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Time to Recalibrate the Doomsday Clock

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April 9, 2022


The Doomsday Clock is so broken that it is not even right twice a day.  It currently sits at one hundred seconds before midnight, having not ticked since 2020.  That’s right, despite a sociopath in the Kremlin and an imbecile in the W.H., the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists occupy land that Doomsday time forgot.   

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The clock’s inertia was not so evident when Trump was president; though the apocalyptic threat was less then than now, it was moved forward three times during his presidency.  The justification for a couple of those moves combined concerns over nuclear weapons and climate change, but these threats tick at different rates.  The threat of nuclear war is much more imminent than climate change. 

Perhaps that’s one reason the clock is now broken:  it can’t synchronize threats that have different timescales.  Addressing the climate threat from nuclear bombs, renowned climatologist Alan Robock said, “[g]lobal warming is a problem and we certainly should address it but in 20 years, the temperature might go up by a few tenths of a degree and it will be gradual.”

In order to keep global temps under the aspirational limits set by the Paris Climate accord, the U.N.’S Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change insists that emissions from warming gases must be halved by the end of the decade.  Their inherent mindset is that climate change is an immediate, existential threat, but even by their alarmist standards… by the end of the decade.  

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Contrast that with the immediate threat from Nuclear weapons under the control of a despot with a perverted view of geopolitical history.  A Russian regime with little regard for life as it escalates conflict in order to deescalate under more favorable terms.  The fact that Putin put his nuclear forces on high alert, a status essentially equivalent to our DEFCON 2, moves us perilously closer to midnight.

Disconcertingly, those who are supposed to manage the clock, headed by Rachel Bronson, the president and CEO of the Bulletin, may be more ideological than scientific.   Her PhD. is actually in soft Political Science, not hard science.  While Concern about climate change is justified, the clock’s operations betray an unscientific bias:   three moves under Trump, including one in his first year, yet none under Biden requires the willing suspension of disbelief.  As noted by Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic, the prospect of a nuclear exchange between Russia and the U.S. “…would be worse for the climate than any energy policy that Donald Trump ever proposed.”

According to the Global Challenges Foundation, the top threats to civilization are nuclear war and extreme climate change.   The Doomsday Clock is oblivious, but it doesn’t take a doomsayer to appreciate that both are more sinister under Biden than Trump.  Continues…

Nuclear war:  After Putin’s dire maneuvers, Medvedev reasserted Russia’s right to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.  Moreover, Russian forces have literally bombed nuclear power plants in Ukraine.  There has been a run on potassium iodide pills out of fear of nuclear radiation. Though Putin’s evilness is entirely to blame, it does reinforce the utility of the “peace through strength” doctrine, something which Biden does not convey.

Horrifyingly, a man-made global catastrophe is being discussed in polite company.  Indeed, more has been spoken about nuclear detonation in the last few weeks than in years when the clock did move. That reminds of JFK’s terrifying words:  “Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness.”  Given the prevalence of political madness, let’s hope the cold war era MAD doctrine remains a deterrent.   

Climate change: Biden’s climate policies have emboldened Russia, once described as a “gas station masquerading as a country,” by the late Senator John McCain.  He immediately shut down the Keystone XL pipeline, and has ridiculed and tormented our great, socially responsible energy companies.  Presuming streamlined operations, the oil transported though the Keystone pipeline would more than offset what we imported from Russia.  At a minimum, it would have reduced our dependence.

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The war on fossil fuels prompts some to speculate that Russian agents are egging on our climate change brigade to further ensure European dependence on their energy exports.  Clearly, policies that lead to an energy shortfall are not conducive to a salubrious environment when Biden genuflects before despots with dirty oil, including Venezuela and Iran, whose production processes are worse for the environment.  

The Doomsday Clock remains the closest it has ever been to midnight.  However, unlike other clocks, and time itself, it can move back and forward.  Now is probably the time for recalibration.  First, reversing the moves under Trump would put us back to three minutes before midnight.   Then, not because of overheated worries about climate, but because of dire warnings that Putin might use WMD if Russia doesn’t win in eastern Ukraine, move the clock forward 30 seconds.

There’s a sociopath in the Kremlin and an imbecile in the W.H.  An imbecile whose gaffes about the war in Ukraine are fraying the slenderest of threads,  and whose clean energy imperatives are counterproductive to the sustenance of our planet, the resplendent pale blue dot floating majestically  in the dark void of space.  It’s time the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists fix their clock.

Image via Pxhere.

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