Doomsday Clock—Two and One-Half Minutes to Midnight

February 11, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


Doomsday clock from the Bulletin of Atomic ScientistsFor 70 years, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has released its yearly “Doomsday Clock,” indicating how close the world is to devastation from nuclear war and other threats. The scientists mark the danger in how close the clock is to midnight. At the end of January, the clock was moved forward 30 seconds, to two and one-half minutes to midnight. This is the closest to midnight the clock has been set since 1953 when the U.S. and the Soviet Union both tested their first thermonuclear weapons. A primary factor in the Bulletin moving the clock to say that humanity faces great danger to its existence was Donald Trump becoming president.

In a January 26 New York Times op-ed, Lawrence Krauss, the Bulletin’s chairman of the board of sponsors, and David Titley, a former chairman of the Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change, wrote, “In 2016, the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come to grips with humanity’s most pressing threats: nuclear weapons and climate change. Making matters worse, 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. But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter....

“[Trump] 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.” (“Thanks to Trump, the Doomsday Clock Advances Toward Midnight”)

After his election, Trump tweeted that the United States should “greatly strengthen and expand” its nuclear weapons capability and told reporters, “Let it be an arms race because we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.” During a September presidential debate, talking about a first-strike nuclear attack, Trump said, “We have to be prepared. I can’t take anything off the table.” He has threatened to use tactical nuclear weapons in the Middle East, and reportedly asked foreign policy advisors, “If we have [nuclear weapons], why can’t we use them?”


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