The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists highlights three worsening factors in its Doomsday Clock statement.
– Nuclear weapons
It says that national leaders have “ended or undermined” several major arms control treaties and negotiations in the last year.
They argue this has created an environment conducive to a renewed nuclear arms race, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and lowered barriers to nuclear war.
According to the statement: “Political conflicts regarding nuclear programmes in Iran and North Korea remain unresolved and are, if anything, worsening.
“US-Russia co-operation on arms control and disarmament is all but non-existent.”
– Climate change
The scientists set out that while public awareness of the climate crisis grew over the course of 2019, governmental action fell short of meeting the challenge.
They say: “At UN climate meetings last year, national delegates made fine speeches but put forward few concrete plans to further limit the carbon dioxide emissions that are disrupting Earth’s climate.
“This limited political response came during a year when the effects of man-made climate change were manifested by one of the warmest years on record, extensive wildfires, and quicker-than-expected melting of glacial ice.”
– Cyber-based disinformation
The misinformation available to the public has heightened the nuclear and climate threats, the bulletin says.
The statement adds that many governments used cyber-enabled disinformation campaigns to sow distrust in institutions and among nations, undermining domestic and international efforts to foster peace and protect the planet.
– The Doomsday Clock statement also identifies possible action that could help turn back the hands of the clock
– American and Russian leaders can return to the negotiating table to reinstate the INF Treaty, or take other action to restrain an unnecessary arms race in medium-range missiles.
They can seek further reductions in nuclear arms, and discuss a lowering of the alert status of the nuclear arsenals of both countries.
Other suggestions include the two nations limiting nuclear modernisation programmes that threaten to create a new nuclear arms race, and starting talks on cyber warfare, missile defences and the militarisation of space.
– The countries of the world should publicly rededicate themselves to the temperature goal of the Paris climate agreement.
– America and other signatories of the Iran nuclear deal should work together to restrain nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.
– The international community should begin multilateral discussions aimed at establishing norms of behaviour, both domestic and international, that discourage and penalise the misuse of science.
The statement says science provides the world’s searchlight in times of fog and confusion.
It adds that attention is needed to prevent information technology from undermining public trust in political institutions, in the media, and in the existence of objective reality itself.