Amid a cacophony of blasts at President Trump, the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on Thursday turned political, moving its “Doomsday Clock” to two-and-a-half minutes to midnight, nearly the closest the warning has ever been to the theoretical “midnight” of a global catastrophe.
It has been at three minutes to midnight for several years and was moved only half a minute because “as this statement is issued, Donald Trump has been the U.S. president only a matter of days.”
The scientists, in their report, say they take a broad and international view of “existential threats to humanity, focusing on long-term trends.”
They lashed out at Trump, citing disagreements that continue between Russia and the U.S., two nations that have 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.
“This already-threatening world situation was the backdrop for a rise in strident nationalism worldwide in 2016, including in a U.S. presidential campaign during which the eventual victor, Donald Trump, made disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change,” they wrote.
“Wavering public confidence in the democratic institutions required to deal with major world threats do affect the board’s decisions. And this year, events surrounding the U.S. presidential campaign – including cyber offensives and deception campaigns apparently directed by the Russian government and aimed at disrupting the U.S. election – have brought American democracy and Russian intentions into question and thereby made the world more dangerous than was the case a year ago.”
“Words matter, and President Trump has had plenty to say over the last year,” the scientists’ report continued. “Both his statements and his actions as president-elect have broken with historical precedent in unsettling ways. He has made ill-considered comments about expanding the U.S. nuclear arsenal. He has shown a troubling propensity to discount or outright reject expert advice related to international security, including the conclusions of intelligence experts. And his nominees to head the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency dispute the basics of climate science.”
The scientists continued their rant.
“In short, even though he has just now taken office, the president’s intemperate statements, lack of openness to expert advice, and questionable cabinet nominations have already made a bad international security situation worse.”
They noted they had called last year for “leadership,” to no avail, but didn’t even reference President Obama, in office until only last week.
“During the past year, the need for leadership only intensified – yet inaction and brinksmanship have continued, endangering every person, everywhere on Earth,” they said.
They referenced Obama, under whose administration relations with Russia deteriorated to their lowest point in years, only in a historical note, point out that in 2010 he called for a nuclear-free world.
This year, they asked, “Who will lead humanity away from global disaster?”
They referenced new threats from North Korea, Russia’s plans for silo-based missiles and China’s helping Pakistan “build submarine platforms.”
They then cited Trump’s “casual talk about nuclear weapons, suggesting South Korea and Japan acquire their own nuclear weapons to compete with North Korea.”
They blasted the six-day-old “Trump administration” for failing to have “firm plans” to extend the controversial “Iran nuclear deal.”
And claiming that global warming is a threat – despite no significant change in average global temperatures for two decades – they resumed their attack on Trump.
“The political situation in the United States is of particular concern. The Trump transition team has put forward candidates for cabinet-level positions (especially at the Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Department) who foreshadow the possibility that the new administration will be openly hostile to progress toward even the most modest efforts to avert catastrophic climate disruption,” they claim.
“The Trump administration needs to make a clear, unequivocal statement that it accepts climate change, caused by human activity, as a scientific reality.”
On “potential threats from emerging technologies,” they again put Trump in the bull’s-eye.
“U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had intervened in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign to help Donald Trump in ways that highlight the vulnerability of critical information systems in cyberspace,” they said. “If not controlled, these types of electoral attacks could be launched against democracies around the world, undermining belief in representative government and thereby endangering humanity as a whole.”
The board statement said: “For the last two years, the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock stayed set at three minutes before the hour, the closest it had been to midnight since the early 1980s. … In 2017, we find the danger to be even greater, the need for action more urgent.”
On the board are Lynn Eden, Rod Ewing, Lawrence Krauss, Sivan Kartha, Herb Lin, Suzet McKinney, Ramamurti Rajaraman, Robert Rosner, Steve Miller, Raymond Pierrehumbert, Jennifer Sims, Susan Solomon, Sharon Squassoni, David Titley and Richard Somerville.
WND previously reported since the founding of its clock in 1947, the organization has judged the world moving to a safer place generally whenever Republicans are in the Oval Office.
It’s the Democrats who move the clock closer to “Doomsday.”
The clock was not moved last year, but in 2015, under Obama, it moved from five minutes to midnight to three minutes to midnight.
That was when the group said the “probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon.”
At the time of the 2015 change, indicating higher threats, the group said: “Unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity, and world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe. These failures of political leadership endanger every person on Earth.”
In 2012, under Obama, the clock moved from six minutes to five minutes when the scientists warned, “It is difficult to see where the capacity lies to address these challenges.”
They pointed out “the potential for nuclear weapons use in regional conflicts in the Middle East, Northeast Asia, and South Asia.”
In 2010, shortly after Obama took office, the clock moved from five minutes to six minutes as negotiations between Washington and Moscow for a follow-on agreement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty neared completion and more negotiations for further reductions in the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenal were planned.
It moved from nine minutes to seven minutes to five under Republican George W. Bush, an outlier among Republicans in the assessment, during his tenure after the 9/11 terror attacks.
The scientists pointed out the United States and Russia “remain ready to stage a nuclear attack within minutes, North Korea conducts a nuclear test, and many in the international community worry that Iran plans to acquire the bomb.”
Setting the clock at seven minutes in 2002, they said, “Concerns regarding a nuclear terrorist attack underscore the enormous amount of unsecured – and sometimes unaccounted for – weapon-grade nuclear materials located throughout the world.”
Democrat Bill Clinton took it from 14 minutes before midnight in 1995 to nine minutes in 1998, when the scientists called the nuclear weapons tests by both India and Pakistan a “failure of the international community to fully commit itself to control the spread.”
George H.W. Bush’s term ended with the clock at 17 minutes to midnight, up from 10 minutes in 1991 when the Cold War was officially over and the United States and Russia began making deep cuts to their nuclear arsenals.
The clock was at four minutes to midnight in 1981, the year Ronald Reagan took office, and it moved to three minutes in 1984 as the Soviet Union spiraled toward its eventual disintegration. It surged back to six minutes in 1988.
Under President Jimmy Carter, it was set at seven minutes, down from nine minutes the year President Richard Nixon was succeeded by President Gerald Ford, both Republicans.
It was at 10 minutes to midnight when Nixon took over from Lyndon Johnson, and rose briefly to 12 minutes as the U.S. and USSR signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty and Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
Johnson took it from 12 minutes in 1963 to seven minutes in 1968, as regional wars raged, including in Vietnam, the Indian subcontinent and the Holy Land.
Republican President Dwight Eisenhower took it from two minutes to midnight in 1953 to seven minutes to midnight in 1960.
The scientists said then: “For the first time, the United States and Soviet Union appear eager to avoid direct confrontation in regional conflicts such as the 1956 Egyptian-Israeli dispute. Joint projects that build trust and constructive dialogue between third parties also quell diplomatic hostilities. Scientists initiate many of these measures, helping establish the International Geophysical Year, a series of coordinated, worldwide scientific observations, and the Pugwash Conferences, which allow Soviet and American scientists to interact.”
Democrat Harry Truman, the post-World War II president, took it from three minutes in 1949 to two minutes in 1953. When the clock was established in 1947, it was set at seven minutes before midnight.
Key factors that have affected the decision over the years include “unchecked climate change,” North Korean atomic tests, arms treaties, the breakup of the Soviet Union, nuclear weapons tests by India and Pakistan, arms stockpiles cuts, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, regional wars, and more.