Scientists say Iraq would start a six-month inferno unleashing a suffocating 1,000-mile pall of smoke if it carries out a threat to blow up Kuwait's oil fields.
Other scientists on Wednesday also made dire predictions about fire, gases and marine pollution from millions of gallons of oil pouring from narrow pipelines and valves into the Persian Gulf.The warning came at a one-day conference organized by Jordan and Britain's Green Party, which believe a gulf war would trigger the world's worst environmental disaster.
The conference was attended by a broad spectrum of scientists, environmental pressure groups, British politicians and Middle East diplomats, including the Iraqi ambassador.
Abdullah Toukan, scientific adviser to Jordan's King Hussein, said the blowing up of the Kuwaiti oil fields would ignite the inferno, raise temperatures sharply and advance global warming by 30 years.
"This particular combat area is literally sitting on about 10 percent of the world's oil reserves," said Toukan.
"The amount of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide will be tremendous in the atmosphere," Toukan said. "You'll have global warming, human and animal health deterioration. . . . It will be a catastrophic war."
Iraq is believed to have mined the oil fields and has threatened to blow them up if war breaks out.
Saddam first threatened to blow up the oil fields at a climate conference in Geneva two months if the international alliance ranged against Iraq uses force to end Iraq's occupation of Kuwait. It invaded Aug. 2.
Toukan, a nuclear physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has since been researching the possible effects of torching Kuwait's some 1,000 oil wells.
Toukan and several other scientists announced they will publish an emergency assessment of the environmental threat.
Professor Richard Scorer, a meteorologist at London's Imperial College, said the immediate effect of blowing up the oil wells would be smoke which could go anywhere.
"It could cover Baghdad, it could cover Bombay. It would probably get round the world in a month."