Of the many frightening things President Donald Trump has said and done since taking office, perhaps the most alarming is his fascination with America’s nuclear capabilities. Throughout the campaign, the unlikely Republican presidential candidate turned party nominee referenced everything from renewing the country’s nuclear arms race to “[bombing] the sh*t” out of ISIS targets — all of which predictably caused plenty of concern among Trump’s critics. Not to mention the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which announced its so-called “Doomsday Clock” was now a significant 30 seconds closer to midnight.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the group made the change public at its annual Doomsday Clock assessment at a press conference on Thursday morning. The verdict? For the first time in the metaphorical clock’s 70-year history, its minute hand – which previously sat at three minutes to midnight — was moved 30 seconds ahead to two and a half minutes to midnight. It’s also the first time the clock has ever been that close to midnight since 1953, when “the U.S. and Soviet Union were in the early days of above-ground hydrogen bomb testing” during the Cold War.
The Bulletin’s Science and Security Board explained its reasoning vis-à-vis Trump’s repeated comments about recreating the nuclear arms race of the ’50s in order to promote his “America First” agenda:
“Over the course of 2016, the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change… This already-threatening world situation was the backdrop for a rise in strident nationalism worldwide in 2016, including in a U.S. presidential campaign during which the eventual victor, Donald Trump, made disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.”
Adding a bit of personal flourish during the proceedings, the Bulletin’s former executive director and nuclear weapons policy expert Stephen Schwartz told reporters he’d “lived through the tense and dangerous early to mid-1980s; it’s the reason I made understanding, controlling and eliminating nuclear weapons my career. I have no desire to go backward to that era.”
The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947 in order to gauge the potential threat of nuclear annihilation after the Manhattan Project’s success. However, the public relations device has since become a symbol for other global harbingers as well — including climate change, cyber terrorism and biological warfare.