As U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday, he’d have no problem pushing the nuclear button, so now the Doomsday Clock shows that humans are one step closer to a worldwide catastrophe. On Thursday, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock ahead by 30 seconds, making the world just 2:30 minutes away from “midnight,” which is the group’s definition of possible apocalypse, including a nuclear war.
It’s the closest the Doomsday Clock has been to “midnight” since 1953, when both the U.S. and Soviet Union detonated their hydrogen bombs as part of nuclear tests. Today’s concerns about the impending worldwide catastrophe are caused by the Trump presidency and his controversial comments about the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal and nuclear proliferation.
The group that moved ahead the Doomsday Clock by 30 seconds was founded by physicists who built the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project. They pushed the clock ahead less than 24 hours after Trump said Wednesday in his interview with ABC News that having access to the U.S. nuclear arsenal is “very, very scary” but insisted that he would have no problem pushing the button.
How Trump makes us closer to global catastrophe
While the possible use of nuclear weapons is one of the reasons the Doomsday Clock has been moved closer to “midnight,” the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is also concerned about the world’s rather passive approach to resolving climate change. In addition to that, the organization makes its decision based on new technologies which could trigger an apocalypse by intention, miscalculation or accident.
But in its statement announcing the move of the Doomsday Clock, the organization pointed the finger of blame at Trump, who has been President of the U.S. for less than a week.
“The board’s decision to move the clock less than a full minute reflects a simple reality: As this statement is issued, Donald Trump has been the U.S. president only a matter of days.”
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists names key points that threaten stability and safety in the world, including Trump’s “intemperate statements,” his “lack of openness to expert advice,” and his “questionable Cabinet nominations,” which the organization claims “have already made a bad international security situation worse.”
During his presidential campaign, Trump made a series of controversial comments about the U.S. nuclear arsenal and nuclear proliferation, raising concerns among American and international arms-control advocates.
Trump on nukes: I’ll do the “right thing,” should the time come
When ABC News host David Muir asked the U.S. President in his interview on Wednesday if having access to the U.S. nuclear arsenal feels like “a sobering moment,” Trump confessed that it is. He did, however, insist that the responsibility wasn’t big enough to make him lose sleep over it.
“When they explain what it represents and the kind of destruction that you’re talking about, it is a very sobering moment,” Trump told the host.
The President added that it feels “very, very, very scary in a sense,” before adding that he’s confident he’d do the “right thing” should the time come.
“I have confidence that I’ll do the right thing and the right job – but it is a very, very scary thing.”
What are Trump’s plans for the U.S. nuclear arsenal?
Last year, the Doomsday Clock remained at 3 minutes to midnight. A year before that, in 2015, the clock ticked ahead from 5 minutes to 3 minutes when the world feared the U.S. and Russia could go to war following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.
That same year, heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington resulted in violation of long-standing nuclear treaties between the two nations, whose nuclear arsenals account for nearly 90% of all nuclear weapons in the world.
During his presidential campaign, Trump said it’s inevitable to force U.S. allies, including Japan and South Korea, to develop their own nuclear weapons so that America won’t have to defend them against China and North Korea anymore.
On the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country needed to boost its nuclear forces, Trump called for an arms race.
“Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all,” Trump told MSNBC.
That same day, Trump took to Twitter to write that the U.S. “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” a move that would put a serious strain on relations between Moscow and Washington, which are already reminiscent of wartime relations between the nations, not to mention that such a move would face backlash from arms control advocates.
Trump takes over America in dangerous times
It also makes the Doomsday Clock scientists and international arms experts no less worried that Trump has taken over a government that is in the process of implementing a $348 billion plan to modernize the nation’s nuclear forces. The Obama administration introduced the plan in the face of a possible nuclear threat from Russia.
Also Americans trusted Trump with a U.S. that is currently developing plans for advanced land-based nuclear-armed missiles that could be launched within minutes. The administration is also working on developing underwater submarines that could deliver a destructive atomic blast to prevent any surprise attack.
Trump also has access to the Energy Department’s efforts to improve the existing thermonuclear warheads and modernize the national laboratories and facilities.
During the Cold War era, the U.S. had over 30,000 nuclear warheads. Today, America possesses only 6,970 nukes. Russia, meanwhile, has more nuclear warheads than any other country in the world, at 7,300. While there is the New START Treaty in place, which obliges both the U.S. and Russia to have no more than 1,550 strategic weapons by February 2018, the tense relations between Moscow and Washington have resulted in Russia’s unwillingness to comply with nonproliferation treaties.
And as if that wasn’t enough trouble to keep moving the Doomsday Clock ahead every year, there’s also North Korea with its unstoppable nuclear program and China with its large appetites in Asia and eagerness to protect its artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea at all cost. And then there’s the long-standing conflict between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India, which could escalate to war any second.