Doomsday clock stays at 90 seconds to midnight: Still poised on the brink, closer than we’ve ever been

Jan 28, 2024
It is 90 seconds to midnight banner. Doomsday alarm poster. Doomsday clock. Symbol of global catastrophe, apocalypse sign. Flat vector illustration.

Nuclear risk reduction, abolition, more, urgent than ever.

With the iconic ‘Doomsday Clock’, curated by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists founded in 1947 by Einstein and others associated with the Manhattan Project, seemingly stuck at 90 seconds to ‘midnight’ (midnight being the catastrophic end of civilisation) for at least another 12 months, we are not only closer to doomsday than we have ever been, but we will have been poised on the brink of the abyss for longer than we have ever been.

This should be sobering, even frightening, news. Instead we seem to be getting used to it.

It was widely predicted in fact, that far from moving the clock back from midnight, the Bulletin might even inch it a few seconds nearer. One reason they did not is perhaps, that they are running out of seconds – We are running out of time.

A major factor in BAS’s decision at least to keep the clock-hands where they are – indicating that mankind’s situation is as perilous as ever – has been the war between Russia and Ukraine, with its ever – present possibility of escalation to nuclear war and the destruction of ‘civilisation’.

Lack of progress on Global Warming and the headlong rush to an unregulated development of AI without regard for the possible consequences will have played a significant role in the Bulletin’s decision. However, the possibility of global nuclear war should be seen as the most immediate and pressing concern.

Its worth reminding ourselves that:

As few as half a dozen relatively small nuclear warheads optimised for gamma ray production and exploded in outer space above Europe, Japan, China, India, the US and Australia would end hi-tech ‘civilisation’ in a nanosecond via electromagnetic pulse

The explosion of a number of hundreds of larger weapons on major cities would kill most humans in roughly 90 minutes and blanket the globe in dark black soot that would be lofted to the upper stratosphere where it would blot out the sun causing a ‘nuclear winter’ that would drop global temperatures (currently the highest they’ve been in the last millennium or so) to lower than during the last ice-age, where they would remain for decades.

The overwhelming majority of humans would perish.

Even during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, or during the twin crises of 1983 the Serpukhov-15 incident of 26 Sept 1983, and then the more prolonged Able Archer crisis, the participants never directly threatened each other with nuclear war.

Yet this seems to take place on almost a weekly or at least a monthly timescale over the last 2 years. Nuclear threats are becoming commonplace.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the STRATCOM ‘Defcon’ at one stage got to ‘Defcon-2’. ‘5’ is ‘normal’, and ‘1’ would be missiles incoming.(We have never been at ‘1’ – ‘2’ is as bad as it has ever gotten.) Yet the ‘DEFCON’ we are told, was at ‘2’ and then at ‘3’ during all of March and much of April 2022, and has wandered up and down since.

There is little prospect either for meaningful (or even cosmetic) arms control measures, and little immediate prospect for meaningful risk reduction measures such as No First Use, or reductions in operational readiness, commonsense as these are. Instead we are being actively threatened with the apocalypse.

No First Use if it could be adopted either by both sides of a strategic equation, or even if adopted unilaterally by one side only, would greatly reduce the risk of an (accidental or other) catastrophe.

A possible glimmer of light is the adoption by the G20 in Bali and Delhi, of language on strategic stability saying that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. This wording was reiterated by the final declaration of the TPNW (Ban Treaty) Meeting of States Parties. It needs to be repeated ad nauseam, everywhere. A good starting place would be the next session of the UN General Assembly in October.

 

(see the Doomsday Clock statement that follows)

PRESS RELEASE: Doomsday Clock remains at 90 seconds to midnight

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