Contemporary and Social Issues Science, Medicine and Technology

From Global Warming to Nuclear Winter: Is It Too Late For the Human Race?

In the first part of this article, we are briefly introduced to two of the leading threats to humanity, i.e. global warming and nuclear winter, and then presented with a longer overview of the latter scenario. In the second part, there is a stark warning from a man of God, followed by a plea to political leaders to do better to avert global catastrophe.

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Professor Amtul Razzaq Carmichael, UK

There is unequivocal evidence that the ongoing global warming crisis is impacting humans and animals across the globe. Due to increased emissions and the accumulation of greenhouse gases from human activities, our shared home, planet Earth, is undergoing a steady rise in temperature, leading to global warming. It is alarming to note that all ten of the hottest years on record have occurred within the last decade, with 2023 marking the hottest year to date.[i] Instances of unseasonal rains, floods, and consistent temperature rises are increasingly common, underscoring the pressing need for substantial shifts towards simpler and more sustainable lifestyle practices. These changes are crucial to prevent a catastrophe of unprecedented magnitude.[ii]

While actions are being taken to address climate change, the looming threat of nuclear war confronts us with a peril that could potentially lead to the near annihilation of humanity. If the threat of nuclear war were to materialise, which seems increasingly likely, then early death and destruction will be followed by an unprecedented nuclear winter.

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A nuclear winter refers to the cooling of a substantial portion of the Earth due to the contamination of the atmosphere by nuclear soot resulting from a large-scale use of nuclear weapons[iii]. The smoke particles generated by a nuclear explosion would ascend to altitudes ranging from four to nine kilometres, forming a dense layer that obstructs the passage of sunlight. This would lead to a significant reduction in Earth’s temperature. Estimates suggest that after a full-scale nuclear war, there could be a cooling effect of approximately 2-6°C globally, lasting for up to around 2 to 3 years.[iv] The repercussions of these changes of  nuclear winter, are extensively documented and pose severe threats to all aspects of biological life, the environment, and agriculture. It is estimated that mass starvation would be an inevitable consequence of nuclear winter. In fact, projections suggest that a nuclear conflict involving major powers like the United States and Russia could lead to the deaths of 5-6 billion people due to starvation alone. This staggering figure represents approximately three-quarters of humanity, highlighting the catastrophic impact of a nuclear war on human existence.[v]

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The detonation of the world’s vast arsenal of nuclear weapons, totalling over 60,000, would also unleash a substantial amount of toxic nitrous oxides into the atmosphere. Toxic nitrous oxides would remain in the stratosphere for several years, before natural processes gradually remove them. [vi] These nitrous oxides pose a significant threat to the stratospheric ozone layer, which acts as the Earth’s protective shield against harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Their presence can lead to the degradation of the ozone layer, allowing a heightened influx of highly damaging UV rays into the lower atmosphere. This increase in UV radiation can have serious consequences for human health, ecosystem stability, and overall environmental well-being.[vii]

His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), the Supreme Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has been warning against a nuclear armageddon for more than a decade. Expressing his sorrow at the state of the world today, His Holiness stated, “For many years, I have warned of the risks of a full-scale world war and have spoken of how its deadly and destructive consequences are far beyond our comprehension. Having long warned of such a war, I take no satisfaction in the fact that we are moving ever closer to it and that others are now expressing similar sentiments and fears. Rather, I feel only grief and anguish as I see the world hurtling ever faster towards a terrifying world war in which the lives of millions of innocent people will be lost or permanently destroyed.” His Holiness continued, “What kind of future will we leave behind to those who are yet to come? Instead of bestowing a legacy of peace and prosperity to our future generations, our parting gift to them will be nothing except death, destruction and misery. Certainly, it is my grave fear that today’s geopolitical tensions could spiral out of all control and ultimately lead to a nuclear war…”[viii]

Ms. Setsuko Thurlow is awarded the Ahmadiyya Muslim Prize for the Advancement of Peace by His Holiness. Ms. Thurlow was 13 when she experienced first-hand the devastation a nuclear attack can cause, surviving the attack in Hiroshima, Japan. She has used her experience to campaign for nuclear disarmament. During the keynote address, His Holiness addressed the dangers of perpetuating a nuclear arms race.

While a nuclear war holds immense destructive potential, it is not an inevitability. We possess the ability to halt our trajectory towards self-destruction. Despite the absence of significant technical barriers to dismantle man-made nuclear devices, the primary obstacle lies in the profound lack of political will to eliminate these lethal weapons. We long for political leadership capable of decisively pulling the world back from the brink of an impending nuclear catastrophe and translating this resolve with tangible actions. Let’s conclude with the heartfelt prayers of His Holiness, “Thus, with all my heart, I pray that may Allah the Almighty have mercy upon humanity and may the people of the world, especially its leaders and policymakers, see sense before it is too late.” [ix]

About the Author: Professor Amtul Razzaq Carmichael MD, M Ed, FRCS (Gen Surg.), MBBS, is a consultant. She qualified in 1987 with gold medals for academic Excellence and undertook her surgical training at major teaching hospitals in London, Edinburgh and Philadelphia. She has authored many articles for major peer-reviewed scientific journals. She is a senior member of The Review of Religions Editorial Board as well as the Assistant Manager.



[iii] Crutzen, P. J., and J. W. Birks. 1982. The atmosphere after a nuclear war: Twilight at noon. Ambio 11:114-125


[v] Xia L, Robock A, Scherrer K, Harrison CS, Bodirsky BL, Weindl I, Jägermeyr J, Bardeen CG, Toon OB, Heneghan R. Global food insecurity and famine from reduced crop, marine fishery and livestock production due to climate disruption from nuclear war soot injection. Nature Food. 2022;3:586–96.


[vii] Nuclear Winter: The State of the Science – The Medical Implications of Nuclear War – NCBI Bookshelf (