IMMEDIATE USE JAN 26TH
PEOPLE FOR NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT
HUMAN SURVIVAL PROJECT
A MINUTE CLOSER TO MIDNIGHT?
WHETHER THE CLOCK HANDS MOVE OR NOT, THE APOCALYPSE IS ON THE AGENDA
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Doomsday Clock announcement at 10am Washington time, (2am Sydney time) live streaming at
The 'Doomsday Clock', set up by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, itself founded by scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project, is a symbolic way to indicate just how close human civilization is to self-destruction. Over most of its existence at the University of Chicago, it has focussed on the threat posed by nuclear weapons and nuclear war. Its ambit has now expanded to include Climate change, artificial intelligence, and other more exotic threats. In recent years, the nuclear apocalypse, thought to have faded from the agenda, has come roaring back.
The hands of the clock are symbolically moved – or not moved – at an annual symposium. The position of the hands is discussed by a board consisting of nobel prizewinning physicists and arms control experts.
For the last two years the hands have been set at a notional '3 minutes' to 'midnight' ('midnight' being in effect the end of the world). The last time the clock was at this position was at the terrifying latter part of the cold war in 1983, a year in which the world nearly ended in nuclear fire not once but twice within an approximately 6 week period in September (Sept 26th now International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons) and November (the 'Able Archer exercise, which nearly took the world to nuclear war). At the last Doomsday Clock symposium, the decision NOT to move the hands from 3 minutes was characterized as 'an expression of dismay'.
Rumors abound that the hands will in fact be moved closer to 'midnight'.
The current risk of global nuclear war, long regarded as the forgotten apocalypse, has been characterized by experts in nuclear risk (notably by former US defense secretary William Perry) as actually more risky than that year in which the world nearly ended twice.
We have seen nuclear threat being made quite explicitly by Vladimir Putin and loose talk about nuclear use by Candidate Trump, now followed everywhere by a man with a bulging black briefcase from which he can order up WW-III more or less when he feels like it. Theoretically at least, no – one has the authority to stop him.
The US and Russia maintain just under 1000 land-based ICBMs each in a status in which they can be launched in a very few minutes at a presidential order.
If the Doomsday Clock as rumored, goes to 2 minutes to midnight, we are in uncharted territory – it was there only briefly in 1954, after the first thermonuclear tests by the US and Russia.
Whether or not it goes there, the current level of nuclear war risk is unacceptable, given that this is after all literally the end of what we know of as 'the world'.
There are two urgent measures that will make this apocalyptic risk simply vanish.
One – which can be done yesterday – is to lower the operational readiness of US and Russian land based ICBM systems so that hasty decision-making does not end civilization and much much more.
The other is to eliminate nuclear weapons completely.
The first steps to do that will be taken next March and June/July at UN meetings in New York. Every government on the planet should wholeheartedly support that effort.