GCRI Nuclear War Group Discusses Nuclear Winter

On Thursday 8 November 2012, GCRI hosted the third of a series of discussions among a group of nuclear war scholars. This discussion focused on the topic of nuclear winter.

Meeting participants included Martin Hellman of Stanford, Benoit Pelopidas of Bristol, James Scouras of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, George Michael of the U.S. Air Force’s Air War College, and Tony Barret, Seth Baum, Jacob Haqq-Misra, and Tim Maher, all of GCRI.

The group discussed several aspects of nuclear winter. A key question is how severe nuclear winter would be. While there is consensus that nuclear winter would occur and would be quite damaging, the extent of the damage is unclear.

Another question is how nuclear winter influences strategic planning. For example, it appears that Mikhail Gorbachev was influenced by earlier nuclear winter research. However, Gorbachev was already inclined to oppose nuclear war, and so the nuclear winter research may have just reinforced his existing views, along the lines of status quo bias.

Likewise a final question is what further nuclear winter research would be useful to conduct at this point. A climate modeling research group lead by Alan Robock and others has produced interesting results, but it may help to have research from other groups using other approaches in order to get different perspectives on the topic. Meanwhile psychology research could help clarify why action on nuclear winter is or isn’t being taken – research like what Katherine Thompson presented in a recent GCRI talk.

In other news, group member Martin Hellman has two new blog posts up: War Games and Nuclear Risk and JFK’s Airstrike Speech.

For the previous GCRI nuclear war group discussion, see Tony Barrett Gives CSIS Practice Talk On Inadvertent Nuclear War To GCRI Nuclear War Group and GCRI Hosts Discussion Of Nuclear War.

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Seth Baum is Executive Director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute.
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