Som més a prop que mai de la fi del món? Segons el "rellotge de l'apocalipsi", sí
El Butlletí dels Científics Atòmics, un grup d'experts internacionals, alerta del risc de catàstrofe nuclear per la guerra a Ucraïna i de l'empitjorament de la crisi climàtica
BarcelonaLa fi del món és "més a prop que mai". Aquest és el crit d'alerta del Butlletí dels Científics Atòmics, un prestigiós grup d'experts internacionals que cada any des d'en fa 75 avalua el risc que una catàstrofe acabi amb la humanitat. Però, quant de temps ens queda abans de l'apocalipsi? Òbviament, és impossible de saber, però el denominat "rellotge de la fi del món" marca que falten només 90 segons per a la "mitjanit", una metàfora que simbolitza la fi del món. L'any passat, les agulles del rellotge marcaven que faltaven 100 segons, la mateixa hora des del 2020, l'última vegada que les agulles s'havien mogut. Aquest any, però, el risc d'una catàstrofe global s'ha accentuat, sobretot pels perills lligats a la guerra a Ucraïna.
El rellotge de la fi del món o de l'apocalipsi vol ser una representació gràfica de com de prop estem de la destrucció del planeta per culpa de tecnologies creades per l'ésser humà. Les agulles del rellotge s'han mogut 25 vegades, endavant i endarrere, des que aquesta iniciativa es va posar en marxa el 1947, poc després del final de la Segona Guerra Mundial i a les beceroles de la Guerra Freda, quan el perill més gran per a la humanitat provenia de les armes nuclears. El 2007, però, el Butlletí dels Científics Atòmics va començar a considerar possibles conseqüències catastròfiques lligades al canvi climàtic.
"Les amenaces poc velades de Rússia d'utilitzar armes nuclears recorden al món que l'escalada del conflicte, per accident, intenció o error de càlcul, és un risc terrible. La possibilitat que el conflicte pugui perdre el control segueix sent alta", ha alertat la presidenta del grup de científics, Rachel Bronson. "Vivim en un moment de perill sense precedents", ha advertit, i ha instat als líders globals buscar vies de negociació per desescalar el conflicte a Ucraïna. "El govern dels Estats Units, els seus aliats de l'OTAN i Ucraïna tenen multitud de canals de diàleg; instem els líders a explorar-los tots tant com puguin per fer retrocedir el rellotge", ha conclòs.
The Doomsday Clock is a design that warns the public about how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own making. It is a metaphor, a reminder of the perils we must address if we are to survive on the planet.
When the Doomsday Clock was created in 1947, the greatest danger to humanity came from nuclear weapons, in particular from the prospect that the United States and the Soviet Union were headed for a nuclear arms race. The Bulletin considered possible catastrophic disruptions from climate change in its hand-setting deliberations for the first time in 2007.
Co-editor Hyman Goldsmith asked artist Martyl Langsdorf to come up with a design for the cover of the June 1947 edition of the Bulletin, the first issue published as a magazine rather than a newsletter. Martyl—as she was known professionally—was married to a physicist, Alexander Langsdorf, who worked on the Manhattan Project while at the University of Chicago.
At first the artist considered using the symbol for uranium. But as she listened to the scientists who had worked on the Bomb, as they passionately debated the consequences of the new technology and their responsibility to inform the public, she felt their sense of urgency. So she sketched a clock to suggest that we didn’t have much time left to get atomic weapons under control.
Graphic designer Michael Bierut reimagined the iconic image in 2007.
In the early days, Bulletin Editor Eugene Rabinowitch decided whether the hand should be moved. A scientist himself, fluent in Russian, and a leader in the international disarmament movement, he was in constant conversation with scientists and experts within and outside governments in many parts of the world. Based on these discussions, he decided where the clock hand should be set and explained his thinking in the Bulletin’s pages.
When Rabinowitch died in 1973, the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board took over the responsibility and has since met twice a year to discuss world events and reset the clock as necessary. The board is made up of scientists and other experts with deep knowledge of nuclear technology and climate science, who often provide expert advice to governments and international agencies. They consult widely with their colleagues across a range of disciplines and also seek the views of the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, which includes 13 Nobel Laureates.
After the Soviet Union successfully tested its first atomic bomb in 1949, Rabinowitch reset the clock from seven minutes to midnight to three minutes to midnight.
In 2020, the Science and Security Board set the time to 100 seconds to midnight, largely because of worldwide governmental dysfunction in dealing with global threats. Before 2020, the closest the hand was set to midnight was two minutes; in 1953, after the United States and the Soviet Union each tested their first thermonuclear weapons within six months of one another, and 2018, largely due to nuclear risk and the rising threat of climate change.
In 1991, with the end of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the first treaty to provide for deep cuts to the two countries’ strategic nuclear weapons arsenals, prompting the Bulletin to set the clock hand to 17 minutes to midnight.
The Doomsday Clock is not a forecasting tool, and we are not predicting the future. Rather, we study events that have already occurred and existing trends. Our Science and Security Board tracks numbers and statistics—looking, for example, at the number and kinds of nuclear weapons in the world, the parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the degree of acidity in our oceans, and the rate of sea level rise. The board also takes account of leaders’ and citizens’ efforts to reduce dangers, and efforts by institutions—whether of governments, markets, or civil society organizations—to follow through on negotiated agreements.
The Bulletin is a bit like a doctor making a diagnosis. We look at data, as physicians look at lab tests and x-rays, and also take harder-to-quantify factors into account, as physicians do when talking with patients and family members. We consider as many symptoms, measurements, and circumstances as we can. Then we come to a judgment that sums up what could happen if leaders and citizens don’t take action to treat the conditions.
Each of these threats has the potential to destroy civilization and render the Earth largely uninhabitable by human beings. They are also intertwined: Some advocate for more nuclear power to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but increasing the number of nuclear reactors, and the amount of enriched uranium and plutonium required for their operation, would also increase the risk of spreading nuclear weapons. Likewise, if we don’t reduce emissions, some natural resources, like fresh water, could become more scarce, leading to conflicts that might spiral into war and the possible use of nuclear weapons.
We can’t afford to address one threat without addressing the other. And in fact, the international cooperation required to reduce and prohibit nuclear weapons would likely also lead to cooperation to save us from deadly climate disruption. At the end of the day, trying to answer the question is like standing around in a burning house arguing about whether it is better to die of smoke inhalation or from a falling timber.