The danger is getting closer and closer according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists: “We can go back, now it’s 90 seconds to midnight but we need to act quickly”
The Doomsday Clock has been reset to 90 seconds to midnight, reflecting the ongoing state of unprecedented danger the world faces. The Federation of Atomic Scientists, which administers the Doomsday clock, warns in their announcement that the clock could be turned back, but that governments and people need to act quickly to solve many problems.
There are many global threats including: the Russia-Ukraine war and the deterioration of nuclear arms reduction agreements; the climate crisis so much so that 2023 was the hottest year on record; the complexity of the level reached by genetic engineering techniques e the dramatic progress of artificial intelligence which could amplify misinformation.
“Resetting the clock to 90 seconds to midnight is not an indication that the world is stable. Quite the opposite – says Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists -. There is an urgent need for governments and communities around the world to act”.
The war between Russia and Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas conflict
The end of Russia’s war in Ukraine seems far away and Russia’s use of nuclear weapons a serious possibility remains in that conflict, atomic scientists warn. The nuclear spending programs of the three major nuclear powers – China, Russia and the United States – are pushing to trigger an arms race. Iran continues to enrich uranium. And the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, the atomic scientists write, has the potential to escalate into a broader Middle Eastern conflict that could pose unpredictable regional and global threats.
The climate crisis
The world in 2023 has entered uncharted territory since recorded its warmest year. Furthermore, global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. To stop further warming, the world must achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions. In short, current efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are grossly insufficient to avoid dangerous human and economic impacts from climate change, which disproportionately affect the world’s poorest people.
The revolution in life sciences and associated technologies continued to expand in scope last year, including, most notably, inartificial intelligence and the efficiency of genetic engineering technologies. In October, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order on “Safe and Trustworthy AI” that calls for protection “against the risks of using artificial intelligence to engineer dangerous biological materials by developing new standards for screening biological syntheses.” . While a helpful step, the order is not legally binding. For the scientists of the Bulletin, much more must therefore be done.
Everyone on Earth has an interest in reduce the likelihood of a global catastrophe from nuclear weapons and climate change. These threats are of such character and magnitude that no single nation or leader can handle them. This is why common threats require collective action.
As a first step, and despite their deep disagreements, three of the world’s major powers – the United States, China and Russia – should begin a serious dialogue on each of the global threats outlined here. At the highest levels, these three great powers must take responsibility for the danger facing the world, saving the world that is on the brink of catastrophe.