Winter in July: The Doomsday Clock is ticking. It will reach Midnight.
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While the bulletin maintains that it is not aiming to predict catastrophe, prediction is implicit in its visualisation. We have progressed towards the apocalypse by five figurative minutes since the clock was first set at seven minutes to midnight in , even though the hands were temporarily moved backwards under the more optimistic global outlook of the s.
Is there any more powerful reminder of human futility and helplessness than the inexorable march of time? The clock contributes to despair and fatalism, in the face of complex and urgent political problems, encouraging generalised panic. These problems demand active struggle, and as environmentalist George Monbiot cautioned three years ago , despair breeds defeat. This suggests that, in the popular imagination, the clock has developed causal powers of its own.
It may even contribute to the threats themselves. Scholars of security and international politics have long discussed how geopolitical threats such as nuclear war are partly constituted by public discourse and culture. We already live in a fractious and often militaristic political climate. Comment threads fill with nationalistic bile. The Daily Star responded ahead of the latest change by visualising the effects of a North Korean nuclear strike on London, which as far as we know is currently a physical impossibility.
Nevertheless, a widespread belief that a nation is under threat can create conditions under which preemptive offensive action is politically feasible and publicly acceptable, exacerbating the likelihood of conflict.
The bulletin is normally a voice of reason rising over the din. But through the clock, it unwittingly contributes to these increasingly fragile conditions. Maybe the Doomsday Clock was a more apt metaphor during the Cold War — an era of hair-triggers, false alarms, and automatic missile launch systems , when Europe was, in a very real sense, minutes away from annihilation at all times. Maybe it really did induce national leaders to step back from the brink of Armageddon. But while the clock may be a striking brand, it is not fit for purpose.
The venerable bulletin must continue its mission — but it should call time on the Doomsday Clock. Being Well Together — Manchester, Manchester. Walter Carroll Lunchtime Concerts: Oriental Breeze — Manchester, Manchester. Available editions United Kingdom. Tom Vaughan , Aberystwyth University. An inaccurate harbinger of doom.
Out of time Is there any more powerful reminder of human futility and helplessness than the inexorable march of time? In September, North Korea tested what experts assess to be a true two-stage thermonuclear device, and in November, it tested the Hwasong missile, which experts believe has a range of over 8, kilometers. The United States and its allies, Japan and South Korea, responded with more frequent and larger military exercises, while China and Russia proposed a freeze by North Korea of nuclear and missile tests in exchange for a freeze in US exercises.
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The failure to secure a temporary freeze in was unsurprising to observers of the downward spiral of nuclear rhetoric between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Nuclear risks have been compounded by US-Russia relations that now feature more conflict than cooperation. Coordination on nuclear risk reduction is all but dead, and no solution to disputes over the INF Treaty—a landmark agreement to rid Europe of medium-range nuclear missiles—is readily apparent.
Such a collapse would make what should have been a relatively easy five-year. For the first time in many years, in fact, no US-Russian nuclear arms control negotiations are under way. New strategic stability talks begun in April are potentially useful, but so far they lack the energy and political commitment required for them to bear fruit. Additional clash points could emerge if Russia attempts to exploit friction between the United States and its NATO partners, whether arising from disputes on burden-sharing, European Union membership, and trade—or relating to policies on Israel, Iran, and terrorism in the Middle East.
In the past year, US allies have needed reassurance about American intentions more than ever. Instead, they have been forced to negotiate a thicket of conflicting policy statements from a US administration weakened in its cadre of foreign policy professionals, suffering from turnover in senior leadership, led by an undisciplined and disruptive president, and unable to develop, coordinate, and clearly communicate a coherent nuclear policy.
This inconsistency constitutes a major challenge for deterrence, alliance management, and global stability. It has made the existing nuclear risks greater than necessary and added to their complexity. Especially in the case of the Iran nuclear deal, allies are perplexed. While President Trump has steadfastly opposed the agreement that his predecessor and US allies negotiated to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons, he has never successfully articulated practical alternatives.
His instruction to Congress in to legislate a different approach resulted in a stalemate. The future of the Iran deal, at this writing, remains uncertain. In the United States, Russia, and elsewhere around the world, plans for nuclear force modernization and development continue apace. In South Asia, emphasis on nuclear and missile capabilities grows. Conventional force imbalances and destabilizing plans for nuclear weapons use early in any conflict continue to plague the subcontinent.
Reflecting long decades of frustration with slow progress toward nuclear disarmament, states signed a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the ban treaty, at the United Nations this past September. The treaty—championed by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work—is a symbolic victory for those seeking a world without nuclear weapons and a strong expression of the frustration with global disarmament efforts to date.
Predictably, countries with nuclear weapons boycotted the negotiations, and none has signed the ban treaty. Their increased reliance on nuclear weapons, threats, and doctrines that could make the use of those weapons more likely stands in stark contrast to the expectations of the rest of the world.
An insufficient response to climate change. Last year, the US government pursued unwise and ineffectual policies on climate change, following through on a promise to derail past US climate policies.
The Trump administration, which includes avowed climate denialists in top positions at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, and other key agencies, has announced its plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. In its rush to dismantle rational climate and energy policy, the administration has ignored scientific fact and well-founded economic analyses. These US government climate decisions transpired against a backdrop of worsening climate change and high-impact weather-. This year past, the Caribbean region and other parts of North America suffered a season of historic damage from exceedingly powerful hurricanes.
Extreme heat waves occurred in Australia, South America, Asia, Europe, and California, with mounting evidence that heat-related illness and death are correspondingly increasing. The Arctic ice cap achieved its smallest-ever winter maximum in , the third year in a row that this record has been broken.
The United States has witnessed devastating wildfires, likely exacerbated by extreme drought and subsequent heavy rains that spurred underbrush growth. All the warmest years in the instrumental record, which extends back to the s, have—excepting one year in the late s—occurred in the 21st century. Despite the sophisticated disinformation campaign run by climate denialists, the unfolding consequences of an altered climate are a harrowing testament to an undeniable reality: The science linking climate change to human activity—mainly the burning of fossil fuels that produce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases—is sound.
2018 Doomsday Clock Statement
The world continues to warm as costly impacts mount, and there is evidence that overall rates of sea level rise are accelerating—regardless of protestations to the contrary. We all need to act.
- Countdown to armageddon?;
- Doomsday Clock?
- Out of time.
As we have noted before, the true measure of the Paris Agreement is whether nations actually fulfill their pledges to cut emissions, strengthen those pledges, and see to it that global greenhouse gas emissions start declining in short order and head toward zero. As we drift yet farther from this goal, the urgency of shifting course becomes greater, and the existential threat posed by climate change looms larger.
Emerging technologies and global risk. The Science and Security Board is deeply concerned about the loss of public trust in political institutions, in the media, in science, and in facts themselves—a loss that the abuse of information technology has fostered. Attempts to intervene in elections through sophisticated hacking operations and the spread of disinformation have threatened democracy, which relies on an informed electorate to reach reasonable decisions on public policy—including policy relating to nuclear weapons, climate change, and other global threats.
While limited at the current time, potentially existential threats posed by a host of emerging technologies need to be monitored, and to the extent possible anticipated, as the 21st century unfolds. If anything, the velocity of technological change has only increased in the past year, and so our warning holds for But beyond monitoring advances in emerging technology, the board believes that world leaders also need to seek better collective methods of managing those advances, so the positive aspects of new technologies are encouraged and malign uses discovered and countered.
Those risks could expand without strong public institutions and new management regimes. The increasing pace of technological change requires faster development of those tools. How to turn back the Clock. The Science and Security Board now again moves the hands of the Clock to two minutes before midnight. But the current, extremely dangerous state of world affairs need not be permanent. This is a dangerous time, but the danger is of our own making. Humankind has invented the implements of apocalypse; so can it invent the methods of controlling and eventually eliminating them.
This year, leaders and citizens of the world can move the Doomsday Clock and the world away from the metaphorical midnight of global catastrophe by taking these common-sense actions:. At a minimum, military-to-military communications can help reduce the likelihood of inadvertent war on the Korean Peninsula.
Keeping diplomatic channels open for talks without preconditions is another common-sense way to reduce tensions. They could, however, deliver the message that while Washington fully intends to defend itself and its allies from any attack with a devastating retaliatory response, it does not otherwise intend to attack North Korea or pursue regime change.
North Korea is the only country to violate the norm against nuclear testing in 20 years. Provocative military exercises and maneuvers hold the potential for crisis escalation. Both militaries must exercise restraint and professionalism, adhering to all norms developed to avoid conflict and accidental encounters. Climate change is a real and serious threat to humanity. Citizens should insist that their governments acknowledge it and act accordingly.
The temperature goal under that agreement—to keep warming well below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels—is consistent with consensus views on climate science, is eminently achievable, and is. But the time window for achieving this goal is rapidly closing. Strong and accountable institutions are necessary to prevent deception campaigns that are a real threat to effective democracies, reducing their ability to enact policies to address nuclear weapons, climate change, and other global dangers.
It is two minutes to midnight, but the Doomsday Clock has ticked away from midnight in the past, and during the next year, the world can again move it further from apocalypse. The world has seen the threat posed by the misuse of information technology and witnessed the vulnerability of democracies to disinformation.
But there is a flip side to the abuse of social media. Leaders react when citizens insist they do so, and citizens around the world can use the power of the internet to improve the long-term prospects of their children and grandchildren. They can insist on facts, and discount nonsense. They can demand action to reduce the existential threat of nuclear war and unchecked climate change. They can seize the opportunity to make a safer and saner world. Her scholarly work focuses on the military and society; science, technology, and organizations; and US nuclear weapons history and policy.
Merton award for best book in science and technology studies. His research focuses on general relativity in the context of astrophysics and cosmology. He is a member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory LIGO collaboration, and was part of the team that announced the first detection of gravitational waves in early His current work deals primarily with the economic, political, and ethical dimensions of equitably sharing the effort of an ambitious global response to climate change.
Kartha has also worked on mitigation scenarios, market mechanisms for climate actions, and the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of biomass energy.
His work has enabled him to advise and collaborate with diverse organizations, including the UN Climate Convention Secretariat, various United Nations and World Bank programs, numerous government policy-making bodies and agencies, foundations, and civil society organizations throughout the developing and industrialized world. She is also a recipient of a Heinz Award for educating the public about environmental issues and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Krauss is an internationally known theoretical physicist with wide research interests, including the interface between elementary particle physics.
Among his numerous awards for research and outreach, he was awarded the Public Service Award from the National Science Board for his contributions to the public understanding of science. Krauss is the only physicist to have been awarded the three major awards from the American Physical Society, the American Institute of Physics, and the American Association of Physics Teachers. He is particularly interested in the use of offensive operations in cyberspace, especially as instruments of national policy.
A sought-after expert in her field, McKinney also provides support to the US Department of Defense, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, to provide subject matter expertise in biological terrorism preparedness to international agencies. She is the author of the forthcoming text: Public Health Emergency Preparedness: He was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in , which was used to launch collaborative work on the climate of Early Mars with collaborators in Paris.
He is a founding member and former co-chair of the International Panel on Fissile Materials. His research areas in pure physics include nuclear theory, particle physics, quantum field theory, quantum Hall systems, anomalous gauge theories, and Soliton physics. He has also worked on areas of public policy including higher education, nuclear energy and disarmament. He has written about fissile material production in India and Pakistan and the radiological effects of nuclear weapon accidents. His current scientific research is mostly in the areas of plasma astrophysics and astrophysical fluid dynamics and magnetohydrodynamics; high energy density physics; boundary mixing instabilities; and computational physics.
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His policy-oriented work has focused on the future of nuclear power and the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle, as well as various aspects of electrifying the transport sector. She is also a consultant on intelligence and homeland security for private corporations and the US government. In , the president of the United States appointed her to the Public Interest Declassification Board, which advises the president on the declassification policies of the US government. School of Advanced International Studies. She is well known for pioneering work that explained why there is a hole in the Antarctic ozone layer and is the author of several influential scientific papers in climate science.
Time magazine named Solomon as one of the most influential people in the world in His research is focused on critical physical processes in the climate system, especially the role of clouds and the important feedbacks that can occur as clouds change with a changing climate. His broader interests include all aspects of climate, including climate science outreach and the interface between science and public policy.
Somerville is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement.