Pointing to growing nuclear risks and rampant climate dangers, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to midnight — the closest it has been since 1953 at the height of the Cold War.
First initiated in 1947 to highlight the near-apocalyptic conditions created by the growing nuclear threat between the United States and Soviet Russia, the Doomsday Clock is the creation of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Established in 1945 by scientists, engineers, and other experts who had partaken in creating the atomic bomb as part of the iconic Manhattan Project, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists exist to inform the public about the threats inherent in nuclear weapons, as well as climate change and emerging technologies in the life sciences.
At a press conference on Thursday, the Bulletin unveiled an update to the Doomsday Clock, and it was completely unsurprising that instead of moving further away from potential catastrophe, the scientists moved the clock hands closer to midnight — the metaphorical apocalypse marker. The Doomsday Clock now sits at 2 minutes to midnight, 30 seconds closer since the last update, and the closest it has been to midnight since 1953 at the height of the cold war.
“In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change, making the world security situation more dangerous than it was a year ago — and as dangerous as it has been since World War II,” the Bulletin noted in their statement explaining the newly-modified Clock time.
Climate change assuredly plays a part in the new setting of the Clock, but it is no surprise that the big threat this time around is the increasing nuclear troubles surrounding North Korea.
“North Korea’s nuclear weapons program appeared to make remarkable progress in 2017, increasing risks for itself, other countries in the region, and the United States,” the Bulletin note. “Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions on both sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation.”
Climate change is enough of a threat, however, that the Bulletin took time to highlight the dangers.
“On the climate change front, the danger may seem less immediate, but avoiding catastrophic temperature increases in the long run requires urgent attention now …. The nations of the world will have to significantly decrease their greenhouse gas emissions to keep climate risks manageable, and so far, the global response has fallen far short of meeting this challenge.”
“Because of the extraordinary danger of the current moment, the Science and Security Board today moves the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to catastrophe,” said Rachel Bronson, president and CEO, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “It is now two minutes to midnight — the closest the Clock has ever been to Doomsday, and as close as it was in 1953, at the height of the Cold War.”
“2017 just clocked in as the hottest year on record that wasn’t boosted by an El Nino,” explained Sivan Kartha, senior scientist at the Stockholm Environmental Institute and co-leader of SEI’s Gender and Social Equity Program, and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board.
“And that matches what we’ve witnessed on the ground: the Caribbean suffered a season of historic damage from exceedingly powerful hurricanes, extreme heat waves struck across the globe, the Arctic ice cap hit its lowest winter peak on record, and the U.S. suffered devastating wildfires.
“And while this was happening, the Trump administration dutifully carried through on the campaign promise of derailing U.S. climate policy, putting avowed climate denialists in top cabinet positions, and announcing plans to withdraw from the Paris climate Agreement. Thankfully, this didn’t cause global cooperation to unravel, and other countries have reaffirmed their commitment to take action against climate change.”