Humanity is now just two-and-a-half minutes from midnight, when the world ends, according to the Doomsday Clock.
The change means that Earth is closer to oblivion than it has been since 1953. That’s according to the experts who make up the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and set the time of the clock, which indicates the danger that humanity finds itself in.
Lawrence Krauss and David Titley, who lead the organisation, said that the adjustment by half a minute towards midnight had been made because the international community had failed to deal with humanity’s two most pressing threats: nuclear weapons and climate change.
But it said that the danger had been amplified because “the United States now has a President who has promised to impede progress on both of those fronts”.
“Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person,” the two scientists wrote. “But when that person is the new President of the United States, his words matter.”
The board pointed to other issues including the development and threat of nuclear weapons being built by North Korea, India and Pakistan, Russia and China; the doubt over the future of the Iran nuclear deal; and deteriorating relations between the United States and Russia. All of those problems had been made worse by Mr Trump, it said.
“These are all matters in which President Trump has signalled that he would make matters worse, either because of a mistaken belief that the threats posed by nuclear weapons and climate can be ignored or that the words of a president of the United States do not matter to the rest of the world,” Mr Krauss and Mr Titley wrote in The New York Times.
Almost the entirety of the Bulletin’s statements and reasoning were taken up with references to the new US President. Though he hadn’t caused many of the problems that put humanity in danger, he was pushing the world “closer to midnight”, it said.
“We understand that Mr Trump has been in office only days, that many of his cabinet nominees are awaiting confirmation and that he has had little time to take official action,” the two scientists wrote.
“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. He has shown a troubling propensity to discount or reject expert advice related to international security. 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.”
The clock was previously at three minutes to midnight. That meant Earth was closer to oblivion than it had been at any point since the testing of the hydrogen bomb and the most intense parts of the Cold War.
It wasn’t reset last year but scientists stressed that still meant that humanity was perched on the edge of the apocalypse.
The clock has only been closer to midnight than it is now once before, in 1953. That was when the US was pursuing the hydrogen bomb, and both Russia and the US had successfully tested thermonuclear bombs.
The Bulletin was founded by concerned US scientists involved in the Manhattan Project that developed the world's first nuclear weapons during the Second World War. Today the Bulletin is an independent non-profit organisation run by some of the world’s most eminent scientists.
In 1947, they established the Doomsday Clock to provide a simple way of demonstrating the danger to the planet and humanity posed by nuclear war.
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