Monday, February 1, 2021

This Doomsday Clock Says The Time Is...Part II

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Society, Sustainability, Global Change

Ed Hessler

In the United States there is another more well known Doomsday Clock and most of the issues as well as determining the time are different from the Asahi Foundation's method.

It is published each year by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists'  Science and Security Board in consultation with the Bulletin's Board of Sponsors, which includes 13 Nobel Laureates. 

In their recent 2021 Doomsday Clock Statement (for the year 2020) they said:

We set the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight—the closest it has ever been to Doomsday since its inception—because the existential risks confronting humanity today call for quick and comprehensive action across the 21st century’s complex threat spectrum.(bold mine).

By reading or skimming the press release the criteria for determining the time can be seen. Still it is a human judgement, one relying heavily on expertise, mostly scientific. All Doomsday Clock statements and times are found on this timeline.  In addition there is an extensive and interactive virtual tour here

In addition, the clockmakers always include practical steps that world leaders can and should initiate in 2021 to protect humanity from major global threats that have the potential to end civilization.

  • The US and Russian presidents should, upon extension of New START, launch follow-on talks for more ambitious and comprehensive limits of nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
  • Now that the United States has announced it will rejoin the Paris climate agreement, it should accelerate its commitment to decarbonization and put policies in place that make the attainment of the commitment feasible.
  • Now that the United States has rejoined the World Health Organization, it should work through the WHO and other international institutions to reduce biological risks of all kinds. Also, national leaders and international organizations can prepare for biological events before they occur by more carefully monitoring animal-human interactions and improving international disease surveillance and reporting efforts; increasing world capacity to produce and quickly distribute medical supplies; and expanding hospital capacity.
  • US President Joe Biden can show leadership by reducing US reliance on nuclear weapons via limits on their roles, missions, and platforms, and by decreasing budgets accordingly. The United States should declare its commitment to no-first-use of nuclear weapons and persuade allies and rivals to agree that no-first-use is a step toward security and stability.
  • President Biden should banish the fear that a single person would have the power to end civilization by eliminating his own and future US presidents’ sole authority to launch nuclear weapons. He should work to persuade other countries with nuclear weapons to put in place similar barriers.
  • Russia can rejoin the NATO-Russia Council and open serious discussions on risk reduction and on avoiding escalation dangers.
  • North Korea can agree to codify and allow verification of its moratorium on nuclear tests and long-range missile tests.
  • Iran and the United States can jointly return to full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and Iran can agree to new, broader talks about Middle East security and constraints on its missile and other military activities.
  • The United States and Russia can renew cooperation on fissile material and nuclear security to make sure that terrorists cannot acquire the means to build a nuclear weapon.
  • Banks and other sources of capital can implement policies that limit investment in fossil fuel projects, as indeed some already have done, and redirect it to climate-friendly investments.
  • China can reorient its Belt and Road Initiative, so it sets an example for other investors by pursuing sustainable development pathways rather than supporting fossil fuel-intensive development.
  • All nations can commit to stronger decarbonization goals under the Paris Agreement and implement policies directed toward the realization of these goals. Those policies should address not merely long-term goals but near-term emission reductions and investments in longer-term structural changes. Meanwhile, the world’s wealthier countries should enhance their commitments under the Paris Agreement to provide financial support and technology cooperation required by developing countries to undertake strong climate action.
  • Leaders in governments and the private sector can emphasize COVID-recovery investments that strongly favor climate mitigation and adaptation objectives across all economic sectors and address the full range of potential greenhouse gas emission reductions. This includes capital investments in urban development, agriculture, transport, heavy industry, buildings and appliances, and electric power.
  • The new US administration can fill leadership positions for science-based agencies on the basis of scientific expertise and credentials; prohibit interference with the production or dissemination of executive branch scientific reports; use the best possible science to inform policy considerations; allow government scientists to engage with the public about their work; and provide funding to restore and strengthen international scientific cooperation.
  • National leaders and international organizations can create more effective regimes for monitoring biological research and development efforts, so potential benefits can be maximized, and possible negative consequences minimized or eliminated.
  • Governments, major communications technology firms, academic experts, and responsible media organizations can cooperate to find practical and ethical ways to combat internet-enabled misinformation and disinformation.


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