Let's say you have the entirety of Earth's nuclear stockpile at your disposal (you don't have to use it all, and if you need it there's an infinite supply of extra ICBMs) and that every weapon you fire will have 100% accuracy as to where it explodes.

Is there any way these explosions could take place without causing any environmental (or at the very least Limited) damage to the planet's environment?

I'd imagine the problems with this would be that the explosion would either be too high in space for the EMP to affect anything, or too low in the Atmosphere to not cause damage.

Am I correct in this, or is a (mostly) worldwide nuclear EMP feasible without causing mass environmental damage?

  • $\begingroup$ Even in space, EMP big enough to cover the world would disrupt the ionosphere $\endgroup$ – nzaman May 12 '18 at 10:00
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    $\begingroup$ Humans, those all purpose idiots, have already tried this (more than once !). We're not good at self restraint. $\endgroup$ – StephenG May 12 '18 at 10:17
  • $\begingroup$ Define "environmental (or at the very least Limited) damage" in your context. IOW, how much is "limited"? $\endgroup$ – RonJohn May 12 '18 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ Also, what outcome are you hoping to achieve by EMPing the whole world (like sending tech back to the mid 19th century and having the vast majority of humans die within 20 year)? $\endgroup$ – RonJohn May 12 '18 at 16:19
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    $\begingroup$ @RonJohn Well if you want the short version, Amish Skynet thinks technology is evil and wants to get rid of as much of it as possible for the benefit of humnaity (from it's perspective). The full version's a lot more complicated, but that's the gist. $\endgroup$ – Sydney Sleeper May 12 '18 at 16:49

Super easy, barely an inconvenience.
See, if you set off a nuke about 25 miles up, it causes an EMP cascade that fries all electronics in line of sight, meaning a single nuke could fry half of North America. Using a couple of them and you could get the whole thing.
Set up a firing solution that evenly spaces the nukes in both the northern and southern hemisphere, with a bit of overlap, and the whole Earth is back in the dark ages.

This is similar to the plot of One Second After by William Forstchen and the end of the movie Escape From L.A.

For more info, check out the US Government, Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack website

  • $\begingroup$ It might be worth pointing out the number of open air nuclear tests that occurred during the post war period, and comparing that to the number required to EMP each continent. ie, the US has conducted over 200 open air detonations, and the other powers (USSR, France, UK) did at least that many. So if we can detonate 400+ bombs in atmo over a 20 year period, detonating the 20 or so required to hit all of humanity with an EMP is probably not going to wreck the planet. $\endgroup$ – codeMonkey Sep 22 '20 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ @codeMonkey The thing that will help not wreck the planet is the fact that they are in the upper atmosphere. The biggest threat of nukes (outside of the literal blast zone and shock wave) is the radioactive fallout. Fallout happens when dirt and other particles get sucked up into the mushroom cloud and then thrown high into the air. It eventually "falls out" of the air and causes problems. Being 25 miles up means that there isn't much in the way of particles to irradiate, no shock wave, just pure energy being blasted in all directions. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Sep 23 '20 at 17:47

Neutron irradiation (Neutron Bomb, not EMP) will kill biologic life. Structures and chemistry will remain mostly unchanged: Rocks, trees, dirt, water, clouds and such. "Environment" preserved, ready to be repopulated with some kind of life. Some might consider loss of biologic life to be an environmental damage, some might call it cleaning up the environment?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm trying to do the complete opposite of what you're describing, although I appreciate you trying to help. $\endgroup$ – Sydney Sleeper May 12 '18 at 20:29

No it couldn't. That kind of EMP generation cannot be used without harm in other than IMP fragile ecosystems. Even if you could harness the kinetics and radiation in some way (Technology already exists) when you calculate the energy cost of shielding and filtering it shows, that there are many other more effective ways of generating planet wide EMP with other technology that is not so disruptive.

But as mentioned before grid attack would be much better in terms of stability of the environments ionosphere and magnetosphere.

Far better solution is temporal destabilization of nearest star that may cause the solar activity increase causing EMP like effect just like 100 years ago on Earth.


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