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Home Articles Flashpoints 100 Seconds to Midnight - Closer to the Apocalypse than Ever

100 Seconds to Midnight - Closer to the Apocalypse than Ever

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24 JAN 2020





The 2020 Doomsday Clock announcement makes it clear that we are closer to the apocalypse – both in terms of nuclear weapons and in terms of climate change, or as it is increasingly being called the climate emergency – than we have ever been, ever.



 For a number of years the hands of the Doomsday Clock, set up by Albert Einstein and others who had been involved in the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago in 1947, sat at 2 minutes to midnight – the 'equal worst' setting it had ever been at. 

 The previous time that the hands had been at 2 mins to midnight was during and immediately after the first H-Bomb tests (1953-54) at a time when the US seriously contemplated pre-emptive nuclear strikes against the USSR.

 From early 2018 till now, it has been at 2 minutes to midnight. It is now officially at 100 seconds to midnight – just over a minute and a half.

 The reasons that the clock is in its current grim position are clear to anyone who closely observes nuclear weapons. While overall nuclear weapons numbers have declined drastically since the end of the cold war when tens of thousands of nuclear weapons were poised to wreak planetary havoc, there remain many times more than enough to destroy civilization in roughly 90 minutes.

 Indeed, nuclear weapons used in space can, by creating an electromagnetic pulse that fries electronics, take civilization back to the 18th century in nanoseconds – a trip most will not survive. (A US congressional report on EMP said that up to 90% of all US citizens might starve to death in the ensuing chaos)

 Large scale use of nuclear weapons will, by incinerating cities: 

--Create a body count in the billions in less than two hours

--Create hundreds of millions of tons of very black smoke from burning cities that stays in the upper stratosphere for decades, dropping global temperatures to a point where agriculture becomes difficult or impossible, and trashing global ecosystems.

 What is deeply concerning to all observers of nuclear weapon systems is that – paradoxically, precisely because we have forgotten to worry about nuclear weapons – the actual probability of their use has drastically increased in recent years, and particularly in the last 12 months or so.

 Obvious points are the US-North Korean tensions over nuclear weapons in which the possibility of nuclear weapon use is brandished as a negotiating point, US-Russian tensions (including the practice of large scale military exercises often of a 'back to back' nature, involving nuclear-capable forces), the unpredictable and dangerous India-Pakistan situation, and now, the increasing possibility that Iran may feel it has no alternative but to fit itself with nuclear weapons notwithstanding the fatwa that says these weapons are un-islamic.

 Less obvious but insidious is a perception that there is in fact NO nuclear weapons problem – a perception that makes for complacency and carelessness where those weapons are concerned. The first step to fixing the problem is to acknowledge it.

 The statement by the board of the Doomsday Clock and the Elders comes with the imprimatur and the presence of the worlds most knowledgeable nuclear weapons experts, the most knowledgeable experts on climate change, the immediately former secretary-general of the UN. Ban Ki Moon, former California Governor Jerry Brown, chair of the 'Elders', and former Irish President (and Nobel), Mary Robinson.

 These are the most respected and the sanest people our world has. To suggest as some do that they don't know what they are talking about is to reveal that you yourself have no idea what you are talking about.

 We ignore them at our absolute peril.

 The absolute urgency of action on the part of governments worldwide to reduce the immediate risk of nuclear war, and to reverse climate change has never been clearer.


John Hallam

UN Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner

People for Nuclear Disarmament

Human Survival Project


Abolition 2000 Working Group on Nuclear Risk Reduction

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 December 2021 07:08