Global Zero Warns ‘Safer Isn’t Safe’ as Doomsday Clock Holds Steady

WASHINGTON – Moments ago, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that its iconic Doomsday Clock, which signifies the level of existential danger posed by nuclear weapons and climate change, would remain unchanged at 100 seconds to midnight. The announcement leaves the clock as close to midnight as it has ever been in its 73-year long history confirming the need to take urgent action to address these dual existential threats.

In response to the Bulletin’s announcement, Derek Johnson, CEO of Global Zero, the international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons, issued the following statement:

Today’s announcement is a vital reminder: When it comes to the existential threats posed by nuclear weapons and climate change, we cannot be satisfied with simply changing who’s in charge. We face systemic dangers that demand systemic solutions.

Donald Trump was an accelerant for existential risk. We got lucky — and you’d be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief now that he’s gone. But ‘safer’ isn’t ‘safe.’ The Doomsday Clock was within striking distance of catastrophe long before a reality TV host was handed the nuclear codes. It will stay that way until nuclear weapons are taken off the board entirely.

There’s cause for optimism. President Biden has been quick to signal a major course-correction, from extending the New START Treaty and rejoining the Paris Climate Accords, to swift nominations of seasoned, clear-eyed professionals to key posts at the State Department and the Pentagon. But the Trump Effect only exacerbated a deteriorating situation, and rolling back the Clock will require bold leadership that goes far beyond restoring the status quo ante.

The reality is that a small group of governments — the United States and Russia chief among them — insist their national security can only be guaranteed by holding the world hostage to nuclear conflict. Too many people in power believe the perceived security benefits of these weapons are worth the inherent risks. But those risks are higher than commonly understood and extend to extinction-level events; they don’t call it the ‘Doomsday Clock’ for nothing. No short-term trade-off makes rational sense in the face of these looming probabilities.

The Bulletin has done the world a critical service by reminding us we remain as close as ever to the brink. We’ve been brought here by the collective failure of our governments to take action in the face of mounting danger dating back to the Manhattan Project. Reversing these dangerous nuclear trends — pulling back from a new arms race, downsizing massive modernization programs, and doubling-down on arms control and disarmament — will require a Manhattan Project-level of commitment, urgency, and resolve.

With just 100 seconds to midnight, we need to prioritize efforts that reduce the most proximate nuclear risks and buy time to tackle longer-term challenges. Extending New START is a good first step. It should be followed quickly by a new process to further reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles and to engage other nuclear-armed nations in serious talks. In parallel, the United States must pursue long overdue reform of its Cold War nuclear strategy by ending the President’s sole authority over nuclear weapons and implementing a credible commitment to No First Use. From there, we could begin rolling back the Clock in earnest through more ambitious agreements that draw in other nuclear-armed nations, reduce the role of nuclear weapons in global affairs, and set the course to the total, verified elimination of all nuclear weapons everywhere.”