Doomsday clock is still at 100 seconds to 12
Also this year, the so-called doomsday clock, which represents the threat to mankind from various factors, remains at 100 seconds before 12. This is a record value that has only been reached once in the history of the clock. The current threat stems primarily from factors such as climate change, disinformation, political conflict and nuclear build-up, according to the Scientific Committee of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
2022: record value remains
The “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists” (BAS) was founded by Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer, among others. Since 1947, a committee of the BAS has been assessing the threat to mankind and is thus celebrating the 75th anniversary with this activity this year. This is then represented in the form of a reading on the world clock showing how close humanity is to destruction through conflict, weapons or other man-made technologies and problems.
In 2018, the Doomsday Clock was reset to two minutes to twelve for the first time since the end of the Cold War. In 2020, this estimate was corrected to 100 seconds to 12, setting a new record. The fact that this assessment will now remain in place in 2022 is a cause for concern. “This decision in no way means that the international situation has stabilized – on the contrary. The clock remains as close as ever to an apocalypse that could end our civilization. The world remains in an extremely dangerous situation“, according to the committee of the BAS. However, the scientists emphasize that there were also some positive developments in 2021, including the stabilization of the political situation in the USA and the associated return of the country to the Paris climate agreement and to the negotiating table of the Iran nuclear deal.
Global security situation is worrying
However, the researchers also observe some negative trends in the global security situation. A key factor is the smoldering political conflicts between major powers such as China, the USA and Russia. In particular, the committee emphasizes the Ukraine conflict. In addition, all three nuclear superpowers continue to upgrade and conduct tests with hypersonic missiles.
North Korea is also a factor that continues to pose a serious threat to the global security situation. In 2021, the country continued efforts to develop intermediate and long-range missiles. Iran, meanwhile, continues to enrich uranium while negotiations for a nuclear deal are deadlocked until all sanctions are lifted. There is also a nuclear and conventional build-up on the part of India and Pakistan. “If all of this is left unchecked, it could mark the start of a dangerous new arms race“, so the BAS.
Climate change and Covid-19
In addition to the global security situation, the committee also assesses climate change as a major risk factor for humanity. There would be a huge mismatch between the need for action and actual action. Despite the positive signs at the world climate conference in Glasgow, the largest emitters continue to lag behind the necessary minimum, according to the researchers.
Added to this threat is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shown the magnitude of the impact that biological threats can have on people, economies and politics. “But what the world has experienced in this pandemic is far from the worst-case scenario“, so the BAS. Covid-19 was in all probability not the last biological threat that humanity was confronted with. “We can no longer afford to ignore the biological threats. If we do, diseases and the lives they claim will push the hands even closer to midnightexplains Asha M. George, who is a member of the BAS.
Disinformation and hacking threaten security
The scientists see another threatening factor in the global information situation and the ever-increasing disinformation. They see distrust in democratic institutions and in science. “Technology has contributed to a climate of opinion where no rational argument or evidence can sway more conspiracy believers to reason. This results in a split in the common understanding of what truth is„, so Herb Lin vom BAS.
Furthermore, cyber attacks against institutions and companies have reached new dimensions in 2021. Examples such as the Microsoft Exchange SolarWinds hack or the increase in ransomeware attacks make it clear that cyber security is an important problem area.
The bottom line is that the scientists at BASX see an acute need for action to mitigate or ideally eliminate the current threats to human civilization. “ When the clock hits 100 seconds to twelve, it affects us all. The situation is dangerous and unstable and the time to act is now“, according to the committee.