Doomsday Clock ticks closer towards disaster
The influential Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) on Thursday moved its “Doomsday Clock” to 100 seconds to midnight, signalling that the “unprecedentedly high risk” of a nuclear exchange was even greater than in the worst days of the Cold War.
The BAS, a non-profit organisation that closely tracks global security issues, said the Doomsday Clock was now “the closest to disaster it has ever been in its 73-year history”. Without naming India or Pakistan, experts cited South Asia as a “nuclear tinderbox” where “prospects for mediation and engagement are diminishing”.
“The dramatic move is 20 seconds closer to doomsday and signals that the world faces an unprecedentedly high risk of global existential catastrophe. The clock is now closer to midnight than it was in the worst days of the Cold War, and has moved steadily closer to midnight over the past several years,” it said.
Derek Johnson, executive director of Global Zero, the international movement for elimination of nuclear weapons, said in a statement: “The abdication of global leadership by the United States and our collective failure to take action in the face of mounting dangers has brought us to the brink. At just 100 seconds to midnight, the Doomsday Clock makes clear we are nearly out of time.”
The BAS was founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons, and it created the Doomsday Clock two years later. According to organisation’s website, the clock uses the “imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity”.
Every year, the BAS’s Science and Security Board, in consultation with its board of sponsors that includes 13 Nobel laureates, makes the decision to move, or to leave in place, the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock.
Johnson agreed with the BAS’s assessment that the world is “lurching toward disaster and it is imperative we change our course. During the Trump presidency, the Doomsday Clock has moved steadily closer to midnight, due to US negligence and malfeasance, and the failure of global leadership to address twin existential crises of climate change and nuclear weapons.”
He said the US and Russia were removing old treaties and hard-won diplomatic achievements that contained their nuclear competition, without replacing them with new rules of the road. The INF Treaty had been abandoned, and New START, which expires in a little more than a year, “is the sole remaining restraint on the two nations that together hold more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weaponry”, he said.
Johnson said North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes are expanding and American diplomacy to cap and reverse them is “on hold indefinitely”. He added: “South Asia remains a nuclear tinderbox and the prospects for mediation and engagement are diminishing.”
He also said the “most avoidable danger of all stems from deliberate moves by the US to destroy the nuclear deal with Iran, and aggressively escalate conflict between Iran and the US”.
Johnson said: “If there’s one key takeaway from today’s announcement, it’s this: We are closer than any generation since 1945 to witnessing the next use of nuclear weapons. It’s not too late to prevent this self-inflicted doom, if we find the conviction and resolve to act. The Clock is ticking.”