UNITED STATES: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS), a non-profit organisation of scientists and policy experts, has announced that the Doomsday Clock has moved closer to midnight than ever before.
The Doomsday clock, created by atomic scientists 76 years ago to warn against a human-made apocalypse, now stands at 90 seconds to midnight.
This development marks the closest point to humanity’s extinction in history, including at the height of the Cold War.
The Doomsday clock’s hands moved significantly due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the climate crisis, and the unchecked spread of COVID-19.
The BAS’s Science and Security Board, consisting of 18 experts from various backgrounds, met twice to discuss the changing threats posed to humanity.
The experts agreed upon the clock’s position after dialogues with colleagues in their respective fields and with the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, which features 11 Nobel laureates.
The Doomsday Clock was first envisioned as a way to signal to the public the dire and growing threat posed by nuclear weapons to the world.
In 2007, the clock’s countdown was expanded to include all human-made existential threats, including climate change, rogue artificial intelligence, war, and global pandemics.
The BAS was founded in 1945 by physicists including Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer, who later became opponents of atomic weapons.
The clock’s hands have moved 10 seconds closer to midnight than ever before, surpassing the previous record of 100 seconds between 2019 and 2022.
The previous record was set during a period of global political mismanagement in the face of a mounting climate crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the buildup to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also contributed notably to the previous record.
The clock is even closer to midnight than it was during the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, during which it moved to a previous record of 2 minutes to midnight in 1953.
However, the clock’s hands have also been set back before. The clock was set back 17 minutes to midnight in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
Mary Robinson, chair of the human rights organisation and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, says that the Doomsday Clock is an alarm for all humanity.
She added that leaders are not acting at sufficient speed or scale to secure a peaceful and liveable planet.
Robinson states that cutting carbon emissions, strengthening arms control treaties, and investing in pandemic preparedness are necessary, but that political will is lacking.
She calls for a crisis mindset from leaders in 2023 if catastrophe is to be averted.
The Doomsday Clock’s latest move is a stark reminder that the world is facing multiple existential crises and that global leaders must take decisive action to secure a future for humanity.
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