In Brief

Doomsday Clock 2020: world ‘100 seconds from annihilation’

Threat of nuclear conflict, climate change and artificial intelligence push Doomsday Clock forward

The situation facing the world today is “profoundly unstable” as the threat of nuclear conflict, climate change and cyber-based disinformation push it to the brink of catastrophe, a panel of distinguished scientists and former officials has warned.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced its symbolic ‘Doomsday Clock’ has moved forward to 100 seconds to midnight, which symbolises the end of the world.

Up 30 seconds from last year, it is the closest to annihilation that the panel has judged the world to be at any point since its creation in 1947, at the outset of the Cold War. In 1991, when the Cold War ended the clock was set to 17 minutes to midnight.

The last move forward was 2018 when the world reached two minutes to midnight amid threats of climate change, nuclear fallout, and cyberwar. “This time it’s all of the above, but the situation has grown even more urgent as world leaders take little action on the climate crisis despite public outcry and as world leaders (like President Donald Trump) inch toward foolish conflicts (like with Iran) that may lead to nuclear proliferation as treaties and agreements to prevent their development crumble,” says Gizmodo.

Experts had originally made the decision to move the clock in November, before the flare-up in tensions between the US and Iran, “but have noted that those developments only served to confirm their view that the world was in more danger than ever before”, The Independent says.

In a not-so-veiled reference to the current US president, the panel said “the international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.”

“The warning comes as nuclear arms control is in danger of dying out altogether,” says The Guardian.

The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty lapsed in August after the US accused Russia of cheating and Donald Trump declared he would leave the treaty altogether.

This leaves the New Start treaty as the last remaining limit on the US and Russian deployed strategic arsenals. It was agreed in 2010 by the then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama, and it expires in February 2021.

While nuclear warfare remains a threat, the climate crisis continues to intensify, with the Trump administration withdrawing from the multilateral Paris climate change agreement, a move scientists warn could lead to a wider exodus which would have catastrophic consequences for global warming.

Robert Latiff, another member of the panel and retired air force major general, sought to link the Trump administration’s “disdain for expert opinion” with the ability to tackle climate change and a host of other science-based issues.

New technologies and developments, from “deep fake” videos, to dangerous pathogens and artificial intelligence, “all could threaten a fragile global peace” the Guardian adds.

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