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Nuclear Attacks Cause Global Temperature Drop

Flourishing Futures Nuclear Risk Horizons Project

Question

Decisions about how much to prioritize nuclear risk reduction and how best to reduce nuclear risk should be guided in part by our best guesses about:

  • how many deaths would occur given a large-scale nuclear exchange

  • what proportion of those deaths would occur fairly soon after the detonations (e.g., from the initial blast and fires) rather than later on (e.g., from fallout or nuclear winter effects)

Potentially useful resources:

If >100 offensive nuclear detonations occur in a single conflict by 2030, will this cause a global temperature drop of ≥3°C?

This question will resolve as Yes if the following two criteria are met:

  1. There is a nuclear conflict with >100 offensive nuclear detonations by January 1, 2030

  2. Average global temperature during the 3 years following the conflict is at least 3°C lower than the average global temperature during the 3 years prior to the conflict.

This question will resolve as ambiguous if there is no nuclear conflict with >100 offensive nuclear detonations by January 1, 2030.

This question will also resolve positively if the first nuclear conflict meeting the above-mentioned condition clearly causes more than this amount of decline in temperature but also causes sufficient civilizational collapse that there are no or extremely few remaining credible sources on any topic. We request that you forecast your true beliefs despite the fact that a Metaculus score seems unlikely to be tracked or cared about in that scenario, given that forecasts on this question may play a role in informing important decisions.

Detonations for testing purposes and peaceful nuclear explosions are not counted towards positive resolution. Test detonations and peaceful nuclear explosions are defined as detonations which are claimed as being a test or a peaceful nuclear explosion by an official government communication within 30 days of the event, without this being disputed by reliable media, state reports, or multinational reports. If information is unclear, then resolution will be left up to Metaculus admins.

In a deliberate detonation, the attacking nation decides to launch one or more nuclear weapons either in response to a genuine nuclear attack or without believing that it is under nuclear attack. “In an inadvertent detonation, the attacking nation mistakenly concludes that it is under nuclear attack and launches one or more nuclear weapons in what it believes is a counterattack” (Barrett et al., 2013). “In an accidental or unauthorized launch or detonation, system safeguards or procedures to maintain control over nuclear weapons fail in such a way that a nuclear weapon or missile launches or explodes without direction from leaders” (Barrett et al., 2013).

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