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Realistically, what factors might limit a nuclear exchange between NATO and Russia, such that the bulk of humanity could survive and be a spacefaring civilization in, say, 300 years?

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    $\begingroup$ Too many questions and not enough details to answer any of them $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Apr 14 at 2:32
  • $\begingroup$ No way there's a limited but devastating exchange of nukes, unless the warring AIs are particularly stupid. It's either very limited, a purely tactical nuclear exchange, or else it's all in. (And, I don't really know much about how the Americans go about the control of their strategic nuclear forces, but the old Soviet and, I presume the current Russian setup too, was specifically designed to be widely distributed with autonomous launch capabilities so that a limited strike could not possibly prevent a counter-strike.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 14 at 2:34
  • $\begingroup$ Game Designers Workshop (GDW) apparently had their developers conduct a game to go from the post-WW3 world of their Twilight 2000 TTRPG to the hard(ish) sci-fi Traveller 2300 AD TTRPG. AFAIK the "rules" of that game were never released and the history was summarised in a few pages in the Traveller 2300 AD rules. Even that summary looking at a few details is far too long for an answer on WorldbuildingSE - you need to break this down into discrete questions with enough detail that they can be answered. $\endgroup$ Apr 14 at 2:59
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch, as you can see, I've narrowed it down to one simple question. I realized that whether or not it's AI-instigated isn't my primary concern. $\endgroup$
    – ajderxsen
    Apr 14 at 4:25
  • $\begingroup$ If you want more and potentially better answer it's better to wait at least 24 hours before accepting an answer. Unresolved questions get more attention and you have just got 2 hours of attention now $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Apr 14 at 4:48

2 Answers 2

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Depending on the size of the exchange, it could work. It has been simulated that a limited exchange on the order of 15-20 nukes would be sufficient to put one hemisphere in a kind of limited nuclear winter. But since limited is a 2 degrees Celsius drop(for reference the last Ice Age was a result of a 7-degree Celsius decrease), it would be catastrophic for the northern hemisphere in general. However, the southern hemisphere would be "mostly" unaffected, so they could probably make the leap you described. It would also be a great way to explain any political and economic shifts and justify a lot of things really. TLDR: Yes, but only the southern hemisphere would have a shot as the northern one would still be in a bad spot.

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  • $\begingroup$ It might have been simulated, but it is in complete contradiction with actual real-world observations. The peace-loving United States of America and Union of the SSRs, plus their eager pupils the United Kingdom and France, detonated literally hundreds of atomic bombs in open air between 1945 and mid 1960s, when they graciously decided to take their further tests underground. For example, the USA alone detonated 29 atomic bombs in October 1958. There was no nuclear winter of any kind, either limited or not. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 15 at 9:19
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP It's extremely different in several ways. Importantly, The targets in this exchange would be cities, and what an atomized city puts into the air is far worse for the environment than a glassed portion of the desert does. Additionally, most of the detonations were over a protracted period of time, and over a large area, which this would not be. It would be like the damage a sprinkler does over a month, versus all that water at extremely high pressure on one spot. Finally, The bombs we have today are in general much more powerful than what we had back then, which doesn't help things much. $\endgroup$
    – Bubbles
    Apr 16 at 3:39
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Most importantly, neither side wants to get the explosions, although they would probably happily give them. This is the only major factor, and this limits the NATO-Russian nuclear war to practically zero.

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