One hundred seconds to midnight
Although the scientists cite the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed 1.7 million people around the world and has "revealed just how unprepared and unwilling countries and the international system are to handle global emergencies properly," they acknowledge that the coronavirus does not pose an existential threat to Homo sapiens. However, nuclear weapons and, increasingly, catastrophic global heating caused and exacerbated by human activity — the climate crisis — do.
Thirty years ago, by contrast, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the Doomsday Clock to 17 minutes to midnight as the Soviet Union collapsed and the threat of thermonuclear annihilation ebbed to its lowest level since before the United States invented the atomic bomb and waged the only nuclear war in history against Japan in 1945. That was the year that Albert Einstein — who helped develop the first nuclear weapons—and other researchers formed the Bulletin.
Once again this year, the scientists stress that governments have also "failed to sufficiently address climate change," and although "a pandemic-related economic slowdown temporarily reduced the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming," much more needs to be done to rein in planetary warming.
"Over the coming decade fossil fuel use needs to decline precipitously if the worst effects of climate change are to be avoided. Instead, fossil fuel development and production are projected to increase. Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations hit a record high in 2020, one of the two warmest years on record. The massive wildfires and catastrophic cyclones of 2020 are illustrations of the major devastation that will only increase if governments do not significantly and quickly amplify their efforts to bring greenhouse gas emissions essentially to zero," they warn.
"In the context of a post-pandemic return to relative stability, more such demonstrations of renewed interest in and respect for science and multilateral cooperation could create the basis for a safer and saner world. We continue to believe that human beings can manage the dangers posed by modern technology, even in times of crisis. But if humanity is to avoid an existential catastrophe — one that would dwarf anything it has yet seen — national leaders must do a far better job of countering disinformation, heeding science, and cooperating to diminish global risks."
Ultimately, the scientists say, it's up to "citizens around the world to organize and demand that their governments reorder their priorities and cooperate domestically and internationally to reduce the risk of nuclear war, climate change, and other global disasters, including pandemic disease." (source: ecowatch.com)
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