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Shall We Play a Game?

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The United States and Russia have more than 12,000 nukes combined. Over 3,000 of those can be launched within 15 minutes’ notice. We avoided annihilation in the Cold War, but what if all-out nuclear war happened today? Princeton’s Program on Science and Global Security, along with Alex Wellerstein of the Stevens Institute of Technology, have created a new realistic nuclear war simulation for a plausible escalation between the U.S. and Russia.

The war would occur in phases, quickly escalating as targets changed from tactical locations to cities. More than 30 million people would die immediately, and twice that many would be injured. Deaths would rise as nuclear fallout settles — this occurs when residual radioactive material propelled into the upper atmosphere falls back to Earth. The long-term effects of an all-out nuclear exchange between the U.S. and Russia would be severe. Fires from burning structures following the blast would inject 300 billion pounds of soot into the atmosphere. This would push temperatures below freezing in the summertime in the Northern Hemisphere, reducing planting season by 90%. Global average surface temperatures would fall by 9 degrees Celsius. And in the U.S., they’d drop 20 degrees C below normal in the Summer, and 35 degrees below normal in Russia.

“PLAN A,” Princeton SGS:


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