In January 2017, the Doomsday Clock, updated annually by a committee of international scientists to register the earth's risk of destruction, was moved to two and a half minutes to midnight, its most dangerous reading since the 1950s. This reflects the intensified threat posed by nuclear weapons in light of statements by Presidents Trump and Putin, evoking the prospect of a renewed nuclear arms race, as well as threats posed by other issues such as climate change.
Even since the adjustment to the Doomsday Clock, there have been further reports that President Trump, in a telephone conversation with President Putin, denounced the 2010 treaty between Russia and the United States which limits the number of deployed nuclear weapons held by the two countries.
In its report on the risks in 2017, the Doomsday Clock committee concluded, "The probability of
global catastrophe is very high, and the actions
needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be
taken very soon. ... It is
two and a half minutes to midnight, the Clock is
ticking, global danger looms. Wise public officials
should act immediately, guiding humanity away
from the brink. If they do not, wise citizens must
step forward and lead the way."
With little sign of the leadership in the states with the world's largest arsenals of nuclear weapons facing up to the responsibility to move away from the brink, the onus falls on non-nuclear-armed states and civil society to drive the agenda for nuclear disarmament forward.
In spite of the intensifying risks, there are signs of possible hope. In March, the first session of United Nations negotiations on a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons will take place. While unlikely to have initial support from nuclear-armed states, such a treaty would close current loopholes regarding the legal status of nuclear weapons, and greatly increase the stigmatisation attached to possessing them.
In advance of the negotiations, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), is launching a Global Week of Action on February 10th, aimed at highlighting the urgency of a successful outcome to the negotiations and maximising international participation.
As Ireland was one of the original sponsors of the resolution proposing the negotiations, we are hopeful that Ireland will play a strong and constructive role in taking the talks on a new treaty forward when it comes down to the actual negotiations.