Is the world improving?

The Doomsday Clock was set at 100 seconds to midnight last January, the shortest time to midnight in 75 years. On Tuesday at 10 a.m., the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists will announce whether the time on the iconic Doomsday Clock will change. Sahara Prince/

Can we control disease, political and social conflict, extreme weather events? An organization known as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, beginning in 1947, has used the analogy of a clock counting down to midnight to illustrate how close the world is to the destruction of civilization. Every January since, the Doomsday Clock is unveiled and the world sees how close it is to midnight. For many years, the clock has been set according to the risk of nuclear weapons, often getting closer to midnight because of a growing number of nuclear-armed nations. Today, many changes taking place throughout the world – from climate change to the developing use of artificial intelligence – are also considered in setting the clock. Last year, it was at 100 seconds to midnight, the shortest time to midnight for 75 years. And that was before Russia invaded Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin threatened to use nuclear weapons. The United States’ nuclear deterrence policy is enforced by having nuclear missiles on land and in the oceans ready to launch at the order of the president. A single Ohio-class submarine has more power than all the explosives used in World War II. Where will the clock be set this year? How do we change the world to give ourselves more time? The risks that confront the world are of our own making. Developing and using nuclear weapons and burning fossil fuels, these are choices. We can choose differently.

And change is happening. Nations of the world are pledging to eliminate nuclear weapons. The United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has been in force for two years now, and 68 countries are party to it. Countries party to the treaty will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. These nations will not allow these weapons to be produced or stationed in their jurisdictions. Here in the United States, 66 municipalities and counties and more than 400 local and national organizations have endorsed Back from the Brink, a call to change U.S. nuclear policy. Back from the Brink calls on the U.S. to lead a global effort to prevent nuclear war.

The U.S. should do the following to reduce the risk of nuclear weapons use by accident, mistake or miscalculation. The U.S. should lead negotiations for a verifiable treaty, such as the U.N. treaty, to eliminate nuclear weapons. U.S. policy should renounce the right to use nuclear weapons first under any circumstance; end the sole authority of the president to launch a nuclear weapon; end hair-trigger alert launch ability, and cancel the development of enhanced weapon systems.In Maine, Portland, Bangor and Hallowell all have passed resolutions endorsing a call for the federal government to make these changes.

At the same time, members of various religious, peace advocacy, and medical groups, including the Maine Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, have met with Maine’s U.S. representatives and senators, asking them to consider such changes. Rep. Chellie Pingree co-sponsored the House resolution Embracing the goals and provisions of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.We can move the clock back. Change can happen. We should thank Rep. Pingree for her leadership in making those needed changes. We should urge Rep. Jared Golden and Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King to do so. The world can have more time.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: