The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board has moved the hands on its iconic Doomsday Clock to 2½ minutes before midnight.
It was the first time in the watchdog group’s 70-year history that it decided to move the hands less than a full minute.
“In another first, the Board has decided to act, in part, based on the words of a single person: Donald Trump, the new President of the United States,” the Bulletin announced yesterday, in a release datelined Washington, DC. The decision to move the clock less than a full minute “reflects a simple reality: As this statement is issued, Donald Trump has been the U.S. president only a matter of days.”
The release points to the international community’s failure in 2016 “to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change,” culminating in the election of a U.S. president who “made disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.”
“As we marked the 70th anniversary of the Doomsday Clock, this year’s Clock deliberations felt more urgent than usual,” said Bulletin Executive Director and Publisher Rachel Bronson. “In addition to the existential threats posed by nuclear weapons and climate change, new global realities emerged, as trusted sources of information came under attack, fake news was on the rise, and words were used by a president-elect of the United States in cavalier and often reckless ways to address the twin threats of nuclear weapons and climate change.”
“Wise men and women have said that public policy is never made in the absence of politics,” added Lawrence Krauss, chair of the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors. “But in this unusual political year, we offer a corollary: Good policy takes account of politics but is never made in the absence of expertise. Facts are indeed stubborn things, and they must be taken into account if the future of humanity is to be preserved, long term. Nuclear weapons and climate change are precisely the sort of complex existential threats that cannot be properly managed without access to and reliance on expert knowledge.”