The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) has declared that the Doomsday Clock is now set at two minutes to midnight.
Last year, we were two-and-a-half minutes from midnight - a hypothetical worldwide catastrophe - which means we’re now even closer to a global curtain call than we were back then.
“To call the world’s nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger, and its immediacy,” Dr Rachel Bronson, President and CEO of the BAS, told reporters at the announcement ceremony in Washington DC.
Calling it a “grim assessment”, she zeroed in on the unpredictability of the President of the United States, noting that, through statements and tweets, his thoughts on the use of nuclear weapons remain uncertain and worrying.
Professor Robert Rosner, chair of the Bulletin Science and Security Board, explained that “there is unfortunately little doubt that the risk that nuclear weapons may be used, intentionally, or through miscalculation, grew last year throughout the globe.”
Although he referenced the fact that all nuclear powers are enhancing their own arsenals, particularly North Korea, special attention was once again paid to the United States. “Our allies and adversaries alike are being forced to negotiate a thicket of conflicting policy statements from [the current] US administration,” Rosner stressed.
Board member Professor Sharon Squassoni said: “For the first time in many years, no US-Russia nuclear arms control negotiations are underway. Instead, we could see a return to a nuclear arms race.”
Trump’s disdain for the Iran nuclear deal was also mentioned. Widely seen as a positive security measure, the panel criticized the President for his attempts to undermine it.
As a point of comparison, the last – and only – time it was two minutes to midnight was 1953. At the same time, the Korean War was ongoing, and the US government was considering using nuclear weapons to settle a few scores. Nuclear weapons themselves were proliferating across the globe, and the more powerful hydrogen bomb variant came to the fore.