Mar 16, 2023 I Nick Redfern

Nuclear War: There's Nowhere to Live and Nowhere to Hide

Considering the state of today, I thought I would show you why there is no way to win a nuclear war. No-one can win. America can't win. Russia can't win. China can't win. Sometime ago I was chatting with a few friends whose political views are very different to mine. Put it this way: for me, Biden is the best. One of the things that surprised me, though, as we knocked back the beer, was their approach to the matter of nuclear war. There can hardly be anyone out there who hasn't heard all of the recent statements, concerns, and worries of a nuclear Armageddon and a looming Third World War. The United States, North Korea, China, Russia - everyone is on edge. As we hung out in the bar, I suggested that if the unthinkable should happen it will be the end of civilization - and by that I pretty much meant everywhere. I was, then, amazed, when a couple of my friends said, words to the effect of, "We can beat them all, hands down." You too may have seen this growing and disturbing assumption / trend that, somehow, a nuclear war - involving the major powers of this planet - can somehow be won. Let's be clear on the matter: no-one can win a nuclear war. Period. Hiding in the bathroom, or under the bed, will do you absolutely no good at all when a city-obliterating nuke detonates within a few miles of you. And, if you are "lucky" enough to survive the thousands of nukes that are raining down all across the landscape, there's the matter of deadly radiation to deal with too. Add to that, starvation, gangs of people desperate for food and who will kill to get what they need to survive,  and rampant disease and no fresh water, and the picture is hardly a positive one.

Anyone who thinks that riding out a nuclear attack is possible is sadly deluding themselves. Complete and utter chaos, overwhelming destruction, terror, fear, hysteria and - most of all - death on scales almost unimaginable - on both sides - will be the order of the day. And for the next few hundred years. Society will quickly collapse and the "every man for himself" approach will become the rule of law. Lives will be cut short as a result of the radiation. Malnutrition and illness will take more. Many will likely take their own lives. The fact is that no nuclear-armed nation on the planet can launch its missiles without the other side knowing - and responding - in quick-time. And, their missiles will be high in the skies before ours even arrive (and vice-versa). So, for anyone who thinks that kicking the ass of the other side is going to be a breeze, wise up. No one will win. Most of us will die. Civilization, as we know it, will not recover. In its place will be a grim world filled with irradiated people, probably in states of mental collapse, and barely able to operate.

(U.S. Department of Energy) The thing we never want to see: a giant, radioactive mushroom cloud over our heads. As the photo above was taken by an employee of the U.S. government, it is in the public domain.

If you want to find out what the reality of a nuclear war would really be like, you should watch a 1984 BBC production called Threads. There's a good (and very welcome) reason why I mention this decades-old show now. Years ago, there was a VHS version. But, who bothers with VHS today? Next to no-one, of course! But, the good news is that there's a Blu-ray edition of Threads. You really should watch it. Nuclear war has been portrayed in many memorable productions, including Dr. Strangelove, The Day After, and a 1960s-era show of the BBC, The War Game - which was banned from being broadcast not just for years but for decades. The Day After gave its viewers at least some hope that life will go on and the human race will overcome the apocalypse. Threads gave them no hope. Instead, Threads gave the viewers just about the worst possible scenario: a world in ruins and billions dead. In other words, Threads gave us a reality. A terrifying reality.

I was a teenager when I watched Threads, and in the days leading up to the broadcast, the show was highlighted significantly. Everyone I knew was going to settle in their chairs and watch it. And they did. And I think just about everyone had a sleepless night afterwards, realizing what nuclear war would really be like. In fact, it would be worse. I remember there was nothing but talk of Threads for the next few days at the warehouse where I worked. Everyone was asking the same question: "Did you see Threads?" And the memories continued to linger. As I write these words, they have come back. Of course, being more than thirty years old, the show's special-effects are not on a par with what we expect to see today. But, that doesn't matter. The power of Threads comes from the fact that the story follows, largely, the lives and deaths of two families - families just like mine, yours, and those of everyone else. Children are vaporized. Babies are burned to a cinder. A terrified woman uncontrollably pisses herself in downtown as a huge mushroom cloud appears in the distance. You get the picture: it's not a pretty one. But, it is one that we all need to see.

Being a docudrama, Threads informs the viewer of the numbers of deaths in the U.K.: tens of millions dead,  millions more injured, and who knows how many terribly burned and irradiated. There is no government. There is no society. There are just straggling survivors living on whatever they can find, such as, in one example, the raw remains of a decaying, dead sheep. As the show gets to its latter stages, the story jumps forward more than a decade. Children born into the new world are stunted. They barely use words and have no concept or understanding of the world that existed not much more than ten years earlier.  Those who were adults when the war broke out are still blighted by psychological trauma and they lack an ability to function properly. I could go on and on. But, I'll change things shortly and say that if you are one of those who thinks that a nuclear war can be won, you are deluded in the extreme. Watch Threads and you'll see why.

Moving on: there's an equally lethal thing if nuclear should happen. As you'll see now. In 2000, the late Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet premier - who, thirty years ago, and along with the United States’ President Ronald Reagan, sought to bring the Cold War to a close – said:  “In the 1980s, you warned about the unprecedented dangers of nuclear weapons and took very daring steps to reverse the arms race. 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." So, what, exactly, is a nuclear winter? Let’s see. We’ll begin with the aforementioned decade of the 1980s, which was when the concept – and the doom-filled implications - of a nuclear winter really began to take shape on a large scale. Today’s atomic weapons have the ability to obliterate entire cities and millions of people in seconds. Compared to atomic weapons of the 21st century, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are mere tinkertoys. Bringing worldwide civilization to an end is something that is all too easily within our grasp, should we be so foolish to one day go down that nightmarish path. But, it’s not just the immediate effects of an atomic war that we have to be concerned about. There are the long-term effects, too. Yes, trying to protect oneself from both the initial blast and the soon-to-be-everywhere deadly radiation would be absolutely paramount to one’s survival. There is, however, something else to be aware of. 

Such would be the massive scale of destruction in an atomic war, millions upon millions of tons of dust, dirt, soot, and the ash-like remains of probably five or six billion people, buildings and more would be sucked into the huge, great, firestorms erupting all across the quickly-shattering globe. In no time at all, the dense, cloudy, worldwide masses would quickly reach the stratosphere, which is situated around six to eight miles above the planet’s surface. And that’s when the poor, irradiated and burned survivors of the war would have something else to deal with. As if billions dead and killer-radiation weren’t enough to have on one’s plate. Such would be the almost unfathomable amount of sooty materials quickly overwhelming the planet’s entire stratosphere, we would see a sudden and devastating change in temperatures. We’re not talking about the temperature merely dropping. We’re talking about it plummeting. As in almost off the scale, as the rays and heat of the sun become systematically blocked out, all as a result of our stupidity and recklessness.

In 1985, the National Research Council published a groundbreaking report titled The Effects on the Atmosphere of a Major Nuclear Exchange. Its conclusions – which were prepared by the Committee on the Atmospheric Effects of Nuclear Explosions - were chilling and included the following words: “The realization that a nuclear exchange would be accompanied by the deposition into the atmosphere of particulate matter is not new. However, the suggestion that the associated attenuation of sunlight might be so extensive as to cause severe drops in surface air temperatures and other major climatic effects in areas that are far removed from target zones is of rather recent origin” (Committee on the Atmospheric Effects of Nuclear Explosions, 1985). The committee also noted that, “the massive species extinctions of 65 million years ago were part of the aftermath of the lofting of massive quantities of particulates resulting from the collision of a large meteor with the earth.” A clear warning that by engaging in atomic warfare on a planetary scale, we risk going the same way as the dinosaurs – all as a result of significant changes to the planet’s temperature."

We also have this from the committee: “The consequences of any such changes in atmospheric state would have to be added to the already sobering list of relatively well-understood consequences of nuclear war…Long-term atmospheric consequences imply additional problems that are not easily mitigated by prior preparedness and that are not in harmony with any notion of rapid postwar restoration of social structure. They also create an entirely new threat to populations far removed from target areas, and suggest the possibility of additional major risks for any nation that itself initiates use of nuclear weapons, even if nuclear retaliation should somehow be limited.” In light of all the above, to what extent would the Earth’s temperature be lowered?

(Nick Redfern) If there is one place to hide out when the missiles are launched, it's probably going to be the underground part of Area 51. But, even that would probably be destroyed. I am, of course, just providing a little bit of relief in such a terrifying atmosphere.

A chilling – no pun intended - statement comes from Dr. Alan Robock, a professor of climatology in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University. He says: “A minor nuclear war (such as between India and Pakistan or in the Middle East), with each country using 50 Hiroshima-sized atom bombs as airbursts on urban areas, could produce climate change unprecedented in recorded human history. This is only 0.03% of the explosive power of the current global arsenal." Consider carefully, Dr. Robock’s words. He makes it very clear the survivors of an atomic war would experience, “…climate change unprecedented in recorded human history.” And all this with only 0.03% of the world’s atomic weapons being used. Imagine, then, the effects if all of the remaining, massive percentage was used – and not just in the India-Pakistan area, or in the Middle East, but just about everywhere. It’s not at all inconceivable that we would see our world plunged into nothing less than a full-blown Ice Age, never mind just a nuclear winter.

So, the fact is that no-one can win a nuclear war. And no-one should want to start a nuclear war. There is absolutely no way to win. Period. And, one more thing: sit down and watch Threads.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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