The Doomsday Clock, a symbolic clockface that represents how close we are to our own destruction, moved from five to three minutes to midnight on Thursday, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced. This is the second closest it has been to midnight in sixty-eight years, and the closest since 1984.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Executive Director Kennette Benedict said the modernization of nuclear weaponry and climate change were undeniable threats to our continued existence.
The Doomsday Clock has been maintained since 1947 by the members of the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, who are advised by the Governing Board of the Board of Sponsors that includes 18 Nobel Prize winners. The founders were also involved in developing the world’s first nuclear bombs that killed hundreds of thousands of people in Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
When the clock strikes midnight (so the prediction says), there will be global disaster, caused by a nuclear catastrophe, an awful consequence of climate change, or some other calamity created by humans. Whether the minute-hand moves forward or backward is up to us.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) warned “the clock is ticking,” as it predicts our progressive proximity to the apocalypse. It is the first time in three years that the Doomsday Clock has moved.
Nuclear, climate and other threats
Initially, the Doomsday Clock’s main theme was the danger to the human race of nuclear war. Over the past few years this has expanded and also includes the threat of global warming, as well as new developments in technology and life sciences, which if handled wrongly could inflict irrevocable harm to all of us, they say.
BAS scientists said today:
“The clock ticks now at just three minutes to midnight because international leaders are failing to perform their most important duty – ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization.”
“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.”
According to the Doomsday Clock today, if the minute hands move forward by three more minutes we really will be doomed.
The Doomsday Clock has moved several times since it was established – sometimes back, sometimes forward.
It came closest to humankind’s destruction in 1953 – two minutes to midnight, when it became known that the United States and the then Soviet Union were pursuing the hydrogen (thermonuclear) bomb, which had the destructive power of 10 million tons of TNT compared to 20,000 tons with an atomic bomb, i.e. 500 times more powerful than the one used in Hiroshima.
End of Cold War things started looking hopeful
The Doomsday Clock’s safest setting was in 1991 – the end of the Cold War – when it retreated 17 minutes to Doomsday.
Since then the minute hand has been edging forward in what the scientists see as our obsession with self-destruction.
In 1998, the Clock’s hand was nine minutes from midnight. By 2012, it had moved closer by four minutes. BAS says the world has now entered its “second nuclear age.”
BAS said in a statement:
“The challenges to rid the world of nuclear weapons, harness nuclear power, and meet the nearly inexorable climate disruptions from global warming are complex and interconnected.”
“In the face of such complex problems, it is difficult to see where the capacity lies to address these challenges.”
The scientists insisted that while their message today is worrying, it is not one of hopelessness. They said today:
“While there is still time to act, they (actions) will have to come soon, very soon, in order to avert catastrophe … members of the BAS find conditions in the world so threatening that they are moving the hands of the Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to midnight – it is now three minutes to midnight.”
A BAS spokesperson went on to say that the countries emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses are on the way to “profoundly transforming Earth’s climate, harming millions-upon-millions of people with sea-level rises, diminished food supplies, and even more droughts, wildfires and killer storms than we have today.”
She also criticized world leaders for failing to reduce nuclear arsenals.