The world has inched closer to global disaster, according to the latest update to the Doomsday Clock.
The Clock was advanced 30 seconds forward this morning, to “two and a half minutes to midnight,” during the annual Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announcement at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
The reason was continued nuclear proliferation and climate change, after it had remained at three minutes to midnight for two consecutive years.
But one major factor is additional international political upheaval.
“The political situation in the United States is of particular concern,” the Bulletin board said, at the press conference and in an op-ed. “Making matters worse, the United States now has a president who has promised to impede progress on both of those fronts (nuclear and climate).”
They cited the ascendancy of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America just last week. Ever since last Friday, Trump has been constantly followed by an aide carrying the nuclear “football,” to launch global thermonuclear war within minutes.
Trump, like past presidents, has not ruled out first use by the U.S.A.
“I’d be the last one to use the nuclear weapons, because that’s sort of like the end of the ballgame,” Trump said at a town hall on the campaign trail last March.
Russia, which interceded on behalf of Trump in the November election, has 1,800 missiles active capable of striking North America. Some 1,400 U.S. warheads are pointed in the opposite direction.
The Doomsday Clock was founded by a group of scientists at the height of the Cold War, in 1947. At that time, the Soviet Union was still two years away from testing its own atomic bomb, and the Clock was set at seven minutes to midnight. The clock has reflected the belief of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists whether humanity and the Earth are advancing toward global disaster.
Two minutes to midnight was as close as the world has ever come to global catastrophe. The last time it was set there was 1953 – and it was a response to the first thermonuclear weapons, H-bombs tested by the United States in October 1952, and by the Soviet Union just nine months later. Even during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1963, the nuclear standoff in the Caribbean which nearly resulted in global war, the clock was still seven minutes away from the ultimate reckoning. The icy relations between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. reached another peak in 1984, amid breakdown in arms-reduction treaties.
The farthest it drifted away from midnight – the metaphorical nuclear Armageddon – was 17 minutes, as the Soviet Union collapsed under its own weight in 1991.
But the Doomsday Clock has gradually advanced over the last quarter-century. Continued tensions between the U.S. and Russia never really led to the dismantling of the huge WMD stockpiles – and nations like North Korea have gradually joined the nuclear club. In 1998 alone the clock jumped from 14 minutes to 9 minutes, based on the nuclear tests of both India and Pakistan months before. Terrorism and climate change have also contributed to the step-by-step advance of the Clock.
The last advance was from 2014 to 2015, from four minutes to three minutes, as the Bulletin cited the dangers of unchecked climate change and aging nuclear arsenals that had not been reduced in years.
The Clock was only updated at times of massive changes in the international scene for decades. But the announcement of its position has since become an annual January event.