Tick Tock Goes the Doomsday Clock

Twice in the first two years of the Trump era, we’ve watched the iconic Doomsday Clock tick closer to midnight. First in 2017, in response to then-candidate Trump’s remarks about nuclear weapons. And again in 2018 when, among other things, it seemed nuclear war between a “Mentally Deranged Dotard” and “Little Rocket Man” might break out at any moment. So naturally, you might think this year’s announcement — that the Clock is holding steady at two-minutes-’til — is good news.

But you’d be wrong.

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There are an estimated 14,485 nuclear weapons in the world today. About a third of these are waiting to be pulled apart, but the rest are all in military service, ready for the order to reduce the planet into an uninhabitable, radioactive rock.

That’s a lot of civilization-ending weaponry. But you may be surprised to learn that there used to be 70,000 of them. It took 30-plus years, but we’ve eliminated 80% of the global nuclear stockpile. If we keep that pace, most of us could live to see a world without these weapons — assuming President Very Stable Genius doesn’t light us all up before Robert Mueller comes knocking.

It sounds impossibly hard only because we’re conditioned by our governments to tolerate nuclear weapons — to run these risks indefinitely in the name of “deterrence.” But once you understand what these risks really mean, it’s obvious the weapons have to go. Thinking we can keep them forever is fantasy-land: eventually, one way or another, they get used. Unless we eliminate them.

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This won’t happen overnight, but we can still outrun the Clock. Preserving the treaties that stop these weapons from multiplying is a good place to start. So is reforming national security plans around credible no-first-use commitments. But we can’t stop until every last nuclear weapon is ground into dust.

Derek Johnson in Inkstick

Read Global Zero Executive Director Derek Johnson’s piece in Inkstick here