Actually, All Nuclear Famine Papers are Bunk

After doing a bit of digging, I’m pretty convinced that nuclear famine was never a thing to begin with. Maybe back during the Cold War, when the Soviets were seriously considering ground-bursting thousands of warheads across the American corn belt to knock out missile silos, but that’s not the world we live in anymore. With modern C&C , they simply can’t realistically expect to destroy those sites before launch. I’ve heard Peter Zaihan and alarmists say things like “the world only has 2 months’ worth of food in reserve” and assumed they were right, but the numbers say otherwise. For this analysis, I’m using this USDA report.

This is dried grain stored across the United States. Soon, after the autumn harvest, the US will have more than 400 million tons of dried grains in storage. They range from 3000-4000 kcal per kg. Assuming an average daily consumption of 2000 kcal per person per day and a population of 330 million, that’s around half a decade’s worth of food from this stockpile alone. Most of it goes to animal feed/​ethanol under normal circumstances. Even a worst-case scenario in September still gives a 90 million-ton stockpile, which is enough to feed America for more than a year. And at that point the grain is in the field, almost ready for harvest. This isn’t an emergency stockpile, it’s just what farmers have lying around to arbitrage against harvest-related price fluctuations. There are also plenty of other foodstuffs in the American food supply chain, stockpiles of other foods, the FEMA food stockpile, and so on, but it is pretty incredible most analyses of nuclear famine don’t take even this into account. At this point, I’m convinced the entire field is based on active misrepresentations for anti-nuclear messaging and was never at any point interested in honest inquiry.

The nuclear famine paper I analyzed earlier lied about this, by the way, implying that existing food stockpiles would only increase food availability in the first year. I am awestruck that this isn’t more well-known when people talk about casualty projections from nuclear war.

Addendum: Denkenberger posted two papers he wrote in regards to a 150Tg nuclear exchange scenario (worst case scenario, total targeting of cities). As far as I can tell, although the developed world doesn’t come close to famine and there is theoretically enough food to feed everyone on Earth, the increase in food prices can cause large-scale famine in developing countries in the absence of international aid.

Correction: Denkenberger posted two papers he wrote in regards to a 150Tg nuclear exchange scenario (worst case scenario, total targeting of cities). Feeding everyone on Earth is possible, assuming massive scaling up of resilient foods (requires more planning and piloting to be likely) and continued international trade (uncertain). I agree that food/​fertilizer/​fossil fuel export bans may well occur after a nuclear exchange.