It is two and a half minutes to midnight
January 29, 2017
It is two and a half minutes to midnight. On 26 January, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock – a symbol conveying how close we are to the destruction of civilization with dangerous technologies – forward 30 seconds.
“Over the course of 2016, the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change,” the Bulletin stated.
It noted that the United States and Russia, which together possess more than 90 per cent of the world’s nuclear weapons, “continued wide-ranging modernizations of their nuclear forces, and serious arms control negotiations were nowhere to be seen”.
It also cited North Korea’s fourth and fifth nuclear tests conducted in 2016 and heightened tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan as factors contributing to its decision to move the time on the clock forward.
Also of great concern are US president Donald J. Trump’s “troubling propensity to discount and outright reject expert advice related to international security” and his “ill-considered comments about expanding the US nuclear arsenal”.
However, one positive development in 2016, the Bulletin noted, was the decision by the vast majority of United Nations member states to convene a conference this year to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.
“At the same time as tensions and instability are growing [among nuclear-armed states], the rest of the world is preparing to prohibit nuclear weapons,” commented Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of ICAN, in a statement released to media.
The negotiations will be held from 27 to 31 March and 15 June to 7 July at the United Nations headquarters in New York, with the aim of concluding a legally binding instrument that will prohibit the use and possession of nuclear weapons.
This promising development stands in stark contrast to the deeply worrying comments made by Trump and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, regarding the possibility of a new nuclear arms race and their calls to strengthen nuclear arsenals.