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“The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.” Winston Churchill[i]

On the 25 January, 2018, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the arms of its doomsday clock to 2.0 min to midnight, the closest it has been since 1953, with implications for humanity and nature[ii], [iii]

This is the closest the clock has been to catastrophe since 1953, following detonation of the first hydrogen bomb on the 1st November, 1952 on Eniwatok Atoll in the Marshallislands[iv]

By March 2, 2016 some 14,900 nuclear weapons existed (Figure 1)[v], enough to eliminate a massive proportion of living creatures, as well as destroy human civilization as we know it[vi].

Figure 1. The global nuclear arsenal[vii]

Underlying factors for the shift of the Atomic Clock to 2.0 minute to midnight include rising expenditure on nuclear weapons, increase in accuracy and tactical “usability”[viii] of nuclear weapons, lateral nuclear proliferation[ix], including by North Korea, absence of arms control negotiations and failure in effective measures to combat climate disruption round the world.

“To call the world’s nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger and its immediacy,” said Rachel Bronson, the bulletin’s president and CEO in Washington[x].

The Atomic scientists point to the US President’s attitudes as a major factor in the growing risk to the Earth. This includes belligerent expressions, inconsistency of foreign policy, lack of respect for science, appointment of climate change deniers to high positions in the administration[xi].

Robert Rosner, the chair of the bulletin’s science and security board, states: “Our allies and adversaries alike are being forced [into a] thicket of conflicting policy statements, from a US administration, weakened in its roster of foreign policy professionals and unable to develop, coordinate and clearly communicate a coherent foreign – much less nuclear – policy … This inconsistency constitutes a major challenge for deterrence, alliance management and global stability.[xii]

Sharon Squassoni, of the George Washington University’s institute for international science and technology policy, points to Russia’s role in heightening tensions, for example applying ground-launched cruise missiles in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

A return to the “Cold War”[xiii] of 1947 – 1990 is manifest, while global temperatures keep rising.

Lawrence Krauss, the chair of the bulletinof the Atomic Scientists board of sponsors, statesin his article “Donald Trump’s war on science[xiv]:“This year, Breitbart hosted stories with titles such as “1001 Reasons Why Global Warming Is So Totally Over in 2016,” despite the fact that 2016 is now overwhelmingly on track to be the hottest year on record, beating 2015, which beat 2014, which beat 2013. Such stories do more than spread disinformation. Their purpose is the creation of an alternative reality—one in which scientific evidence is a sham—so that hyperbole and fearmongering can divide and conquer the public”.

This is despite the manifest rise in global greenhouse gas emissions, continuing melting of the ice caps, rising sea levels and sharp increase in extreme weather events, including hurricanes and wild fires[xv], as indicated for North America in Figure 2.

According to Rahmstorf and Coumou (2011)[xvi] (Increase of extreme events in a warming world): “We find that the number of record-breaking events increases approximately in proportion to the ratio of warming trend to short-term standard deviation. Short-term variability thus decreases the number of heat extremes, whereas a climatic warming increases it”.

Figure 2.Number of loss events due to geophysical, meteorological, hydrological and climatological events during 1980-2016[xvii]

Similar anomalies were reported by Hansen et al. (2012)[xviii], stating:“The distribution of seasonal mean temperature anomalies has shifted toward higher temperatures and the range of anomalies has increased. An important change is the emergence of a category of summertime extremely hot outliers, more than three standard deviations (3σ) warmer than the climatology of the 1951–1980 base period. This hot extreme, which covered much less than 1% of Earth’s surface during the base period, now typically covers about 10% of the land area.”

As stated by Jonathan Schell in “The Fate of the Earth[xix]”: “The machinery of destruction is complete, poised on a hair trigger, waiting for the button to be pushed by some misguided or deranged human being or for some faulty computer chip to send out the instruction to fire. That so much should be balanced on so fine a point–that the fruit of four and a half billion years can be undone in a careless moment–is a fact against which belief rebels”.

Andrew Glikson, Earth and paleo-climate scientist,

 

[i]http://quotesnack.com/winston-churchill/we-are-entering-a-period-of-consequences/

[ii]https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/25/doomsday-clock-ticked-forward-trump-nuclear-weapons-climate-change

[iii]http://www.news.com.au/world/north-america/doomsday-clock-now-at-two-minutes-to-midnight-the-closest-the-world-has-been-to-the-apocalypse-since-the-cold-war/news-story/b4125b306ebb5f508e0fa84f7ed25f5e

[iv]https://www.google.com.au/search?q=detonation+of+the+first+hydrogen+bombs&rlz=1C1GGGE_enAU419&oq=detonation+of+the+first+hydrogen+bombs&aqs=chrome..69i57j0.11630j1j8&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

[v]https://www.ploughshares.org/world-nuclear-stockpile-report

[vi]https://www.globalresearch.ca/nuclear-weapons-present-a-real-and-present-danger-to-humanity-and-life-on-earth/18359

[vii]https://www.ploughshares.org/world-nuclear-stockpile-report

[viii]http://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/tactical-nuclear-weapons/

[ix]http://www.abc.net.au/news/2008-07-01/40-years-on-nuclear-proliferation-still-a-threat/2489550

[x]https://clock.thebulletin.org/

[xi]http://www.news.com.au/world/north-america/doomsday-clock-now-at-two-minutes-to-midnight-the-closest-the-world-has-been-to-the-apocalypse-since-the-cold-war/news-story/b4125b306ebb5f508e0fa84f7ed25f5e

[xii]https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/25/doomsday-clock-ticked-forward-trump-nuclear-weapons-climate-change

[xiii]https://www.britannica.com/event/Cold-War

[xiv]https://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/donald-trumps-war-on-science

[xv]https://phys.org/news/2017-09-extreme-weather.htmlhttp://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-04/cyclone-and-extreme-weather-events-intensifying-bom-says/8869042https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/uploads/1b331044fb03fd0997c4a4946705606b.pdf

[xvi]http://www.pnas.org/content/108/44/17905?sid=19100c6f-f477-43a8-a7ae-42269de52656

[xvii]https://twitter.com/munichre_us/status/816600085761028097

[xviii]https://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/ha00610m.html

[xix]https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1982/02/01/the-fate-of-the-earth-a-republic-of-insects-and-grass.

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