In their annual, grim unveiling, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have announced that their ‘Doomsday Clock’ has moved forward to 100 seconds to midnight. This is the closest the scientists have judged the world to catastrophe since its inception, in 1947.
Mary Robinson, chair of the The Elders and former president of Ireland, said: “The world needs to wake up. Our planet faces two simultaneous existential threats”, referring to the exploitation of fossil fuels, leading to ‘a death sentence for humanity’ and nuclear weapons, which will inevitably one day be used, “by accident, miscalculation or design”.
Whilst citizen activism meant there was a “sliver of hope for the climate”, there was no such pressure on leaders to avert nuclear threats.
Robert Rosner, chair of the Bulletin’s science and security board, said society has normalized a very dangerous world, and that “information warfare” is undermining “the public’s ability to sort out what’s true and what’s patently false”.
Commenting on the Doomsday Clock, The Guardian said:
‘The warning comes as nuclear arms control is in danger of dying out altogether. The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty lapsed in August after the US accused Russia of cheating and Donald Trump declared he would leave the 1987 treaty altogether. The US has begun testing medium-range missiles similar to the new Russian weapon, although it is unclear where in Europe or Asia they would be based.
The death of the INF leaves the New Start treaty as the last remaining limit on the US and Russian deployed strategic arsenals. It was agreed in 2010 by the then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, and Barack Obama, and it expires in February 2021.
It can be extended for five years and Vladimir Putin has said he is willing to agree an extension, but the Trump administration has insisted that China be included. China, whose arsenal is a 20th of the two nuclear superpowers and not as aggressively deployed, has ruled out joining in.
The farthest the doomsday clock has ever been from midnight was 17 minutes at the end of the cold war.
While nuclear warfare remains a threat, the climate crisis continues to intensify, as the US federal government under Trump has withdrawn from international climate efforts.
Last year was the second hottest on record for the Earth’s surface. The 2019 average temperature was 1.1C warmer than the average between 1850 and 1900, before the ramp-up of fossil fuel use. Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are on track to push that warming to 3 or 4C. The disruptions are intensifying extreme weather and expected to exacerbate poverty and global unrest.
“If the Earth warms by what we tend to think of as just a few degrees and human life pushes the planet into the opposite of an Ice Age … or even pushes the climate halfway there, we have no reason to be confident that such a world will remain hospitable to human civilization,” said Silvan Kartha, a board member, senior scientist at the Stockholm Environmental Institute and author of the fifth and sixth assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Robert Latiff, a board member and retired air force major general, said the Trump administration’s “disdain for expert opinion” threatens action on climate change and a host of other science-based issues. New technologies and developments – from “deep fake” videos, to dangerous pathogens and artificial intelligence, all could threaten a fragile global peace.’