That one apocalyptic nuclear famine paper is bunk
I’ve seen a few commentors and bloggers cite this study from Nature Food to explain why they think nuclear war may lead to the collapse of civilization in event of a full nuclear exchange between the US and Russia. I read it and updated towards Nature Food being a publication with
bad terrible editorial standards more than anything else.
The Apocalypse is Bad at Math
Wow, 5 Billion people dead. That’s pretty bad. It actually projects 99% population reduction in China, the US, and Russia due to a 90% reduction in global farm yields. But let’s break down those numbers. Firstly, how did they even get those crop yield numbers? Well, it turns out they assumed a 10 degrees C decrease in temperatures in the northern hemisphere, and then assumed no change in the crop selection and area under cultivation.
This isn’t just bad statistics. It’s intentionally misleading. Of course, if temperatures drop 10 degrees and people do literally nothing in response crop yields will decrease massively. But that’s not how human beings work. They will increase land under cultivation in the tropics, clear-cut the Amazon, and do whatever it takes to get food production going again. Obviously, they will switch to more cold-resistant crops rather than lose 100% of their harvest to frost. These assumptions are terrible. Garbage in, garbage out.
This is a bad paper. Other scientists in the field know it’s a bad paper, which is why almost no one has cited it. It’s a scaremongering piece designed to push a denuclearization agenda and is used as clickbait by journalists. Its bad assumptions make it basically useless. Please don’t take any apocalyptic nuclear starvation scenarios based on it seriously. I am utterly astounded that a journal like Nature let this one through. I will definitely try to publish in Nature Food in the future.