Nobel Physicians Warn Two Billion at Risk from Nuclear Famine

Press release, 10 December 2013

(in association with the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons)

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), the 1985 Nobel Peace Laureate, and its US affiliate Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) today released a new report concluding that two billion people would be at risk of starvation in the event of a limited use of nuclear weapons, such as could occur in a regional war between India and Pakistan, or if just half of a Trident-armed UK submarine were fired.

"A nuclear war using only a fraction of existing arsenals would produce massive casualties on a global scale—far more than we had previously believed," said the report’s author, IPPNW co-president Ira Helfand.

Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People at Risk? updates a study originally written by Dr. Helfand in 2012. Like the previous edition, the report released today is based upon research published by climate scientists who have assessed the impact of nuclear explosions on the Earth’s atmosphere and other ecosystems.

The report comes as momentum builds internationally to recognise that the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons should underpin and accelerate global security and disarmament efforts. In October, 125 nations issued a joint statement at the UN calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons as a humanitarian imperative. Next February, more than 100 nations will convene in Mexico to discuss the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and the need to act internationally to address those dangers.

"This important report has implications for the UK", said Dr Philip Webber of Scientists for Global Responsibility ( "It shows that the firepower carried on just one of Britain’s Trident submarines could cause massive disruption to the world’s food, climate and economies. The so-called deterrent value of Trident is a delusion, since it’s obvious that firing these weapons of mass destruction could never be in our national security or self interest. In order to remove this global threat, we must take Trident and all other nuclear weapons off deployment and negotiate a global treaty banning nuclear weapons."

Referring to the new nuclear famine findings in 2012, former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev underscored that "we must discard Cold War-style plans for the possible use of these weapons and move rapidly to eliminating them from the world's arsenals."

ICAN—the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons—was launched by IPPNW in 2007 and now comprises more than 300 partner organizations in 80 countries campaigning for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons and mandate their elimination. The report published today gives further weight to ICAN’s call to convene negotiations on such a treaty without further delay. (

Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People at Risk? is available at

SGR's previous briefing (from February 2013) on the nuclear weapons threat is available at: /publications/climatic-impacts-and-humanitarian-problems-use-uks-nuclear-weapons

UK Contact:  Rebecca Sharkey 07906 166 299; <>

International Contact: John Loretz <>

Scientists for Global Responsibility is a member organisation of ICAN-UK

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