The year had scarcely begun and the news is out: the Doomsday Clock is at two and a half minutes to midnight. The world is very close to global catastrophe.
For the last two years the Doomsday Clock has been pointing at three minutes to midnight. This was the closest it has been since 1984, when Cold War talks between the USA and the Soviet Union came to a standstill. But the clock’s recent thirty second advancement sets it at its closest since the USA’s 1953 decision to move forward with the creation of a hydrogen bomb.
What impacted the decision to advance?
The Science and Security Board for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists say that climate change concerns, wavering confidence in public institutions, a lack of serious conversation around arms control and Donald Trump’s policies and rejection of expert advice form part of the decision to advance the clock.
“Last year, and the year before, we warned that world leaders were failing to act with the speed and on the scale required to protect citizens from the extreme danger posed by climate change and nuclear war. During the past year, the need for leadership only intensified—yet inaction and brinksmanship have continued, endangering every person, everywhere on Earth,” the 2017 Doomsday Clock Statement reads.
It is important to know that this decision is not made lightly. The decision to move or stay in place is made annually by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in consultation with its sponsors – a group of 17 Nobel laureates.
Where does The Doomsday Clock come from?
The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947 by the Bulletin: a group of scientists who assisted the development of the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project. During the time following World War II, nuclear weapons were humanity’s greatest threat due to increased political and military tension between countries allied with the USA and Soviet Union respectively.
The clock’s creation came only two years after the creation of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
Why a clock?
Sadly there is no physical Doomsday Clock. A clock is only used as imagery for the countdown to global catastrophe. This symbolism serves as indicator for Earth’s vulnerability to nuclear weapons, climate change and technological advancement.
How do we move further away from midnight?
Kennette Benedict, a senior adviser to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, shares three ways “ordinary” people can help the world move away from disaster:
- Educate yourself. Benedict says that even though nuclear weapons and climate change might seem outside the control of the public, it is important that we learn as much as we can about the things that could impact our lives negatively.
- Share your knowledge. Start a conversation with others about how we can
- Voice your concern. Write letters speak up at public gatherings. Tell government representatives that you don’t want your tax money spent on nuclear weapons or on subsidizing carbon dioxide-producing fossil fuel technologies.