Recent events, such as the heated and escalating rhetoric between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, as well as the recent disaster false alarm in Hawaii, may have you feeling like we are closer to the destruction of the human species than we have been at any other point in history. Well, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has confirmed Thursday morning that those fears might be very well founded, as they moved the hands of the symbolic Doomsday Clock ahead 30 seconds. The clock now stands at two minutes to midnight, as close as it has ever been to mass destruction and planetary catastrophe.
According to an article in the Washington Post, the clock moved forward 30 seconds in 2017, just after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, largely due to the rhetoric about his willingness to use nuclear weapons. Then on Thursday, the clock clicked down another 30 seconds, making it the first time it’s stood at two minutes to midnight since 1953, when the United States and the Soviet Union were competing to see who would be first to develop a workable hydrogen bomb, and as close as it’s ever been to the end of life on earth.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists uses the Doomsday Clock as a warning to world leaders about looming threats that the planet faces. In the timeline they released Thursday morning, you can see that it began 71 years ago, in 1947, at seven minutes to midnight, and went as high as 17 minutes away in 1991, the time of the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Wired is reporting that spokesperson Rachel Bronson announced the clock’s movement Thursday at the national Press Club by saying, “To call the situation dire is to understate the danger.”
in an editorial for the Washington Post, Bulletin scientists Lawrence Krauss and Robert Rosner call the resetting of the clock this year “an urgent warning of global danger.” They cite many factors that they believe led to the tenuous nature of global safety and security, including the war of words between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, Trump’s stated desire to increase and modernize the United States’ nuclear arsenal, the faster than expected progress of North Korea’s nuclear program, as well as the nuclear capability of countries such as India and Pakistan.
Krauss and Rosner also stress that nuclear annihilation is not the only threat hanging over the heads of our species. Climate change, they say, doesn’t present as immediate a threat as nuclear war but could have greater long term ramifications. They say that avoiding catastrophic temperature increases in the future “requires urgent attention now” and that the “global response has fallen far short of meeting this challenge.”
“The Trump administration’s decision essentially to turn a blind eye to climate change transpired against a backdrop of worsening climate, including exceedingly powerful hurricanes in the Caribbean and other parts of North America and extreme heat waves in Australia, South America, Asia, Europe, and California.”
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was started by veterans of the Manhattan Project to warn of the dangers of global armageddon and their board includes 15 Nobel Laureates.