“Unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity, and world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe. These failures of political leadership endanger every person on Earth.”

That is what the atomic scientists said when moving the ‘doomsday clock‘ to 3 minutes to midnight in 2015. Currently, the clock stands at 2 and 1/2 minutes to midnight, representing the closest we’ve been since the 1950s to a potential nuclear holocaust. That is not just based on the risk of an intentional war involving nuclear weapons. It is based on the fallibility of human beings, the inevitable breakdown of machinery and the glitches that plague all computer software. We risk, every day, the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation. And that risk only grows more dangerous with every passing day, as the machinery wears out, the computers run into problems, and the people who know how to fix these things or patch them together get older…

There have been at least 13 occasions since 1945 when nuclear weapons were about to be launched and a nuclear holocaust was averted at the very last minute. Only one of these, the Cuban Missile Crisis, was the result of deliberate decisions that risked starting a nuclear war. Other times it has been a flock of geese mistakenly appearing on a radar screen as a fleet of incoming missiles, test launches mistaken as the real thing, misinterpreting depth charges being dropped on a nuclear missile submarine, the wrong tapes being put into the machine, etc.

Check out the close calls that have nearly led to nuclear war at Union of Concerned Scientists and try out their ‘Wheel of Near Misfortune’…

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