The Excalibur

The Doomsday Clock

Image+from+Bulletin+of+Atomic+Scientists
Image from Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

Image from Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

Image from Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

Tyler Kieft, Staff Writer

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The Doomsday Clock has shifted once again from two minutes and thirty seconds to only two minutes, marking the decline in safety around the world.

The Doomsday Clock is a representation of the predicted time left until global disaster, launched in 1947 by a group of scientists who were a part of the Manhattan Project. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has since measured the “minutes to midnight”, representing how close humanity is to an apocalypse. Although it was originally intended to focus on the relationships between nations and their pursuits in nuclear competition, it has also included decisions on climate change, artificial intelligence, and energy usage.

Earlier this month, on January 25, 2018, the bulletin released their newest change to the clock since the previous year’s. From 2017’s two and a half minutes to midnight, the clock has moved thirty seconds forward, to only two minutes from midnight. Two minutes away is the closest the clock has ever gotten, only tying with 1953’s change due to the pursuit of the hydrogen bomb by the United States and The Soviet Union during the Cold War. To think that the threat of mass world conflict nowadays is equal to the threats of those living through the Second Red Scare is hard to believe, considering the progress we believed we have made since then.

Although the world seems safer today than it was back during the Cold War, it shouldn’t be seen as a surprise that the Doomsday Clock is this close to midnight. Looking back on recent events in foreign diplomacy (United States and North Korea tensions) and a shift in those holding power (2016 election), the current state of the world has taken a dive off the deep end.

The election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States has not only led to some domestic changes in terms of health care and immigration laws, but other decisions as well that have made an affect on the rest of the world.

Among these are the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions. At the time of the withdrawal, Syria and Nicaragua were the only other countries in the world to have not yet signed onto the agreement, but since then both countries have, leaving the United States as the only country not participating. The Trump administration’s ignorance of scientific fact is damaging and will provide no sort of help in the fight against a dying climate. Even with the majority of the nation supporting the fact that climate change is occurring, not much can change without the help of the government by their side. As was stated in the Bulletin’s full statement, “The science linking climate change to human activity—mainly the burning of fossil fuels that produce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases—is sound. The world continues to warm as costly impacts mount, and there is evidence that overall rates of sea level rise are accelerating—regardless of protestations to the contrary.” Whether the U.S. will make its way back into the Agreement in the next couple years is unknown, but if the preservation of nature and a safe atmosphere is desired, action needs to be taken by all nations, especially the United States.

The closest similarity to 1953’s threats and 2018’s is of course, the tensions between North Korea and the United States in the threat of nuclear war. It’s nothing new to hear that North Korea is defying the ceasing of nuclear and ballistic missile tests, however, in the past year the communist nation has been testing such weapons much more frequently, as well as developing what is assessed to be a two-stage thermonuclear device (a device similar to that of the Cold War’s hydrogen bomb).

The fear of the country’s ability to cause destruction has been made apparent recently by the residents of Hawaii. On January 13, 2018, Hawaiians received an alert warning through texts, stating “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” The natural response to something as terrifying as this is to panic and that’s exactly how people responded, with confusion as to what could be done to save themselves. This alert later was corrected by the Hawaii emergency management services, by sending out another text claiming the previous was giving false information and that there was no missile after all. The panic of everybody perfectly demonstrates the lack of preparation we have in the threat of an actual attack. Not only is the preparation of the people not intact, but the U.S. Navy is clearly not ready for a real threat either. On the morning of January 31, 2018, the Navy conducted a missile test in Hawaii with the goal of being able strike down any ballistic missiles that could be seen as a threat. The test failed however, to reasons unknown to the public at the moment, but once it’s uncovered, changes are to be made that can lead to great progression in our capabilities to defend. Despite that optimism, if North Korea were to decide to launch a missile at the U.S. right now, we would not be ready to defend anyone from the destruction it would cause. Lives would be lost and chaos would ensue.

It doesn’t get any better, as over the past year Trump’s interactions with Kim Jong-un have worsened the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea, with threats and claims meant to make himself seem stronger and more powerful than Kim. For example, Trump’s tweet on Kim’s “Nuclear Button”: “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” The relationship needs to be mended, but it’s hard to imagine that we could dig us out of a mess that could potentially end with impulsive military actions on Trump’s behalf or Kim’s military action as a result of the irritation the U.S. has caused.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have provided some suggestions on how the clock can be turned back and the apocalypse can be prevented. These consist of the continuous pursuit to cease North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic weapon tests, the adoption of measures to ensure peace among militant leaders, governmental acknowledgement of climate change, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and collaborative efforts to ensure safety from new technologies and synthetic biology.

In the face of the dangers ahead of us, the countries of the world have to make the decisions they deem necessary to preserve the safety of the growing population and the sustainability of the environment and its resources. In order to do so, leaders and governments need to realize their priorities among the issues of foreign policy, nuclear weapons, and climate change. Whether the world does so or not is unknown as of now. We’ll just have to wait for 2019, when the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is likely to change the time on the Doomsday Clock again. Hopefully we move farther away, rather than closer to midnight.

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