the Doomsday Clock

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have moved their doomsday clock from “3 minutes to midnight” to “2.5 minutes to midnight”. It appears to me to be the first time they have used a fraction. A couple quotes:

Last year, and the year before, we warned that world leaders were failing to act with the speed and on the scale required to protect citizens from the extreme danger posed by climate change and nuclear war. During the past year, the need for leadership only intensified—yet inaction and brinksmanship have continued, endangering every person, everywhere on Earth…

Technological innovation is occurring at a speed that challenges society’s ability to keep pace. While limited at the current time, potentially existential threats posed by a host of emerging technologies need to be monitored, and to the extent possible anticipated, as the 21st century unfolds…

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 its two most recent annual announcements on the Clock, the Science and Security Board warned: “The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon.” In 2017, we find the danger to be even greater, the need for action more urgent. It is two and a half minutes to midnight, the Clock is ticking, global danger looms. Wise public officials should act immediately, guiding humanity away from the brink. If they do not, wise citizens must step forward and lead the way.

They offer some recommendations, including the U.S. and Russia returning to the arms reduction negotiating table, reducing nuclear weapons alert status and maintaining communication and crisis de-escalation channels, meeting obligations under the Paris climate accord, multilateral engagement with North Korea, nuclear power safety and risk management, and new institutions to manage “potentially malign or catastrophic misuses of new technologies”.

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