Doomsday Clock - t 2 minutes to ‘midnight
25 January 2018
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists advanced the symbolic Doomsday Clock a notch closer to the end of humanity Thursday, moving it ahead by 30 seconds after what the organization called a “grim assessment” of the state of geopolitical affairs.
“As of today,” Bulletin president Rachel Bronson told reporters, “it is two minutes to midnight” — so close as the world has ever been to the hour of apocalypse.
In moving the clock forward, the group cited “the failure of President Trump and other world leaders to deal with looming threats of nuclear war and climate change.”
The organization — which has 15 Nobel laureates on its board — now believes “the world is not only more dangerous now than it was a year ago; it is as threatening as it has been since World War II,” Bulletin officials Lawrence M. Krauss and Robert Rosner wrote in an op-edpublished Thursday by The Washington Post. “In fact, the Doomsday Clock is as close to midnight today as it was in 1953, when Cold War fears perhaps reached their highest levels.”
The last time the clock advanced so far, the United States had just tested its first thermonuclear device, and the Soviet Union had tested a hydrogen bomb.
Today, said the Bulletin president Bronson, “to call the world’s nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger and its immediacy.”
“There is little doubt that the risk that nuclear weapons may be used — intentionally or because of miscalculation — grew last year around the globe,” Rosner said.
The decision to move the clock forward was motivated largely by the Bulletin's sense of looming nuclear peril. But the danger is compounded by humanity's continued inaction on climate change, they said, as well as vaguer concerns about unchecked artificial intelligence, the spread of disinformation, and the public's eroding trust in institutions that could keep these threats at bay.
The clock, a metaphorical measure of humankind's proximity to global catastrophe, also advanced 30 seconds last year, to 2½ minutes to “midnight.”
Even before Thursday's announcement, experts said there was only one direction the clock could possibly move, given recent events.
“I think it would be very hard for the clock not? to move forward,” said Alex Wellerstein, who specializes in the history of nuclear weapons at the Stevens Institute of Technology. “We have members of Congress, White House advisers, and even the president implying that they think war with a nuclear state is not only likely, but potentially desirable. That's unusual and disturbing.
“The question I have is: How much forward can they go?”
Another 30 seconds, to be exact.
The clock is symbolic, sitting at the intersection of art and science, and it has wavered between two and 17 minutes until doom since its inception in 1947.