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Can Earth Recover After Nuclear War? (How Long It Takes)

With political and world tensions, there is an underlying fear of nuclear war. Although there are multiple treaties that should stop that from occurring, it is still a possibility. So, could the Earth and civilization potentially recover from a nuclear war?

The Earth can recover from a nuclear war. Most people speculate that it would take 3-10 years for some of the devastation to be overcome. This number often shifts when considering recovery in areas like reconstruction, overall healthcare, and economic downfall.

However, mutually assured destruction (MAD) is a much more complicated theoretical issue. It is important to examine the immediate results of nuclear war, how it would impact the world on an ecological level, how it would impact the human population and world systems, and how people and the world could recover.

An illustration showing fire on a bridge and the devastation of a nuclear attack

Immediate Results of Nuclear War

It’s important to start looking at what happens when the first bomb drops. Most likely, regardless of what country is releasing the bomb, another country will return the blow. The number of bombs released will have a big impact on the amount of instant damage caused. It is estimated that 100 million people would die from the blasts in a battle of nukes.

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However, even countries that are unaffected physically by the conflict will find that the soot and smoke released will completely block off the sky. This will cause oceans and other bodies of water to decrease in temperature by an estimated 13 degrees Fahrenheit and cause massive crop failure. The sudden drop in temperature and crop loss is estimated to kill 1-2 billion people who rely on those crops for food or are not prepared for a temperature drop that exceeds that of the Last Ice Age.

For those who survive the blasts, the world outside will be completely different. Buildings located at or near the center of the blasts would be almost completely destroyed. The electromagnetic pulses caused by the nuclear war would likely destroy most major electrical systems. Much of modern life would be lost.

The most shocking aspect of the immediate effects of the bomb would be a large number of causalities. There is no need to go into the gruesome, gory details. It is enough to say that it would be post-apocalyptic with a lack of graves for the people who have passed. It is likely people would have to deal with an increase in bugs and try to work around a fallen population during recovery.

Destroyed city in war post-apocalyptic abstract

How Would Nuclear War Affect World Ecology?

One of the big issues that would be hard to overcome after a nuclear war is that the water would never return to the temperatures we enjoy right now. Beyond the beach trips being non-existent, this could completely eradicate an entire food resource. The cold and lack of sunlight would kill marine algae, which will eliminate almost all fish and their food sources. Fish would likely be a thing of the past.

Beyond the ocean, the lack of sunlight would kill most plants worldwide. Some would survive as long as they don’t use photosynthesis to survive. These plants may thrive. However, similar to marine algae, base plants that feed the bottom of the food chain would become extinct. Unless herbivores found a new food source, they would die off, causing a chain reaction.

Many animals would be extinct within a small period of time after the bomb dropped. Some carnivorous species may survive by using human causalities as a food source. How long that food source would last for carnivores is not predicted. The ridiculously large number of deaths that would occur would also supply a new source of food for decomposers like bugs and vultures. These groups of animals would explode in numbers.

Related The 12 Safest Places to Live in the World in a Nuclear War.

How Would Nuclear War Impact the Human Population?

It is predicted the first and largest issue that humankind would face is a lack of ability to take care of their health. There would be limited resources in medicines, food, and water, as we can’t safely use radiated items.

Radiation would be a huge issue that could cause many health problems long term. Those in bomb shelters and other places that emerge after the blast would likely have illnesses from a lack of waste removal. The spread of illness would accelerate due to the increase in bug carriers and the lack of vaccines and medical resources. It is likely pandemics will occur and kill many.

This dire situation would destroy many social systems. Under crisis, a new social system would emerge based on local populations. Things would be largely determined by personal connections and the allocation of resources, like medicine and food, and survival skills. It is a fair assessment that people would turn on one another and be unwilling to support other groups. The presence or lack of international assistance would change the social systems as well.

How Would Nuclear Impact World Systems?

Cat and parrot with gas masks an an apocalyptic background

The temperature of the water would create large quantities of ice, many of which are anticipated to block global ports. This would wreck much of humanity’s economic state, as shipping different resources globally would be exponentially more challenging and potentially impossible.

The electrical system would be toast, so it would be incredibly hard to communicate with people over long distances. It is likely that it would send world systems back to times prior to globalization.

How People and the Earth Could Possibly Recover from Nuclear War

The Earth is relatively resilient and has overcome many large devastations before, like the Ice Ages and many global extinctions. It would take years to repair itself, and it might be able to not support the same life forms even after it fully recovers. However, there could be additional life forms that survive or evolve to live in this environment.

People may not be able to recover. It is simply a matter of how people are prepared for MAD and how they react after the war. With human tenacity and adaptability, it is possible that people would find a way to repair the systems that have gotten humanity to the place it is now. It is unlikely that complete recovery would occur in a lifetime, but it may happen within several lifetimes. It all just depends on if the basic needs of humanity can be met in a timely manner.

All of this is just speculation on what exactly would happen if nuclear war occurred. All we can hope is that, looking at the long-lasting effects of nuclear war, countries and world leaders will continue to choose to avoid mutually assured destruction at all costs.

For more, check out US Nuclear Target Map: Most Safe and Unsafe Areas.