I noticed a thread about the Doomsday Clock was started last week. I'm not here much anymore, but that's a genuine annoyance of mine. I wrote a post
about this in another thread last year that really deserves to be its own thread, and the thread from last week is pretty dead, so here it is:
In Watchmen the Doomsday clock was mentioned, followed by a great line by the alternate Richard Nixon:
"Who are these assholes to say when doomsday approaches? I say when doomsday is approaching!"
So just who are these assholes? Well, they're members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' Science and Security Board. And who are they?
According to their website, "The Science and Security Board (SASB) is comprised of a select group of globally recognized leaders with a specific
focus on nuclear risk, climate change and emerging technologies." Here they
Note their credentials. They're on all kinds of impressive sounding boards that you would think indicate they're experts in international
relations and strategic analysis. Are they?
The first two are unquestionably unqualified: former failed California governor Brown, the chairman, has zero qualifications. Next is a woman named
Lynn Eden, whose entire career has been in academia with no real-world experience in, well, anything. Then we get to Mr. Rod Ewing.
Professor in Nuclear Security in the Center for International Security and Cooperation in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International
Sounds impressive, but what about some specifics?
Ewing’s research focuses on the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle, mainly nuclear materials and the geochemistry of radionuclides. He is
the past president of the International Union of Materials Research Societies. Ewing has written extensively on issues related to nuclear waste
Oh, so he's an expert in how to handle nuclear waste. How does that qualify him to judge how close we are to nuclear war or anything else that can
bring about "doomsday?" He's also a Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences in the School of Earth, Environmental, and Energy Sciences
at Stanford University. No help there. He has written about climate change though.
The next gentleman is Steve Fetter.
He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists board of directors and the National Academy
of Sciences Committee on International Security and Arms Control. He has worked on nuclear policy issues in the Pentagon and the State Department
I'll take that, we'll call him qualified.
Moving right along, Daniel Holz.
Holz is an Associate Professor in Physics, Astronomy & Astrophysics, the Enrico Fermi Institute, and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological
Physics, at the University of Chicago. His research focuses on general relativity in the context of astrophysics and cosmology.
So his qualifications on this subject are... none? Got it. But he's written about climate change. He doesn't appear to be qualified to write about
that either, but that's a pretty common theme in the climate change arena anyway.
Next we've got Sivan Kartha.
Kartha is a Senior Scientist at the Stockholm Environmental Institute whose research and publications for the past 20 years have focused on
technological options and policy strategies for addressing climate change, concentrating most recently on equity and efficiency in the design of an
international climate regime.
Kolbert has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1999 and has written extensively on science and climate change to great
Are we seeing a pattern here? The next few folks are a theoretical physicist, a cybersecurity expert (would be a good person to consult on certain
security issues, by why are they on the actual board?), a physician. There's Steven Miller who actually appears to have some international security
expertise. 2 more physicists, an astronomer. Jennifer Sims, who appears to have gotten her position because she was an Obama crony in Chicago. An
environmentalist, an oceanographer.
Sharon Squassoni sounds qualified based on the positions she's held, but her education is in unrelated fields. Wonder how she got those positions
A retired Admiral, that sounds promising. What was his command history? Naval Meteorological and Oceanography Command and he was on the Navy's task
force on climate change. I don't think you can become an admiral without going through at least some formal strategic training, so I'll be generous
and give them that one.
The last guy, Jon Wolfsthal sounds qualified.
So out of 16 board members who manage this clock, only 4 or 5 of them have any realistic qualifications to be doing this kind of work, and if I'm
generous you might bump it up to 7 or 8. That's maaaybe half the board. The rest of them are just there because of the recent effort to turn this
into a climate change clock, and probably through some political cronyism. Almost all of them have been involved with climate change research.
The lesson here is don't pay any attention to this #in thing. It's meaningless. It always has been, but it's even more of a joke now.
NOTE: Not all the members are the same today. But most of the new members are every bit as unqualified as the folks they replaced, so the spirit of
the post remains as true now as it was when I wrote it. Over half the board still has no real qualifications or practical experience in fields like
strategic studies, international relations, or other things that would be necessary to do this kind of work.