Doomsday Clock: It's closer to midnight than it's ever been

Cheryl Sanders
January 23, 2020

The clock represents the likelihood of a manmade global catastrophe.

"It is 100 seconds to midnight". We are now expressing how close the world is to catastrophe in seconds - not hours, or even minutes, ' the Bulletin's President Rachel Bronson said in a statement.

The decision was made by the group's science and security board following a year in which man-made threats to humanity, such as nuclear proliferation and climate change, were hastened by moves away from global cooperation, she said.

While the Doomsday Clock didn't move in 2019 and remained at two minutes, it's been slowly moving closer to midnight in prior years.


The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which was founded after the creation of the atomic bomb in World War II and focuses on the greatest threats to human survival, said it moved the clock from two minutes to midnight to 100 seconds to midnight - a 20-second advance. "Humanity now faces two simultaneous existential threats, either of which would be cause for extreme concern and immediate attention".

So what factors determine how close we are to midnight?

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The time on their so-called Doomsday Clock has been moved backwards and forwards over the years as a metaphor for how close to catastrophe we are.


By undermining cooperative, science- and law-based approaches to managing the most urgent threats to humanity, global leaders, according to the Bulletin, have helped to create a situation that will, if unaddressed, lead to catastrophe, sooner rather than later. "In sum, the situation is extremely unsafe, and requires an emergency response". The Bulletin declared that "the need for emergency action is urgent". But recent climate talks have failed to lead to serious action. The statement noted that meeting the goals of that accord will require industrialized countries "to curb emissions rapidly, going beyond their initial, inadequate pledges and supporting developing countries so they can leapfrog the entrenched, fossil fuel-intensive patterns".

'This shows that what's happening is persistent, not a fluke due to some weather phenomenon: We know that the long-term trends are being driven by the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, ' a NASA official said of the findings.

It returned to 11:58 in 2018 and stayed there until Thursday's update.

The group, whose executive chairman is former California Governor Jerry Brown and consults with a board that includes 13 Nobel laureates, has a website that is exceedingly competent, in addition to being terrifying. It's not keeping tabs on day-to-day threats; a board of scientists and policy experts convene just twice a year to decide whether it's time for a tick, and they only make announcements on clock hand movement (or lack thereof) periodically.


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