This is an excerpt from my new book, War at the Speed of Light. Enjoy!

According to the US Congress’ Office of Technology (OTA) study in 1979, immediate deaths in the United States could range from 70 million to 160 million (35 to 80 percent of the population). Russian fatalities would be approximately 20 to 40 percent lower. Many more in both countries would die from injuries, cancer-related deaths, and psychological trauma. If we update these numbers to reflect the populations as of 2018 and the urbanization of the US, the death toll would even be higher. For example, in 1979, the US had a population of about 225 million, in 2018, 327 million. Much of the growth occurred in urban areas. Today, approximately 80 percent of the US population lives in urban areas. By contrast, Russia’s population has only grown modestly. For example, in 1979, Russia had a population of about 137 million, in 2018, 144 million.

On the surface, even with the increased urbanization of the US, it would appear to suggest that the world and even the combatant nations could survive a full-scale nuclear exchange. However, that is not the case. In addition to the immediate deaths and destruction of cities by nuclear blasts, the potential aftermath of a nuclear war could involve firestorms, widespread radiation sickness from the bombs and radioactive fallout, the loss of modern technology due to electromagnetic pulses (EMPs), and a nuclear winter resulting in worldwide famine.

Deaths from the nuclear blast, firestorms, and radiation are relatively easy to grasp. Deaths from the effects of an EMP blackout and a nuclear winter are more challenging to understand. Therefore, let us discuss each.

We will start by understanding the deaths associated with an EMP blackout. A nuclear detonation causes an electromagnetic pulse, which produces rapidly varying electric and magnetic fields. Those fields cause electrical and electronic systems to experience damaging current and voltage surges resulting in a blackout. [Note: In physics, a current generates a magnetic field, and a magnetic field generates a current.] How severe would an EMP blackout be? A 2017 report, written by EMP expert Peter Vincent Pry, concludes in a widespread EMP attack, “Nine of 10 Americans are dead from starvation, disease, and societal collapse.”

Reading the last line is chilling. Even if portions of the US are not affected by the blast, radiation, and firestorms, “The United States of America ceases to exist” due to the effects of EMPs causing the death of ninety percent of the US residents. According to Pry, Russia calls EMP a “revolution in military affairs.”

Let us discuss nuclear winter and its effects. If you are fortunate enough to survive the nuclear blast, radiation, fallout, and EMP blackout, you are still likely to perish in the coming years. Alan Robock and Owen Brian Toon, in their paper, “Self-assured destruction: The climate impacts of nuclear war,” hypothesized that a thermonuclear war could result in a nuclear winter that would be the end of modern civilization on Earth. The nuclear winter would result from the smoke and soot arising from burning wood, plastics, and petroleum fuels in nuclear-devastated cities. A recent study reported this would result in cooling by about 54–68 degrees Fahrenheit in the core farming regions of the US, Europe, Russia, and China. The cooling would reduce crop yields and lead to a “nuclear famine,” characterized by mass starvation due to disrupted agricultural production and distribution. The simple takeaway message is that modern civilization on Earth would cease to exist, and the remnants of humanity would find themselves struggling to survive.

Conclusion: There would be no winners in a full-scale nuclear exchange between the US and Russia.