The Doomsday Clock is the call to action we all need right now
by Allen Hester
This year, the “Doomsday Clock” has been set to 100 seconds to midnight, the closest to doomsday it's ever been. Although some argue that it’s time to ditch the Doomsday Clock, it’s actually the urgent call to action we need right now.
Scientists and health professionals, including members of my organization, Physicians for Social Responsibility, are sounding the alarm on heightened global threats posed by nuclear weapons and climate change, because human health and survival is at stake.
That’s precisely what President and CEO of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) Rachel Bronson emphasized in her remarks explaining why the clock was set so close to the proverbial midnight. Bronson also pointed out the dangers of “undermining” the voices of collective science. It’s been nearly 75 years since scientists first set the symbolic clock, and this August marks the 75th anniversary of the only instances in history when atomic weapons were used in an act of war.
We can’t afford to let history repeat itself. The Doomsday Clock was already set at just two minutes to midnight in in 2018 and 2019, the same setting as during the height of the Cold War. Yet world leaders have continued to run headlong toward disaster, undermining critical multilateral arms control agreements to prevent potential nuclear conflict and global efforts to tackle the climate crisis before it’s too late.
“By undermining cooperative science and law-based approaches to managing the most urgent threats to humanity, leaders have helped create a situation that will, if unaddressed, lead to catastrophe sooner rather than later, ” Bronson warned.
Former Governor of California and BAS board member Jerry Brown, said, “People will say ‘(the clock is) not serious’. Well, the moment is serious. Tell me, how else can we tell people where we’re at? How else can we wake up the Democrats, the Republicans, the Independents, millionaires, billionaires, the media owners, who carry on their life as though they are on the Titanic about to hit an iceberg, and they're not worried?”
I am only twenty-five years old, and my generation does not deserve to inherit a world on the brink of global catastrophe. I’m fighting to end nuclear proliferation, and I’m far from alone. Most people recognize that the climate crisis a top issues among young voters, but recent polling shows more than half of millennials fear a nuclear attack in the next decade.
The United States can and must once again show leadership in multilateral efforts to de-escalate tensions and pull us back from the brink of nuclear conflict. Nuclear weapons make us less, not more, safe, and it’s time to stop playing a no-win game of chicken and enact common-sense nuclear policies before time runs out. The United States should reenter the Iran Deal, extend New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia), prohibit the deployment of so-called “low-yield” nuclear weapons designed specifically to be “more usable,” and establish that it is the official policy of the United States not to start a nuclear war.
Right now, any sitting U.S. President has the sole authority to unilaterally order a nuclear strike. That puts all our health and safety in jeopardy. Let the Doomsday Clock serve as our hourglass. It’s 100 seconds to midnight, and we’re up against a tight deadline to defuse the crisis.
Allen Hester is the Grassroots Coordinator for the Nuclear Weapons Abolition Program for Physicians for Social Responsibility and received a B.A. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University.