We’re still living in the most perilous times since the end of World War II, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and its trademark, which remains set at just two minutes to midnight for the second year in a row.
The clock is a kind of metric — midnight represents doomsday — that the organization contrived decades ago to warn “the public about how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own making.” The Bulletin makes periodic announcements updating the current “time” on the clock, indicating how close we are to some sort of existential catastrophe.
In its seven decades of existence, the clock has never been closer to midnight than it is right now. It was also at two minutes before midnight in 1953, at the beginning of the Cold War and a nuclearbetween the United States and the Soviet Union.
“We have in fact entered a period we call the ‘new abnormal’,” Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin, said at a press conference Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
In a lengthy statement released at the same time on its website, the Bulletin laid out how this period is defined by a “devolving state of nuclear and climate security” and “a qualitative change in information warfare and a steady misrepresentation of fact that is undermining confidence in political structures and scientific inquiry.”
A series of panelists at the press conference decried the erratic nature of relations between the United States and other nuclear powers like Russia and North Korea, which have.
“Journalists, you love Trump’s tweets,” Jerry Brown, former California governor and the Bulletin’s executive chair, told reporters. “You love the leads that get the clicks … but the final click could be a nuclear strike.”
In addition to the threats of nuclear arms, climate change and fake news, Bronson cited risks from nascent technologies like artificial intelligence and synthetic biology.
“The velocity of change across these and other technological fronts is extremely high; the international effort to manage these rapid advances has been, to date, grossly insufficient,” reads the new statement from the Bulletin.
The panel also focused on the threat ofand the renewed rise in global greenhouse emissions following a plateau in recent years.
Susan Solomon, a professor of environmental studies at MIT, said the US failure to stop a rise in carbon emissions is “simply an act of gross negligence.”
While the clock did not advance closer to midnight this year after two years of inching toward the brink, Bronson and the other panelists were clear to keep the focus on doom and gloom.
“[The 2019 time] should not be taken as a sign of stability but as a stark warning,” Bronson said.
But rather than despairing and retiring to the familyto Netflix-and-chill our lives away, the Bulletin lays the task of turning back the clock at the feet of the public.
“Today, citizens in every country can use the power of the Internet to fight against social media disinformation and improve the long-term prospects of their children and grandchildren. They can insist on facts, and discount nonsense. They can demand action to reduce the existential threat of nuclear war and unchecked climate change.”
Naturally, the Bulletin even includes a hashtag, because what better tool to save the world, right?
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