Donald Trump has caused a Doomsday Clock symbolising the threat of apocalypse to move closer to midnight.
The new ‘time’, two and a half minutes to midnight, is the closest the planet has been to an apocalypse since 1953.
Researchers who manage the clock said the US president’s policies on climate change and nuclear weapons were largely to blame for the change.
Lawrence Krauss and David Titley, who lead the organisation, said the adjustment had been made because the international community failed to deal with humanity’s two most pressing threats: nuclear weapons and climate change.
Scroll down for video
A Doomsday Clock symbolising the threat of apocalypse has moved closer to midnight, because of Donald Trump. Researchers who manage the clock announce the new ‘time’, two and a half minutes to midnight, in an event that was live streamed today (pictured)
WHAT IS THE DOOMSDAY CLOCK?
The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clock face, representing a countdown to possible global catastrophe.
The decision to move, or leave the clock alone, is made by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in consultation with the bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, which includes 16 Nobel laureates.
The clock has become a universally recognised indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in life sciences.
They added this was ‘thanks for Trump.’
‘The United States now has a president who has promised to impede progress on both of those fronts,’ the pair said.
‘Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person,’ the two scientists wrote in a statement.
‘But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.’
The group also addressed other issues including the threat of nuclear weapons being built by North Korea, India and Pakistan, Russia and China.
‘A rise in strident nationalism worldwide, President Donald Trump’s comments on nuclear arms and climate issues, a darkening global security landscape that is colored by increasingly sophisticated technology, and a growing disregard for scientific expertise,’ the group said in a statement.
The clear need for climate action is an important one, the researchers said.
‘The continued warming of the world measured in 2016 underscores one clear fact: Nothing is fundamentally amiss with the scientific understanding of climate physics,’ the researchers wrote.’
A Doomsday Clock symbolising the threat of apocalypse has moved closer to midnight, partly because of Donald Trump. Researchers who manage the clock announce the new ‘time’ in an event that was live streamed today
The Doomsday Clock was established in 1947 to provide a simple way of demonstrating the danger to the Earth and humanity posed by nuclear war
WHY IS TRUMP TO BLAME?
Researchers who manage the clock said US president’s policies on climate change and nuclear weapons were largely to blame for the change.
In their op-ed — headlined ‘Thanks to Trump, the Doomsday Clock Advances Toward Midnight’ — they wrote: ‘We understand that Mr Trump has been in office only days, that many of his cabinet nominees are awaiting confirmation and that he has had little time to take official action.
‘But Mr Trump’s statements and actions have been unsettling.
‘He 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.’
‘I hope the debate engendered by the 2017 setting of the Clock raises the level of conversation, promotes calls to action, and helps citizens around the world hold their leaders responsible for delivering a safer and healthier planet,’ said Dr Rachel Bronson, executive director of the Bulletin.
‘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,’ said Lawrence Krauss.
In 2015 the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, an expert group formed in 1945, adjusted the Doomsday Clock two minutes forward and took it to three minutes to midnight.
That sent a message that the Earth was closer to oblivion than any time since the early days of hydrogen bomb testing and 1984, when US-Soviet relations reached ‘their iciest point in decades’.
Members of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists deliver remarks on the 2017 time for the ‘Doomsday Clock’ January 26, 2017 in Washington, DC
RECOMMENDATIONS TO MOVE THE CLOCK BACK
Last year, the Bulletin statement accompanying the Doomsday Clock announcement identified the following as the most urgently needed:
- Dramatically reduce proposed spending on nuclear weapons modernization programs.
- Re-energize the disarmament process, with a focus on results.
- Engage North Korea to reduce nuclear risks.
- Follow up on the Paris accord with actions that sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fulfill the Paris promise of keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius.
- Deal now with the commercial nuclear waste problem.
- Create institutions specifically assigned to explore and address potentially catastrophic misuses of new technologies.
Last year the clock’s hands, which have moved forwards and backwards in different years over the past decades, remained unchanged.
A statement accompanying the 2016 Doomsday Clock decision read: ‘Three minutes (to midnight) is too close.
‘Far too close.
‘We, the members of the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, want to be clear about our decision not to move the hands of the Doomsday Clock in 2016: That decision is not good news, but an expression of dismay that world leaders fail to focus their efforts and the world’s attention on reducing the extreme danger posed by nuclear weapons and climate change.
‘When we call these dangers existential, that is exactly what we mean: They threaten the very existence of civilization and therefore should be the first order of business for leaders who care about their constituents and their countries.’
The Bulletin was founded by concerned US scientists involved in the Manhattan Project that developed the world’s first nuclear weapons during the Second World War.
In 1947 they established the Doomsday Clock to provide a simple way of demonstrating the danger to the Earth and humanity posed by nuclear war.
Researchers who manage the clock announce the new ‘time’ in an event that was live streamed today, making it the closest the planet has been to an apocalypse since 1953
In 2015 the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, an expert group formed in 1945, adjusted the Doomsday Clock two minutes forward and took it to three minutes to midnight
Today the Bulletin is an independent non-profit organisation run by some of the world’s most eminent scientists.
The Doomsday Clock now not only takes into account the likelihood of nuclear Armageddon but also other emerging threats such as climate change and advances in biotechnology and artificial intelligence.
Last month the Bulletin dropped a strong hint Doomsday might be about to edge nearer.
In a statement the scientists said: ‘Tensions between the United States and Russia that remain at levels reminiscent of the Cold War, the danger posed by climate change, and nuclear proliferation concerns, including the recent North Korean nuclear test, are the main factors influencing the decision about any adjustment that may be made to the Doomsday Clock.’
The closest the clock has ever come to striking midnight was in 1953, when the time was set at two minutes to 12.
It was in that year that the US took the decision to upgrade its nuclear arsenal with the hydrogen bomb, ‘a weapon far more powerful than any atomic bomb’.