Investors and policy makers need to divert funds away from fossil fuel projects or face global catastrophe, scientists have warned as the Doomsday Clock remains near catastrophe.
The Doomsday Clock is set at 100 seconds to midnight, where it has been stuck since 2020. The clock has been drawing closer to midnight since 2010, when it was six minutes to midnight.
The Doomsday Clock has been set every year by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1945 and is now considered an indicator of how vulnerable the world is to disaster in any form.
In its latest decision, the Bulletin said it is closely watching nuclear weapons threats as relations between the US and Russia and China remain tense, while North Korea continues its nuclear expansion.
It’s also monitoring the threat of natural, accidental and deliberate biological weapons in the wake of the emergence of COVID-19, and the world’s failure to make significant progress on long-term greenhouse gas-reduction pledges.
“Developed countries improved their responses to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, but the worldwide response remained entirely insufficient,” the scientists said.
“Plans for quick global distribution of vaccines essentially collapsed, leaving poorer countries largely unvaccinated and allowing new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to gain an unwelcome foothold.”
How finance can be deployed to move the world away from the edge
However, there are steps that can be taken to move the world away from “doom’s doorstep”, and they’re largely within wealthy countries’ capacity to take.
“Private and public investors should redirect funds away from fossil fuel projects to climate-friendly investments,” the experts said.
Additionally, rich countries need to offer both financial and technological support to developing countries to deliver strong climate action.
“COVID-recovery investments should favour climate mitigation and adaptation objectives across all economic sectors and address the full range of potential greenhouse gas emission reductions, including capital investments in urban development, agriculture, transport, heavy industry, buildings and appliances, and electric power,” they added.
Another, worse pandemic could arrive within the year
While COVID has highlighted the way a pandemic can hurt and kill millions while also dismantling supply chains and damaging economies, the future is full of worse threats, the experts added.
“Beyond the pandemic, worrying biosafety and biosecurity lapses made it clear that the international community needs to focus serious attention on management of the global biological research enterprise.
“Further, the establishment and pursuit of biological weapons programs marked the beginning of a new biological arms race.”
They said the world is ultimately failing to recognise the ways advances in biological science and technology could be turned against humanity, even unwittingly.
“Leaders must recognize that COVID-19 is not the last biological threat we will have to face in our lifetimes—or, perhaps, even this year.”
They called on international organisations and national leaders to develop stronger regimes for monitoring biological research.
“Without swift and focused action, truly catastrophic events—events that could end civilization as we know it—are more likely. When the Clock stands at 100 seconds to midnight, we are all threatened. The moment is both perilous and unsustainable, and the time to act is now.”