"One year ago, I came to Davos and told you that our house is on fire. I said I wanted you to panic. I’ve been warned that telling people to panic about the climate crisis is a very dangerous thing to do. But don’t worry. It’s fine. Trust me. I’ve done this before. And I can assure you: It doesn’t lead to anything." These were the words that Greta Thunberg used to begin her address to the World Economic Forum.
She continued: "The fact that the U.S.A. is leaving the Paris accord seemed to outrage and worry everyone. And it should. But the fact that we are all about to fail the commitments you signed up for in the Paris Agreement doesn’t seem to bother the people in power even the least. Any plan or policy of yours that doesn’t include radical emission cuts at the source starting today is completely insufficient for meeting the one point five - or well below two-degree commitments of the Paris Agreement."
The underlying sentiment of her full address can be summed up in her assertion that "Our house is still on fire." United States Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin replied in the only way he knows how, by sneering, “After she goes and studies economics in college, she can come back and explain that to us.”
Which is probably why, two days later, the Doomsday Clock moved to its closest point ever to midnight. According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, we are currently one hundred seconds to midnight, or the metaphorical Doomsday. We are no longer talking about minutes, as we have in the past. We are now talking about the time it takes you to say Mississippi one hundred times. Back in 1947, the clock was originally set to seven minutes (seven hundred twenty Mississippis). This was just after a certain country used nuclear weapons during war, and suddenly everyone else needed to get themselves one of those nuclear weapons to make sure that nobody would ever use nuclear weapons in war again. For the record, it was a bunch of Atomic Scientists who came up with that idea for nuclear weapons in the first place, so it sort of makes sense that they are attempting to figure out a way to get that genie back in its bottle. Since 1947, the Doomsday Clock has been reset twenty-three times. It hasn't been a slow and steady march to midnight. In 1991, they pushed it back to seventeen minutes til midnight.
Lately, the combination of climate change and the renewed specter of nuclear war leaves us with just a few moments to gather our loved ones to say "adjö." That would be "goodbye" in Swedish. A year from now it would be nice to think that we could come together again to celebrate the new administration with a few more seconds added to our potential. In the meantime, stop idling. Plant a tree. But most of all, tell everyone else that we want to live through these next one hundred seconds.