Since 1945, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientist’s Doomsday Clock has served as an indicator of how close humanity is to global catastrophe. The closer the clock is to midnight, the closer we are to the apocalypse.
Today, the Bulletin’s panel of experts moved the clock 30 seconds forward to just two and a half minutes from midnight, closer than at any point since 1953, when the US decided to pursue the atomic bomb.
In an open letter to governments around the world, physicist Laurence Krauss, and David Titley, former chairman of the Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change, explained their decision for the half minute move, an unprecedented step in the clock’s 75 year history.
“The United States now has a president who has promised to impede progress on both [nuclear weapons and climate change],” Krauss and Titley wrote. “Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person. But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.”
In a further statement, the Bulletin urged wise citizens to “step forward and lead the way” if public officials fail to “guide humanity away from the brink.”
Beyond President Trump’s statements on expanding and deploying the American nuclear arsenal, his comments on global warming, and his “propensity to discount or reject expert advice related to international security”, the researchers singled out a number of factors including, among others:
- North Korea’s continuing nuclear weapons development
- Simmering tension between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan
- Doubt over the future Iran nuclear deal
- Deteriorating relations between the US and Russia, including disputes over Ukraine, Syria and reducing nuclear arms. “Whether this will improve under President Trump is unclear”.
- Mixed results in global efforts to limit climate change.
The History Of The Doomsday Clock
The Bulletin was founded by US scientists involved in the Manhattan Project, which developed the world’s first nuclear weapons during World War Two.
In 1947, they established the Doomsday Clock to provide a simple way of demonstrating the danger to the Earth and humanity posed by nuclear war.
Today the Bulletin is an independent non-profit organisation run by some of the world’s most eminent scientists.
The Doomsday Clock not only takes into account the likelihood of nuclear Armageddon but also other emerging threats such as climate change and advances in biotechnology and artificial intelligence.