'Idea of Existential Threat': Scholar Explains Why Doomsday Clock Still Relevant

CC0 / / Nuclear explosion
Nuclear explosion - Sputnik International
Scientists have warned that humanity is still as close to annihilation as it has ever been. Experts behind the famous "Doomsday Clock" have left the time at two minutes to midnight. Sputnik spoke about it to Dr Becky Alexis-Martin from Manchester Metropolitan University.

Sputnik: People today are experiencing better qualities of life than ever before with access to education, resources and sanitation/security; is the doomsday clock still relevant and something we should worry about?

Dr Becky Alexis-Martin: Absolutely, so while we are experiencing a better quality of life internationally while we have better opportunities for education, sanitation and conditions such as HIV and Aids are decreasing at the moment, the Doomsday clock specially charts explores the geopolitical domain so it thinks about the rise of the far right or extremist geopolitics and it thinks about nuclear warfare in that context and the risk of nuclear warfare.

Members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, (L-R), Lawrence Krauss, Robert Rosner and Sharon Squassoni move the 'Doomsday Clock' hands to two minutes until midnight at a news conference in Washington, U.S. January 25, 2018 - Sputnik International
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A few years ago, they decided to include climate change in this domain of the doomsday clock, so they use it now as an umbrella term as the idea of existential threat. We all know that climate change is real and know that climate change is becoming a more pressing concern. From that perspective, the Doomsday clock is still relevant because it gives us this overarching awareness of those kinds of nuclear geopolitics but also the climate threat.

Sputnik: During the era of the Cold War the fear for most people was that of terrorism and nuclear war. Do people see climate change as a bigger threat to humanity than nuclear warfare?

Dr Becky Alexis-Martin: Absolutely, definitely — it's a lot more of a plausible threat. We are not in a crisis situation anymore but we are still untouched and we have the proliferation of North Korea and we still don't really know what going to happen with that, despite Donald Trump's negotiations coming from the US.

We are not in the Cold War anymore, we are much safer than we were and I consider the threat of nuclear war extremely low, but we are still having changes in treaties and America changing its attitudes towards Iran, which is interesting in itself because we have things like MOAB now. We've got these enormous bombs that are conventional warfare, which are not weapons of mass destruction in the traditional sense — you know they are not nuclear but we can still use them — so both are relevant.

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Sputnik: Ok finally with this in mind, is humanity closer now to striking midnight on the doomsday clock than in the past?

Dr Becky Alexis-Martin: From a nuclear perspective no, I think it's absolutely right to kind of retain the point that we are ‘two minutes from midnight', however from a climate perspective we are gradually encroaching and edging towards catastrophe and that catastrophe won't affect people in the global north substantially as much as it will affect people in the global south.

The impacts of climate change will not affect places like the USA, UK and Russia as substantially as places like Sub-Saharan Africa or the South Pacific where they don't have the opportunities to create adaptations to climate change and their situation is more precarious to begin with. I would say yes, I would say that we are edging closer towards midnight from a climate perspective and we just have to wait and see really. I hope that international policy begins to remedy and begins to support progress towards mitigating climate change.

The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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