According to experts, the apocalypse is nigh. On Thursday, the scientists behind the Doomsday Clock moved its hands to 2 1/2 minutes to midnight — almost as close to the end of the world as we were during the Cold War.
Let's take a moment to register our collective surprise at this unexpected news.
In a statement explaining the decision to move the clock's hands forward, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientist's Science and Security board pointed the finger squarely at one man: President Donald Trump. While there are a huge number of ominous factors at play worldwide, Trump's presidency seemed the biggest red flag of all. He may only have been in office "a matter of days," the board's statement read, but his consistent rhetoric and the actions he's already taken were clear enough warning signs to warrant adjusting the Doomsday Clock.
"In short, even though he has just now taken office, the president’s intemperate statements, lack of openness to expert advice, and questionable cabinet nominations have already made a bad international security situation worse," the statement reads.
In 1945, the scientists involved in creating the first atomic weapons founded the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, its Doomsday Clock charting our path toward total destruction through some of the most precarious moments in history. At two minutes to midnight — which is to say, the end of days — our projected demise has not been so near since 1953, when the United States and the Soviet Union began testing hydrogen bombs.
Conceptualized as a measure of the threat nuclear weapons posed our global well-being, the Doomsday Clock now accounts for climate change and other technologies as well. In 2016 and 2015, the clock held steady at three minutes to midnight, and its hands have moved backward and forward as international nuclear tensions ease and escalate.
Given that the infamously brash leader of the free world now has the nuclear codes at his fingertips, it makes sense that we would inch closer to midnight. He has also ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to scrub any information about climate change from its website and has enabled the continued construction of crude oil pipelines that critics say will undoubtedly damage the environment. As if all this weren't disconcerting enough on its own, he slapped a gag order on scientists and researchers, prohibiting them from sharing their work with the public or press.
Then there's Trump's uncomfortably cozy relationship to Russia and habit of antagonizing his neighbors, fostering an international mood that is singularly tense, to say the least. Plus, Trump himself is worried about "the cyber," and the fact that he doesn't seem to know what that means does not exactly assuage popular fears.
Which is why the scientists behind the Doomsday Clock are asking Trump to please pump the brakes.
"We call on these leaders — particularly in Russia and the United States — to refocus in the coming year on reducing existential risks and preserving humanity, in no small part by consulting with top-level experts and taking scientific research and observed reality into account," the statement reads.