‘Words are Cheap and Time is Short’ as Doomsday Clock Stays at 100 Seconds to Midnight

WASHINGTON – Moments ago, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced its iconic Doomsday Clock will hold at 100 seconds to midnight. The Clock, which marks how close the world is to destruction by the human-made threats of nuclear weapons and climate change, remains the closest it has ever been to midnight.

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 that the Doomsday Clock is holding steady makes clear that words alone are not enough to improve humanity’s prospects for survival — and urgent action is needed to reverse the twin existential threats of nuclear conflict and climate catastrophe. 

“Two years after the historic decision to move the Clock the closest it’s ever been to midnight, nuclear-armed governments continue to run unacceptable risks even while speaking to the importance of restraint.

“Words are cheap and time is short. The recent statement from five nuclear weapons states — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought’ stands in stark contrast to growing tensions in Eastern Europe and the South China Sea, outsized investments in expanding nuclear arsenals and capabilities, and a blossoming nuclear arms race. Worse, as Russia and the United States conduct daily exercises to practice fighting and ‘winning’ such a war, the statement is disingenuous and adds to the possible risk of accidental escalation and nuclear conflict. Governments serious about making progress to reduce the risk of nuclear use need to follow up lofty sentiments with concrete action.

“The election of President Joe Biden offered an opportunity for the United States to reestablish a leading role in nuclear arms control and disarmament — one that recognized the need to work together with its adversaries to ensure crises don’t spiral to nuclear use. While some important steps were taken, including the extension of the New START agreement, little else has changed — and nuclear war-fighting planning and expansive modernization continue unabated. It is yet to be seen whether Biden’s nuclear policy guidance, in the form of the forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review, will follow his stated goal to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security. Much like the recent P-5 statement, words are cheap and time is short.

“The Bulletin’s reminder of the threats humans pose to ourselves is a clarion call for cooperation on real steps to reduce the risk posed by nuclear weapons. As we sit at just 100 seconds to midnight, world leaders need to prioritize steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in global and national security, and prevent the risk that they will be used by accident, miscalculation, or unintended escalation. Russian-U.S. strategic talks should address verifiable limits on all nuclear weapons in addition to non-nuclear steps to increase stability in the relationship. In parallel, Russia and the U.S. must look for openings to bring in other nuclear-armed nations, including discussions on No First Use agreements that would reduce nuclear risk, and move states away from planning to fight and ‘win’ a nuclear war. From there, we could continue to turn back the Clock through more ambitious agreements that set the course to the total, verified elimination of all nuclear weapons everywhere.”