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11 ways the world (as we know it) could end

By: Laura Moss on Feb. 16, 2011, 10:20 a.m.
man wearing mask for protection from nuclear fallout

Photo: Zhenikeyev/iStockphoto

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Nuclear war

The Cold War is over, but the threat of nuclear war still exists today, with a number of countries possessing the capability of deploying such destructive devices. In addition to threats from the explosion and radiation, there are also indirect effects such as contaminated food and water supplies, poor air quality, destruction of power grids affecting communication and transportation, and nuclear winter.

It’s been theorized that detonating nuclear weapons will cause large amounts of smoke, soot and debris to enter Earth’s stratosphere, reducing sunlight for months or even years. Such a nuclear winter would result in severe cold temperatures and interference in food production. In 2007, scientists Brian Toon and Alan Robock concluded that if India and Pakistan were to launch 50 nuclear weapons at each other, the entire planet could experience 10 years of smoke clouds and a three-year temperature drop.