The prestigious Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced this week that they are leaving the Doomsday Clock at 2 minutes to midnight in “a new abnormal” that represents the threat of “two simultaneous existential threats” — nuclear weapons and climate change.
There are those out there who scoff at the idea of a Doomsday Clock — calling it abstract nonsense or hyperbolic exaggeration. However, considering the history of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists — formed in 1945 by scientists from the University of Chicago who had helped develop the first atomic weapons as part of the Manhattan Project — and the continued diligence of its members, the importance of their warnings should be well-heeded.
The Doomsday Clock was specifically created in 1947 to use the imagery of apocalypse, stylized on a clock as midnight, to convey threats to humanity and the planet. As the years have gone by the clock has shifted back and forth and reached its closest position to midnight in 1953 during the opening years of the decades-long Cold War.
Closest, that is, until 2018 when the Bulletin moved the clock-hands back to 2 minutes to midnight, and that’s where they have remained a year later.
“Humanity now faces two simultaneous existential threats, either of which would be cause for extreme concern and immediate attention,” the Bulletin writes in the statement delivered to “Leaders and citizens of the world” and titled “A new abnormal: It is still two minutes to midnight.” “These major threats—nuclear weapons and climate change—were exacerbated this past year by the increased use of information warfare to undermine democracy around the world, amplifying risk from these and other threats and putting the future of civilization in extraordinary danger.”
“As the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board prepared for its first set of Doomsday Clock discussions this fall, it began referring to the current world security situation as a ‘new abnormal’,” explained Rachel Bronson, PhD, President & CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “This new abnormal is a pernicious and dangerous departure from the time when the United States sought a leadership role in designing and supporting global agreements that advanced a safer and healthier planet. The new abnormal describes a moment in which fact is becoming indistinguishable from fiction, undermining our very abilities to develop and apply solutions to the big problems of our time. The new abnormal risks emboldening autocrats and lulling citizens around the world into a dangerous sense of anomie and political paralysis.”
The Bulletin’s nuclear concerns were highlighted by the United States’ decisions, under the impetus of its impetuous president, Donald Trump, to abandon the Iran nuclear deal and announce that it would withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), decisions described by the Bulletin as “grave steps towards a complete dismantlement of the global arms control process.”
The Bulletin raised similar concerns about the recently-revealed increase in carbon dioxide emissions which, having seemingly plateaued earlier this decade, “resumed their upward climb in 2017 and 2018.” They also raised concerns about the “increasingly beleaguered” Paris Climate Change Agreement which is still managing the United States’ decision to bail, and the more recent actions at the December COP24 summit in Poland which saw “the United States [ally] itself with Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait (all major petroleum-producing countries) to undercut an expert report on climate change impacts that the Paris climate conference had itself commissioned.”
“The existential threat from human-caused global warming is ominous and getting worse,” the Bulletin writes. “Every year that human activities continue to add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere irreversibly ratchets up the future level of human suffering and ecosystem destruction that will be wrought by global climate disruption. The key measure of improvement on the climate front is the extent of progress toward bringing global net carbon dioxide emissions to zero. On this measure, the countries of the world have failed dismally.”
Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Autonomous Drones for Better Farming
I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...