The Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) have pushed the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to midnight, the symbolic moment humankind is supposed to annihilate itself.
BAS takes a broad and international view of existential threats to humanity and focuses on long-term trends. 2.5 minutes is the closest we’ve come to the brink since 1953, when the board moved the hand 2 minutes to midnight following the first testing of a hydrogen bomb.
In an op-ed in The New York Times, BAS scientists argued one of the biggest reasons for the move was the ascent of US President Donald Trump. “Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person. But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.”
Last year the international community failed to address humanity’s most pressing threats: nuclear weapons and climate change and Trump has promised to impede progress in both fronts.
“We understand that Mr. Trump has been in office only days […] But Mr. Trump’s statements and actions have been unsettling.”
“He has made ill-considered comments about expanding and even deploying the American nuclear arsenal. He has expressed disbelief in the scientific consensus on global warming. […] And his nominees to head the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Management and the Budget have disputed or questioned climate change.”
Other factors that led the committee to advance the clock include actions to develop nuclear weapons in North Korea, India, Pakistan, China and Russia. “It is not time to build up. It is time to continue to build down,” former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering told Science Magazine when asked about U.S. and Russian nuclear capabilities, which now account for 90% of the world’s nuclear arms.
Fake news and general distrust concerned the board as well. “The Bulletin felt it was important to say ‘words do matter.’ This half-minute move was something we felt very strong and comfortable with because it represented a new set of figures we hadn’t confronted before,” said BAS executive director and publisher, Rachel Bronson.
“I hope the debate engendered by the 2017 setting of the Clock raises the level of conversation, promotes calls to action, and helps citizens around the world hold their leaders responsible for delivering a safer and healthier planet,” added Bronson.
The apocalyptic clock was created by former Manhattan Project scientists in an effort to bring public attention to the threat of nuclear war. It has been hovering between 17 and 2 minutes to midnight since its creation.