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Apocalypse How

In the first of a series looking at existential threats to humanity, Jolyon Jenkins asks whether an electromagnetic pulse bomb could send us literally back to the dark ages

In the first of a series looking at existential threats to humanity, Jolyon Jenkins asks whether an electromagnetic pulse bomb could send us literally back to the dark ages

The arrival of COVID has brought home to us just how vulnerable we are to external threats, but we've been lucky that it hasn't been a lot worse. So what else is out there that might hit us from nowhere? For many years, some campaigners, particularly on the American right, have been talking up the threat of a nuclear weapon, detonated high in the atmosphere, that could, according to a congressional commission, wipe out 90 per cent of the population in the first 12 months, by bringing down the electric grid and frying electronic devices. They claim that China, North Korea, Russia, and even some terrorist groups might be capable of staging such an attack.

Mainstream arms control experts don't give the idea much credence, but they rarely engage with the detail of the argument. So is this a real threat, or just the right's attempt to conjure up an apocalypse that can be survived if you have enough guns, food and defensible real estate?

Presenter and producer: Jolyon Jenkins

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30 minutes

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