We must mobilize against nuclear weapons to turn back the Doomsday Clock

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is asking people to join the #TurnBackTheClock challenge.

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The 2022 Doomsday Clock, a project of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, is unveiled on Jan. 20.

The 2022 Doomsday Clock, a project of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, is unveiled on Jan. 20.

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The Chicago-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, on Jan. 20, announced the Doomsday Clock is again at 100 seconds to midnight. The Doomsday Clock, designed in 1947 by Chicago artist Martyl Langsdorf, measures how close we are to nuclear war, as well as the impact on human existence of climate change and pandemics.

With the Doomsday Clock remaining so close to midnight, there is a call to action for each of us to advocate for eliminating nuclear weapons.

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Opinion

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is asking people to join the #TurnBackTheCloick challenge. On social media you are encouraged to share stories and ideas about how we can eliminate nuclear weapons, and people are encouraged to use the hashtag #TurnBackTheClock.

The nuclear weapons arsenals of the world remain loaded and powerful. The Bulletin’s 2022 Doomsday Clock statement warns that “U.S. relations with Russia and China remain tense, with all three countries engaged in an array of nuclear modernization and expansion efforts. … If not restrained, these efforts could mark the start of a dangerous new nuclear arms race.“

Despite previous treaties, there are still about 13,000 nuclear weapons globally, according to the Arms Control Association. Around 90% of those are weapons from the United States and Russia. Meanwhile, there is little action on new treaties to further reduce the number of nukes. North Korea continues to press ahead with its nuclear arsenal.

Not a relic of the past

The threat of nuclear weapons still very much exists, as it did during the Cold War. Sometimes, when you watch a TV show from that Cold War era, the show will include a story line regarding the dangers of nuclear war. That may give the appearance that the nuclear threat is a thing of history, but the danger of nuclear holocaust still hangs over us.

If we become complacent and just accept the thousands of nukes that currently exist, we will have to live with the danger of an accidental launch, a potential nuclear war or nuclear terrorism. As long as there are nukes, we will have to deal with the ever-increasing cost of maintaining them or building new ones. Nukes are not only dangerous, they are also expensive.

We still need to turn back the Doomsday Clock and push it further away from midnight. That is not going to happen unless the public is mobilized.

Mobilize for action

During the Cold War, it was the public that encouraged initial nuclear arms control efforts. It was activists like Samantha Smith, an 11-year-old from Maine, who advocated for good relations between the U.S and Russia during the 1980s arms race. But we need to continue that spirited activism today.

Citizens can mobilize and encourage President Joe Biden and Congress to reduce nukes. We can encourage the Senate to finally ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Activists have been trying to get a treaty eliminating all nuclear weapons tests since Dwight Eisenhower was president. It’s about time that treaty got done.

The public can also encourage the president to pursue reductions of nuclear arsenals with Russia, from the thousands into the hundreds.

In 1996, retired generals Andrew Goodpaster and Lee Butler led a movement calling for U.S. and Russian arsenals to be reduced to 100 weapons each. Their plan called for all the world’s nuclear arsenals to be capped at very low levels.

If the public speaks loudly enough, we can get world leaders to take such action to reducing the number of nuclear weapons. We need to do so — because humanity can’t survive with the Doomsday Clock getting so close to midnight.

William Lambers is the author of “Nuclear Weapons,” a history of nuclear weapons through the Cold War to the present.

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