The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 by researchers who worked on the atomic bomb. It publishes research on “manmade existential threats such as nuclear war, climate change, and disruptive technologies.”
And lately, it’s been a little bit, well, doomsaying. Its famous extinction clock has hovered for the last few years at “two minutes to midnight” — as pessimistic a future as it predicted in 1953 during the volatile early Cold War.
On Thursday, the group moved the clock again, announcing that we are “100 seconds to midnight.” The change from minutes to seconds is a bit awkward, but it solves an important problem for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: while the world does seem to be getting more dangerous, the danger mostly isn’t imminent (global civilization is overwhelmingly likely to survive the year 2020), and the Bulletin likely wants the ability to have some granularity in its risk assessments from one year to the next year.
The overall assessment that accompanied the 100-second clock unveiling is a gloomy one. All of the problems we faced last year are still facing us, and we have less time than ever to solve them. Both nuclear war and catastrophic effects from climate change, the Bulletin argues, grew more dangerous in 2019 — and world leaders made things worse.
“This situation — two major threats to human civilization, amplified by sophisticated, technology-propelled propaganda — would be serious enough if leaders around the world were focused on managing the danger and reducing the risk of catastrophe,” the Bulletin statement read. “Instead, over the last two years, we have seen influential leaders denigrate and discard the most effective methods for addressing complex threats — international agreements with strong verification regimes — in favor of their own narrow interests and domestic political gain.”
The result, the group argues, is that we’re closer to doomsday than we’ve ever been.
Read the rest of article at Vox