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Will there be a thermonuclear war by 2070?


Weapons in which the energy is provided by nuclear fission or fusion have only twice in history been detonated outside of a controlled test environment, in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki events in World War II.

Since then, the world has nearly gone to nuclear war as a result of international conflict (during the Cuban Missile Crisis) and by accident. (Indeed, there have been a number of narrowly-averted accidental nuclear detonations. See this timeline for a sobering look at how close we have come.)

This question (which any sane person will hope resolves negatively) regards the probability that a nuclear war will occur by Jan 1, 2070. (Different questions address this separately, but none directly.) There is a great paucity of public and useful estimates of this probability. See for example this paper for an outline of considerations (but no bottom-line numbers.)

Resolution will be positive if in the context of armed conflict:

  • Three countries each detonate at least 10 nuclear devices of at least 10 kiloton yield outside of their own territory in OR

  • Two countries each detonate at least 50 nuclear devices of at least 10 kiloton yield outside of their own territory.

These conditions are chosen to set aside a two-party regional nuclear war, say between India and Pakistan, or Israel and an adversary, or the UK and France, as disastrous as that would be.

As with many questions with a positive-resolution condition that may preclude being awarded points on Metaculus, predictors are enjoined to predict in good faith, as points will not be awarded until 2075 anyway.

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