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Solution found for climate change: Nuclear war

Just a 'splendid little war' would do

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

A solution has been found to those pesky climate change problems being caused by global warming: nuclear war.

One minor niggle: "Widespread famine and disease would likely follow," even if the war were a small-scale one, writes Charles Choi for National Geographic News, describing the study conducted by scientists from NASA and other institutions that reached this good-news/bad-new conclusion.

The group built a computer model to discover what effect a relatively low-end nuclear conflict would have – say, a spat between Pakistan and India, for example. The projected arsenal was rather wimpy: 100 Hiroshima-sized nukes.

Such a regional dust-up, the scientists determined, would cause conflagrations sufficient to loft about five million metric tons of black carbon into the lower atmosphere, where it'd be heated by solar radiation and rise into the higher atmosphere – where it would hang out for a goodly amount of time, getting in the way of sunlight.

The cooling caused by this sooty layer wouldn't end life as we know it – as might have been possible if the US and the Soviet Union had ever taken the gloves off back in the Fate of the Earth days. But it would be nasty enough.

"The effects would still be regarded as leading to unprecedented climate change," researcher Luke Oman said at the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science confab in Washington, DC.

As everyone except the most vehement climate-change deniers know, the earth is currently in a warming phase. The preponderence of evidence points to the rising rate of temperature increase as being anthropogenic, but the soot flying above our heads wouldn't care if you believe Al Gore or Anthony Watts – it would just want to do its part in helping to cool the earth.

"After a regional nuclear war," Choi writes, "average global temperatures would drop by 2.25 degrees F (1.25 degrees C) for two to three years afterward, the models suggest. At the extreme, the tropics, Europe, Asia, and Alaska would cool by 5.4 to 7.2 degrees F (3 to 4 degrees C), according to the models."

And this temperature drop, according to the study, would be a result of merely the 21st century equivalent of a "Splendid Little War". The computer model, based as it is on the equivalent of 100 Hiroshima Little Boys, would have to be repeated more than 30 times to equal the blastalicious power of the largest single nuke – that we know of – that was ever exploded: the Soviet Union's 50-megaton thermonuclear beasty known variously as RDS-220, Big Ivan, Tsar Bomba, and simply Big Bomb, which exhibited its heavily shielded kaboomability in 1961.

Pack 100 of those babies into your computer model, bomb boffins, and let us know what you come up with. ®

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