35 years to study this ?? really 35 freaking years for this nonsense?? i knew this stuff when we used to play in my chuds

  28. Why would the United States Attack North Korea with Nukes? Seems like a flawed premise and fear mongering.

  29. Bockscar rarely ever gets a mention..
    Nuclear power plants and hydroelectric dams are also targets of value.

  30. I fear that it may well happen: Due to the Human culture of continuous greed. ego, religious dogma and total stupidity.

  31. How could you have studied
    nuclear war for years when
    there's never been a nuclear
    war. Two bombs dropped over
    75 years ago is all that's happened, but science has to
    have a boogeyman to collect
    money and Grant's from the

  32. And the US military now thinks that a limited nuclear war could be winnable we live in dangerous time's indeed

  33. Every weapon ever devised by human beings has been used. Trillions of dollars have been spent on the nuclear triad… do we seriously think they will not be utilized? I recall a book by Jonathan Schell "The Fate of the Earth", in which he proposed this: we are counting on nothing happening (with nukes) forever. Forever. Not likely. The Drake equation has as much to do with the possibility of civilizations in deep space, how many there might be, and where, as it does for the likelihood of civilizations that have destroyed themselves. I don't see much reason for hope.

  34. What would happen if a small asteroid hit earth a day after a nuclear war eg Pakistan v India? Is there any chance it would burn the smoky fall out, irrespective of it's own damage?

  35. the New World Order controls the whole show, there is no actual us and them, only what we have been programmed to believe. At the apex of the Pyramid they are united in their agenda against the rest of us. I predict that there will never be a nuclear war as it will be counteractive to the needs of the NWO , in fact I believe that none of the Bombs or Missiles have active war heads and it has all been part of a scam to increase World Debts and saving on costs. Things are accelerating at an unprecedented rate but most have not got a clue, they have other weapons now that out-date the nuclear choice and have already been used but will be turned on us more.

  36. All of you do not need to worry about this happening. We are not destined to die in a nuclear war.
    No, we will be see the end come very slowly, and it’s written down. If you want to know the REAL future for humanity, read Matthew chapter 24. It’s in the Holy Bible, New Testament.

  37. Nuclear war is simply fear mongering propaganda that was prominent in the 1970s. No one country would be interested in nuclear annihilation. Simply because Humanity's lust for power and starting nuclear warfare would only insure life and everything ceases to exist. Which is why we simply would not go to those extremes.

  38. If nuclear war occurs, the earth is fine. In the long run it will change and adapt. Humans might not be around but that might possibly be the best option the planet has for survival.

  39. The Chicxulub asteroid caused global temperatures to drop by around 2 degrees. You would need about 100 million Tsar bombas (the biggest nuclear bomb ever built) to reach the amount of energy release by that one asteroid and put that much soot in the air. I'm sorry, your nuclear winter isn't happening.

  40. I don't blame you if you believe this gentleman's talk. But evolution is mere conjecture and theory. Yes the planet and civilization can go out in nuclear war, no doubt. But it will not; you can know for certainty about the future, the USA and it's place in history and prophecy; no guess work here; just good old Devine Revelation….

  41. The 80's called and stated it ain't happening. I grew up with this BS. North Korea will not do anything as we would wipe them out in a heartbeat. Just Iran would use them.

  42. "Nuclear winter" is extremely unlikely. The information we had in the 80's which he was part of gathering was more limited, we assumed a lot. We now have far more advanced models and observations of our environment. Our modern cities are far less combustible than they were in the 80's, there's far less combustible material per sq m.
    The general scientific consensus is that it's possible if a fire was uncontrollable and had enough material to burn for an ongoing period of time but… it's generally discounted, as he says. It is thought that if it occurs it should pass within a couple of weeks.. not decades. It would have an impact but not as he claims.

    He also fails to realise we have far more accurate nuclear weapons with far lower yields. You can't invade a nation covered in nuclear fallout.

    This talk is using information that is nearly 40 years old and out of date. I don't support use, construction or stockpiling of nuclear weapons but I do prefer accurate data. This talk is not accurate and is tantamount to scaremongering.

  43. This lecture is not new. If you read the book of Revelation in the Bible you will see the description of a nuclear war. The problem is that we read the Bible as a religious book instead of understanding that the Bible describes real interactions between the beings who created us and men. They explained everything about our future and the future of our planet. Jesus is commanding a rescue mission called "the rapture" to take away part of the population out of the planet before the war. The Bible says that one third of the world's population will die. Everything is well explained in the Bible, even the effects of nuclear explosion on people. The Bible says that "the eyes will melt before they hit the ground". It is all there. Take the Bible seriously and get ready for the "rapture of the church". Jesus will return, end the war and reset the planet. I am very serious about this. It will happen.

  44. Why do you study something that kills off a population? what are you trying to prove? This helps no one, not even you! Please read the "Bible" before exploring.

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