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A Nuclear Winter's TaleScience and Politics in the 1980s$
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Lawrence Badash

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780262012720

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262012720.001.0001

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Policy and the Arms Race

Policy and the Arms Race

(p.109) 8 Policy and the Arms Race
A Nuclear Winter's Tale

Lawrence Badash

The MIT Press

The federal government was hopelessly in a dilemma about nuclear winter, concerned that it might force a reconsideration of its national policy. The military was less apprehensive, recognizing quite early the significance of these studies and showing a willingness to obtain honest advice. In 1982, the National Academy of Sciences was conducting a study to evaluate the link between dinosaur extinction and dust, rather than nuclear winter. Meanwhile, the Department of the Navy, always technologically oriented, made its own efforts to keep informed about nuclear winter. In 1983, Carl Sagan advocated “minimal deterrence” and encouraged a “build-down” to the approximate nuclear winter threshold level of 100 MT by the end of the century. He also presented a layman’s summary of the physical and biological consequences of nuclear war as recently determined by his TTAPS team (comprised of Richard Turco, Owen Brian Toon, Thomas Ackerman, James Pollack, and himself) and their colleagues.

Keywords:   nuclear winter, National Academy of Sciences, nuclear war, Carl Sagan, dinosaur extinction, dust, Department of the Navy, minimal deterrence, national policy

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