This is awful. A science writer and video producer who decided Christmas Eve is just the right time to publish a video claiming FALSELY that a small nuclear exchange of 100 nuclear weapons would destroy all world agriculture for decades. This is based on an old paper from 1983 which was treated with skepticism at the time and now is known to be incorrect, combined with more recent research from 2014 that is disputed because of it preloads the model with high levels of soot in the stratosphere, levels which most modern studies do not support.
He claims that 2 months after the exchange, the average global surface temperature would be -25°C.
This temperature forecast is based on a 1983 paper for an all out exchange of all the nuclear weapons of both US and Russia, their minimum scenario if cities and oil refineries were targeted rather than military targets. In that case they considered it might be possible if the two sides exchanged 100 MT of 100 Kt bombs, or 1,000 nuclear warheads each.
It was based on early primitive computer models and made many assumptions now known to be false. The paper is here.
And twenty years later he claims plants would begin to grow again but so slowly that five years correspond to a single growing season
Then in case we haven’t got the message, he reiterates at the end that all this could happen with just 100 nuclear weapons.
He ends the video saying that we have 16,000 nuclear weapons world wide. And that’s it. No nuclear disarmament message. Nothing positive about it at all.
The video itself is here. by Hashem Al-Ghaili
It now has 3.2 million views and 4.2 thousand shares.
This is based on out of date science. There continues to be some dispute about whether the effect of an all out exchange would be a nuclear "autumn" or no effect at all or something in between but the nuclear winter is ruled out. There has never been any suggestion that a limited exchange of 100 nuclear weapons would lead to a global nuclear winter as far as I know.
The later paper he cites by Toon and Robock is 3D and quite detailed, except they didn't model the actual fires themselves. They just started their model from a later stage pre-loaded with carbon smoke in the atmosphere and then ran it forward. So it made lots of assumptions about the effects of the fires, just built into the starting conditions, and is disputed. It gets its data about the soot in the upper atmosphere from those earlier pre-Kuwaiti fire simulations.
So it is a mixture of a now disproved theory with a disputed theory criticized for being simplified by pre-loading the atmosphere with the carbon smoke in ways that the more modern studies on the soot say wouldn't happen.
More about it here Doomsday Debunked - Nibiru Is Nuts - What About Nuclear War, Asteroid Impacts, Runaway Warming,... which goes into this scenario of 100 nuclear weapons.
ON THE NUCLEAR SCENARIO
The original paper from 2014 looked at a scenario involving an all out exchange between India and Pakistan - both nuclear powers and neighbours that could perhaps in a worst case scenario end up in a nuclear exchange. Nowadays most people watching this video would be scared instead of an exchange involving North Korea.
The North Korean situation has been sensationalized and over hyped in the media to the extent that many are scared it could lead to WWIII.
The thing to bear in mind here is that Kim Jong Un is not mad. He is ruthless but rational. There is no sign at all that he is delusional or suicidal - there’s a difference.
He developed his nuclear weapons as a deterrent when the negotiations with the US broke down. His aim is to prevent the US from invading NK or toppling his regime. It would no longer be a deterrent if used, so he loses big time if he ever uses his nuclear weapons. It would make all their long process of developing the weapons useless. The US also has no military options in Korea - because of the large numbers of civilian US residents and the many US tourists there. Tens of thousands of civilians in a beautiful country, a tourist attraction, soon to be host to the 2018 winter Olympics. There is no way Trump could launch an attack that would threaten those tens of thousands of US civilians without warning them first and evacuating them - which would have vast repercussions. Despite what some of the media reports say, both sides are clearly bluffing. And China does not support North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. It’s a nightmare scenario for them also, and the main reason they are dragging their feet in sanction discussions is because they don’t want to have millions of North Korean refugees, with their strange Chendoism ideology (based on Confucianism) streaming into China.
Although on paper China has a mutual defence pact with North Korea, in the modern circumstances it is clear they would not honour it. There is no way they would join NK in a nuclear war against the US. Nor would Russia. China would want to preserve a 50 km wide strip of North Korea along their border but beyond that, they don’t care.
For a skeptical perspective on a NK / US nuclear war, see my posts:
- North Korean - Likely Used Light Mock Warhead To Fly Further&Not About To Invade South Korea Or US Invade NK
- Did you know: North Korea is not communist - nobody else wants them to have nuclear weapons - and their leader is not mad
- Why Trump can’t really be planning a surprise attack on North Korea - unless he evacuates US civilians from South Korea first
WHO IS THE AUTHOR OF THE VIDEO?
He is one of the new generation of authors who become known through viral sharing in social media - like the YouTubers, but in his case he has become famous through Facebook.
“German Chancellor Angela Merkel is followed by 2.3 million people; Hashem Al-Ghaili by more than 8 million. On Facebook the graduate of Jacobs University, who was born in Yemen and now lives in Bremen, Germany, is a star. In his videos, he explains the world of science in a vivid and entertaining manner and tells about the latest scientific breakthroughs and technological achievements. His page, which has garnered over three billion views from around the world, is known to his fans as the “Science Nature Page”.
He is director general of Futurism, a website that covers many topics in the field of emerging technology.
He is not earning anything from the videos directly. Also, he is not someone who specializes in Doomsday stories. He posts videos on a wide range of science topics.
This is about him on Wikipedia, with a few more details: Hashem Al-Ghaili - Wikipedia
I am involved in helping people who get scared of Doomsday stories. Every day I get many PM's from them and it’s common to get messages from young children, or young adults with babies (the most affected) who are scared and having panic attacks, and it’s not unusual for them to be suicidal too, to say in their message that they have contemplated suicide or are feeling suicidal.
I dread to think how many of those 3.2 million people may have had panic attacks as a result of watching this video or may even be right now contemplating suicide as a result. That’s why I feel it is important to call people out when they make videos like this, and try to get more public attention to the problem of Doomsday videos and stories, and their effect on our society. I don’t think they are aware of the possible consequences of their actions in most cases.
MY LETTER TO HIM
I’ve posted it as a comment on the video, commenting on his list of sources. I got no reply from him, and his video continues to ramp up millions of views. So, I thought I’d do it as a public letter here. Perhaps he will pay more attention if it is posted here. Also, perhaps there is a chance to explain to at least a few of those millions of people who must have got scared of it over Christmas - that it is just sensationalist and false.
He does not permit urls in the comments, so the original doesn’t have urls. That’s the only change, apart from indentation and italics. So, here is my message to him. The original comment is here. (you may have to click "read" below the video to see it).
Dear Hashem Al-Ghaili
These papers need to be read with caution. Sadly, your video is based on out of date science from 1983 and a later paper that is controversial for the way it preloads the model with soot.
Your 1983 paper with the -25°C average temperatures is based on work with early primitive 1D models and very low resolution 3D models and based on many assumptions about how smoke from the fires would move in the atmosphere. These models had a lot of influence on thinking about the cold war and were widely respected and believed at the time, by the likes of Carl Sagan etc. Carl Sagan is a co-author.
However later their models were proved to be wrong with the Kuwaiti oil fires which did not behave as they predicted. Even at the time there was a lot of skepticism with some scientists seeing them as politically motivated.
For instance there is a very skeptical paper from 1986, published in Nature, just 3 years after the one you used
Emanuel, K. A. "Nuclear winter: Towards a scientific exercise." Nature 319.6051 (1986): 259-259.
There is a scathing paper in Nature from 2011 with some of the history
Seitz, Russell. "Nuclear winter was and is debatable." Nature 475.7354 (2011): 37-37.
For instance see the section:
"As the truth slowly emerged, private skepticism turned often to public outrage, and not just among the "hawks." Prof. George Rathjens of MIT, chairman of the Council for a Livable World, offered this judgement: 'Nuclear Winter is the worst example of the misrepresentation of science to
the public in my memory' "
He is quoting from this paragraph by George Rathjens published in 1986:
"But in February 1986, NCAR's Dr. Schneider quietly informed a gathering at the NASA-Ames Laboratory that Nuclear Winter had succumbed to scientific progress and that, "in a severe" 6,500-megaton strategic exchange, "The Day After" might witness July temperatures upwards of 50-plus degrees Fahrenheit in mid-America. The depths of Nuclear Winter could no longer easily be distinguished from the coolest days of summer."
Also that 1983 paper you cite with the -25°C figure is for an all out exchange of the nuclear weapons of US and Russia during the cold war.
The other papers you list are indeed, as you say, based on a model of a limited exchange of nuclear weapons (say for Pakistan and India) - and this model was 3D and quite detailed. However they didn't model the actual fires themselves, or the way the cities burn, or lofting of soot into the atmosphere or the interactions of the soot with water vapour in the atmosphere.
They just started their model with the atmosphere pre-loaded with soot and then ran it forward. It gets its data about the soot in the upper atmosphere from those earlier pre-Kuwaiti fire simulations.
And note that even in this paper, with all its assumptions about soot lofted high in the atmosphere, the temperature decreases for a small scale nuclear war are several degrees below current temperatures, not a reduction of tens of degrees to the -25°C average global temperature you give in the video - even based on those assumptions.
So your video has used a mixture of a now disproved theory with a disputed theory criticized for being simplified by pre-loading the atmosphere with the carbon smoke in ways that many more modern studies on the soot say wouldn't happen.
For a critical review of the ideas of nuclear winter see page 205 and following of William Cohen'is 2007 book.
Cotton, William R., and Roger A. Pielke Sr. Human impacts on weather and climate. Cambridge University Press, 2007.
He is an expert who started off by supporting the nuclear winter models but doesn't any more. (Many of the pages are made available for public viewing, enough to get a good idea of his main points). He mentions other information about large scale fires such as the Dresden bombing and forest fires which again do not inject large amounts of soot into the stratosphere.
It's an understandable mistake. I can understand accepting what is said in these articles "as is".
But this is a topic that can scare many people. I actually am involved in helping many people including young children and young adults with babies who get extremely scared and sometimes suicidal by these stories. I run a Facebook group to support them, "Doomsday Debunked" and I write blog posts on the topic for my Science 2.0 blog and on Quora.
Amongst the 3.2 million views of this video it's entirely possible that you have reached a few viewers who were on the verge of suicide, and you have certainly reached many who get frequent panic attacks about Doomsday scenarios.
I know you write on many topics. But please do take care about potential Doomsday scenarios, that you keep the articles accurate, I'd like to suggest that particularly for topics like this that scare many people that it is important to have robust checks for out of date science and articles critical of your sources.
And Christmas Eve was the worst possible date you could have released it as this is a time when the people I help are especially prone to panic attacks and a time when such stories are shared widely by people who were looking forward to a happy Christmas and have their hopes dashed by fear the world is about to end.
There was nothing topical in the video either. The most recent research was from several years ago. There is no way this is "breaking news", and no reason at all to release it on Christmas eve. Why did you do it?
Your video doesn't even end with a nuclear disarmament message, as was the political goal of the original proponents of nuclear winter, and indeed Toon and Robock also have this as an aim (see the interview with them "Nuclear Winter with Alan Robock and Brian Toon" for the "Future of Life Institute"
It just reads as a "you are doomed" type video with no attempt to look at anything positive at all.
Please consider the effects of such videos on suicidal children and adults. Some may well even be contemplating suicide as a result of watching a video like this.
See also List of the articles in my Debunking Doomsday blog to date and you can try searching that page for a word like “Nibiru” or “Yellowstone” or whatever to find articles of interest.
Also if you want to help make a difference, you can sign and share these petitions- and do have a look at the comments to get an idea of the scale of the problem. Click “Join Conversation” to see more of them.
- To Google - please do something about the nonsense in Google News!
- To Youtube: Halt Ads on Doomsday Videos
- To Journalists: Debunk Rather than Dramatize "Doomsday" Stories - The Vulnerable Get Suicidal
You may also be interested in my:
- Google News Without The Nonsense. It’s much the same as Google News, with the sensationalist nonsense fake news filtered out. Try sorting it “by relevance” as well as “by date”
And if you need help - well message me of course and comment on any of these posts - and you can also join our Facebook group Doomsday Debunked. .
You can post there about stories that scare you and get replies from others who help debunk them. Or you can join the No Scary Posts version which only gives debunks (you can use PM's to ask for a post to be debunked).