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Threat of nuclear war and climate change keep Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds till midnight

2022 Doomsday clock show 100 seconds to midnight
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
2022 Doomsday clock show 100 seconds to midnight

TPR's Jerry Clayton recently spoke with John Mecklin, Editor in Chief of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientistsabout the Doomsday Clock

Jerry Clayton: In 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the Doomsday Clock to convey threats to humanity and the planet. For the past two years, the Doomsday Clock has been set to 100 seconds before midnight. Here to talk about the clock and what it means is John Mecklin, editor in chief of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Thanks for being here, John.

John Mecklin: It's no problem.

Clayton: What is the Doomsday Clock and what is it not?

Mecklin: Sometimes people take the Doomsday Clock to be a measurement of some a scientific calculation. It's not. It's a metaphor. It's a metaphor that expresses the organization's best effort to alert people to what the state of the world actually is in. What 100 seconds to midnight means is that the world is an extremely dangerous state in. People ought to be paying attention closely to that state and talking to their leaders.

Clayton: How are we to interpret the 100 seconds till midnight on the Doomsday Clock now?

Mecklin: That's a reflection of my science and security board of 15 or so experts who advise the bulletin on the world. They just think it's it's the most dangerous time in the history since World War Two for all sorts of reasons. On (the) nuclear situation, the climate situation and the situation with media ecosphere, the telling of truth and now the situation in Ukraine. It's very dangerous. And 100 seconds to midnight, it's as close as the clock has ever been.

Clayton: When you look at a nuclear exchange, in your mind is it most likely to be intentional or accidental?

Mecklin: You know, most experts have thought it would be an accidental situation or, you know, a miscalculation. Something that somebody did could just be, you know, misunderstood or warning systems could give a false warning of an attack, and that could cause something. But that was before Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has made fairly explicit threats that he might use nuclear weapon, and if he used a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, that wouldn't be an accident. It would be because he chose to. And what happens from there is...If he were to do that, it would be such a dangerous thing. Many of the experts I've spoken to are extremely frightened right now. But it's a real possibility,

Clayton: In your opinion, what actions do you think need to be taken to roll the Doomsday Clock back somewhat?

Mecklin: We put out a statement whenever we set the clock in January and there's a whole list. But the basics of that are in climate change, basically, the countries of the world have to live up to the commitments they made in Paris and subsequently this last year at the COP26 meeting and within 20 years or so, be on a real zero net emissions of greenhouse gases. On the nuclear side, it's the countries of the world have to come reengage on arms control and disarmament. Last several years, a lot of the arms control agreements that had been enforced both the United States and Russia have quit those agreements. There's only one really left, New Start. So all of the what had been positive action to nuclear risks sort of stopped and went backwards during the Trump administration and with the situation in Ukraine, with Russia threatening a possible use of nuclear weapons., that's a situation that has to completely turn around. The United States, Russia and China all need to engage in arms control, real arms control negotiations about reducing the number of weapons in the alert levels and taking all sorts of other actions to make a nuclear war increasingly less possible.

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Jerry Clayton can be reached at jerry@tpr.org or on Twitter at @jerryclayton.