Jan 25, 2023
Scientists Set Doomsday Clock closer to Midnight Transcript
The clock is a metaphor for how close scientists say we are to destroying our planet. Read the transcript here.
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Speaker 1 (00:00):
The so-called doomsday clock has moved closer to midnight than ever before.
Speaker 2 (00:04):
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists says climate change and the nuclear risks stemming from the War in Ukraine are putting humanity at even more risk. The clock is a metaphor for how close we are to destroying our planet. It was set for 100 seconds before midnight in 2020, but now it’s set for 90 seconds before midnight. Scientist Steve Feder explains why.
Steve Feder (00:28):
In announcing the annexation of Ukrainian territories in September, Putin declared that he would defend them with all weapons systems available to us. This is not a bluff. And in case anyone missed the reference to nuclear weapons, he mentioned that Hiroshima and Nagasaki had set a precedent.
Speaker 2 (00:48):
Well, that is frightening. Sivan Kartha is a member of the Science and Security Board for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Sivan, tell us about what we just heard about Ukraine and President Putin’s likelihood of using any kind of nuclear weapons, but can you talk to us about the other major threats that have contributed to setting the time to 90 seconds before midnight?
Sivan Kartha (01:15):
Absolutely. In addition to the nuclear threat, itself, there are some dangerous interactions between the threats. The fact that Putin has invaded Ukraine, it undermines the very basis of global cooperation that we need in order to deal with problems like climate change. There’s just this withering of trust and faith in the idea of global cooperation. And climate change, if any problem is a global problem, climate change, climate change is it. No individual nation can solve the problem on its own. This has to be done through negotiation and convergence on a common approach that all countries can support and can help each other with.
Speaker 1 (02:01):
It’s interesting hearing you talk about the unraveling of trust, of global cooperation. And with a little bit of context, the clock was actually launched back in 1947. At that time, students were doing drills underneath their desks, preparing for the possibility of nuclear war. We don’t feel that way now. Our students do active shooter drills-
Speaker 2 (02:23):
Here in America.
Speaker 1 (02:24):
… at schools at least, yeah, here in the States. How do all of these world threats today compare to that time? Because it seemed to me that the threat of nuclear war felt much more tangible back then as opposed to now.
Sivan Kartha (02:39):
It did. It seemed much more in the forefront, but I do think that the invasion of Ukraine has changed that. People are more conscious of the fact that a major world leader is making nuclear threats now. And I think young people are also much more aware of the other existential threats that they, their generation, itself, is facing. The types of just crazy weather on the West Coast that we’re seeing, unprecedented things, the horrendous flooding in Pakistan that happened earlier this year that led to a third of the country being flooded, the droughts and floods that have led to increases in food prices at the same time that Ukraine War has put pressure on food production because Ukraine, itself, is such a bread basket.
I think people are actually becoming more aware of all of these problems and one of the roles of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and its doomsday clock is to bring to the attention of the public the severity of these threats and the extent to which they demand the response of a serious and attentive leadership.
Speaker 2 (04:05):
Yeah. Let’s talk about that because, of course, for us, we are on the front lines constantly of wildfires, of hurricanes, of never before or 100-year storms, this kind of thing, but I want to know what your organization, which deals with this, wants to see from global leaders, from corporate leaders, and their willingness or unwillingness to act in regards to the message that the Bulletin is sending.
Sivan Kartha (04:31):
I think part of what we want to see is the leaders we have in power, in elected position, our legislators to take, as a higher priority, these really fundamental issues that are civilizational threats, such as climate change and nuclear war. There are many problems, obviously, that our leaders are dealing with on a day-to-day basis, but these big issues tend to get backburnered too much.
As far as corporate leaders, I think that one thing that we really need to take seriously is the idea that we have some longer-term global concerns that need to take precedence when making immediate-term investment decisions. Right now, the expansion of oil and gas production, it’s continuing. Our projections and expectations and plans national with regard to oil and gas production are even further off course relative to where it would need to be to really keep to a two-degree or one-and-a-half-degree maximum level of warning, even further off target than our emissions pledges made under the Paris Agreement. And so we need to pay more attention to where those private sector investments are going and whether they’re consistent with our national goals as far as protecting our climate and protecting our citizens.
Speaker 2 (05:58):
Sivan Kartha, thank you so much. We all need to hear this probably on a daily basis. Appreciate it.
Sivan Kartha (06:04):
Thank you very much. Been a pleasure.