Citing growing nuclear risks and unchecked climate dangers, the Doomsday Clock — the symbolic point of annihilation — is now two minutes to midnight, the closest the Clock has been since 1953 at the height of the Cold War, according to a statement today (Jan. 25) by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
“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,” according to the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board in consultation with the Board of Sponsors, which includes 15 Nobel Laureates.
“This is a dangerous time, but the danger is of our own making. Humankind has invented the implements of apocalypse; so can it invent the methods of controlling and eventually eliminating them. This year, leaders and citizens of the world can move the Doomsday Clock and the world away from the metaphorical midnight of global catastrophe by taking common-sense action.” — Lawrence Krauss, director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, Foundation Professor at School of Earth and Space Exploration and Physics Department, Arizona State University, and chair, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Board of Sponsors.
The increased risks driving the decision to move the clock include:
Nuclear. Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions from North Korea and the U.S. have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation. These include U.S.-Russian military entanglements, South China Sea tensions, escalating rhetoric between Pakistan and India, uncertainty about continued U.S. support for the Iran nuclear deal.
Decline of U.S. leadership and a related demise of diplomacy under the Trump Administration. “In 2017, the United States backed away from its longstanding leadership role in the world, reducing its commitment to seek common ground and undermining the overall effort toward solving pressing global governance challenges. Neither allies nor adversaries have been able to reliably predict U.S. actions or understand when U.S. pronouncements are real and when they are mere rhetoric. International diplomacy has been reduced to name-calling, giving it a surrealistic sense of unreality that makes the world security situation ever more threatening.”
Climate change. “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.”
How to #RewindtheDoomsdayClock
According to Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:
* U.S. President Donald Trump should refrain from provocative rhetoric regarding North Korea, recognizing the impossibility of predicting North Korean reactions. The U.S. and North Korean governments should open multiple channels of communication.
* The world community should pursue, as a short-term goal, the cessation of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile tests. North Korea is the only country to violate the norm against nuclear testing in 20 years.
* The Trump administration should abide by the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for Iran’s nuclear program unless credible evidence emerges that Iran is not complying with the agreement or Iran agrees to an alternative approach that meets U.S. national security needs.
* The United States and Russia should discuss and adopt measures to prevent peacetime military incidents along the borders of NATO.
* U.S. and Russian leaders should return to the negotiating table to resolve differences over the INF treaty, to seek further reductions in nuclear arms, to discuss a lowering of the alert status of the nuclear arsenals of both countries, to limit nuclear modernization programs that threaten to create a new nuclear arms race, and to ensure that new tactical or low-yield nuclear weapons are not built, and existing tactical weapons are never used on the battlefield.
* U.S. citizens should demand, in all legal ways, climate action from their government. Climate change is a real and serious threat to humanity.
* Governments around the world should redouble their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so they go well beyond the initial, inadequate pledges under the Paris Agreement.
* The international community should establish new protocols to discourage and penalize the misuse of information technology to undermine public trust in political institutions, in the media, in science, and in the existence of objective reality itself.
Worldwide deployments of nuclear weapons, 2017
“As of mid-2017, there are nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, located at some 107 sites in 14 countries. Roughly, 9400 of these weapons are in military arsenals; the remaining weapons are retired and awaiting dismantlement. Nearly 4000 are operationally available, and some 1800 are on high alert and ready for use on short notice.
“By far, the largest concentrations of nuclear weapons reside in Russia and the United States, which possess 93 percent of the total global inventory. In addition to the seven other countries with nuclear weapon stockpiles (Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea), five nonnuclear NATO allies (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey) host about 150 US nuclear bombs at six air bases.”