Planet Earth in Jeopardy
Environmental Consequences of Nuclear War
Following the SCOPE 28 study on the environmental consequences of nuclear war, Lydia Dotto was commissioned to write a popular account of the material which formed that particular project. The book which she produced is "Planet Earth in Jeopardy". The information and conclusions which SCOPE 28 reached are restated in an essentially readable way without the weight of scientific evidence and detail which formed the bulk of the original two volume book. Attention is focussed on the conclusions, theories and scenarios which the project considered and the likely outcome of nuclear exchange. Like the original project the analysis presents a rational series of scenarios without dwelling on extreme cases and likelihoods, the objective is to provide a realistic picture of the likely consequences. Moving in a logical sequence from nuclear exchange and immediate effects, the text explores the climatic and atmospheric changes induced, radiation and fallout, and then the putative biological consequences. These are then related to agricultural and general ecosystems and the resulting long term damage to recovery assessed.
The final chapter draws the individual effects together and attempts to quantify the effect on human organisation and culture and the likely fate of the survivors.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
For the past few years, books on nuclear war have been proliferating as fast as atomic particles in a fission reaction. If astronomer Carl Sagan is the "Dr. McCoy" of this new subgenre - emotional, sometimes brash, always eloquent, like the character familiar to "Star Trek" fans - then Dotto is the phlegmatic, utterly rational "Mr. Speck." Three years ago, scientists from more than 30 countries were recruited to cull data from state-of-the-art computer models and reach a consensus on the physical and biological effects of a nuclear conflict. Journalist Dotto compressed into one slim volume the two resulting technical tomes commissioned by the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) and published last year. Assuming that only one-half to one-fifth or less of the world's nuclear arsenal was detonated, SCOPE came up with the same dreadful predictions of a "nuclear winter" as other researchers, or "acute climatic disturbance," in its calculatingly passionless prose. This precipitous drop in temperature, lasting weeks or months, would be caused by massive, sooty plumes rising from hundreds of major urban fires and blocking at least 90% of the sunlight that normally falls on the Northern Hemisphere (which would bear the brunt of the bombing). Agricultural productivity worldwide would collapse as temperatures plummeted, rainfall patterns were disrupted, food stockpiles depleted, and distribution systems destroyed. According to SCOPE, mass starvation would cause more deaths than the radiation, fires and the blasts themselves. This book was designed for those looking for matter-of-fact descriptions of Armageddon. As advertised, the writing is relatively "nontechnical," "balanced" and "nonalarmist." It is also graceless and eerily detached. (Kirkus Reviews)