Scientists and a group of prominent former world leaders want you know that global affairs are VERY BAD. Each year, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists sets its Doomsday Clock, gauging whether recent world events are hurling humanity toward apocalypse.
Usually, their annual announcement is a serious-but-chatty affair, followed by photos of aging eggheads adjusting a clock. This year the Bulletin released a 5000-word statement, a press release with bolded capital letters (“IT IS NOW 100 SECONDS TO MIDNIGHT“) and held an hourlong press conference with The Elders, a group of influential global leaders including Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary General (“my frightening sense of what is happening in this world without any governance structures of global disarmament of nuclear weapons”) and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and past president of Ireland Mary Robinson (“we ask world leaders to pull humanity back from the brink”). Former and emeritus members include Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu.
The clock was somberly adjusted to its closest-ever positioning to doom. CEO Rachel Bronson called the state of world affairs “a true emergency” and “absolutely unacceptable” which has “eliminated any margin for error or further delay.” For the first time, the clock’s setting is expressed in seconds (rather than 1.666 minutes) to “underscore the need for action.”
The group’s primary concerns are nuclear war and climate change, compounded by cyber-warfare and cyber-misinformation that limit society’s ability to respond. They find the international security situation “dire,” compounded by the fact that “leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing [threats] to erode.” Ban Ki-moon called out the “U.S. withdrawals from the Paris Agreement and the Iran Nuclear Deal, as well as deadlock at nuclear disarmament talks and division at the UN Security Council.”
The Doomsday Clock has been steadily inching toward doom since 2010, when it was 6 minutes from midnight. It was created by the scientists behind the Manhattan Project in 1947, and first set at 7 minutes to midnight. According to the Bulletin, the world’s most safe and secure period came in post-Cold War 1991, when the clock was 17 minutes from midnight. Last year, it was 2 minutes from midnight.
The group, whose executive chairman is former California Governor Jerry Brown and consults with a board that includes 13 Nobel laureates, has a website that is exceedingly competent, in addition to being terrifying.