Think you're the only one feeling on edge lately? Think again. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, reset the Nuclear Doomsday clock to 2 and a half minutes to midnight— the closest its been in 64 years.
Not since the start of the Nuclear Arms Race between America and Russia, 64 years ago in 1953 has the minutes sat so close to proclaimed "doom." The symbolic timepiece is seen as an indicator to gauge how close the world is to an upcoming disaster, catastrophe, world war or other vulnerable event. The scientists cited three major influences to the reset, nuclear weapons, climate change and the US election of Donald Trump.
Modernization of Nuclear Weapons leads to Increased Nuclear Testing
Citing "careless rhetoric of nuclear weapons," theoretical physicist, Lawrence Krauss, the chair of the board, held a press conference highlighting the issues.
He noted an increase in nuclear instability as both Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Trump have indicated they will update and increase their atomic weaponry while at the same time supporting wars in areas like Syria and Ukraine.
Krauss said, "I want to emphasis the historical significance of today..."the Doomsday Clock is closer to midnight than it's ever been in the lifetime of almost everyone in this room... this is the first time the words and stated policies of one or two people placed in high positions have so impacted our perceptions of the existential threats we believe the world faces."
Thomas Pickering, a former US Under Secretary of State and US Ambassador to the UN gave insight, "Russia's building new silo based missiles, submarine missiles and new rail mobile missiles as it revamps their inter-continental ballistic missiles.
He continued, the "United States forages ahead with plans to modernize each part of its triad. Bombers, land-based missiles and nuclear missiles carrying submarines. Adding new capabilities with increased ranges."
The constant threat from North Korea has also put neighbor's South Korea and Japan to invest in a nuclear arsenal. Pickering stated, "North Korea conducted two nuclear tests in 2016, the second one yielding twice as explosive power as the first. The 2017 new years statement from Kim-Jung II stated they would soon test missiles with inter-continental range."He also noted the recent Chinese investment into nuclear aid for Pakistan and India's expansion as other causes for concern.
Krauss referenced the duties of world leaders and stated, "They need to come together to negotiate nuclear arms race reductions.... to not embark on modernization programs that are expensive and destabilizing, and they need to engage countries like North Korea... they can act like petulant children, risking our future."
Climate Change & President Trump
The Bulletin acknowledged that there had been some improvements in the reduction of CO2 emissions but that little movement had surfaced on any additional cuts. With the new US administration declaring an increase in investment into domestic fossil fuels, namely oil, and abolishing the Climate Action Plan. Krauss accused the new administration as being "openly hostile to progress toward even the most modest efforts to avert catastrophic climate disruption."
As taken from the updated whitehouse.gov website, the administration supports this stance.
"The Trump Administration is committed to energy policies that lower costs for hardworking Americans and maximize the use of American resources, freeing us from dependence on foreign oil. For too long, we’ve been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry. President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule."
The clock was reset Thursday, January 26, before the controversial announcement of Donald Trump's ban on refugees that has caused numerous protests and further unrest. Refugees from seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) face a ban for 120 days, while the entire refugee program is suspended for 90 days. Furthering tension, Iran released a statement saying it would retaliate, firstly by banning all US citizens from entry.
Hope in Precarious Times
Krauss offered hope and advocated for world leaders to rely on experts and scientific facts to help guide their way. "This is a time of great opportunity and great potential challenge. Expert advice is crucial if governments are to deal with complex global threats." Challenging the governments, he noted, "The Bulletin is extremely concerned with the willingness of governments, including the current US administration, to ignore or discount some scientific and imperial evidence and considered expertise during their decision making process."
Facts are stubborn things, and they must be taken into account, if the future of humanity is to be perserved... world leaders have actually increased the threat of nuclear war and unchecked climate change through a variety of provocative statements and actions.. — Lawrence Krauss.
Apart from world leaders he implored the public to get involved. "Regardless, these issues, are too important to be left in the hands of a few men. We therefore call upon all people to speak out and send a loud message to your leaders that you will not allow them to needlessly threaten your future. To step back from the brink, will require leaders, with both revision and restraint."
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists began after World War II in 1945 and was founded by some of the very scientists that devised the first atomic bomb. Since then, their motto has been to inform the "public about threats to the survival and development of humanity."