Two minutes to midnight: Doomsday Clock hasn’t moved this close to midnight since the Cold War

Another year gone and we’re another metaphorical thirty seconds closer to humanity’s destruction.

Two minutes to midnight: Doomsday Clock hasn’t moved this close to midnight since the Cold War

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has shifted the hands of the symbolic Doomsday Clock two minutes to midnight as part of a worrying an announcement in Washington DC.

As of today (25 January 2018), with the looming threat of nuclear war due to growing tensions between North Korea and the US, and the ever-present danger of climate change, worsened by irrational decisions made by President Trump, the organisation has been forced to advance the clock forward thirty seconds, almost a whole year since the last shift. 

 “The Science and Security Board for the Bulletin of the Atomic Sciences assesses that the world is not only more dangerous now than it was a year ago, it is as threatening as it has been since World War II,” Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist, and Robert Rosner, an astrophysicist, both chairs on the board, wrote in the Washington Post. “In fact, the Doomsday Clock is as close to midnight today as it was in 1953, when Cold War fears perhaps reached their highest level.”

The clock’s advancement follows North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile test, and a slew of threats made by both Donald Trump and Kim-Jong Un, with the President most notably firing off about his nuclear buttonbeing bigger than the North Korean President’s.

“On the climate change front, the danger may seem less immediate, but avoiding catastrophic temperature increases in the long run requires urgent attention now,” they wrote. “The nations of the world will have to significantly decrease their greenhouse gas emissions to keep climate risks manageable, and so far the global response has fallen far short of meeting this challenge.”

The last time the Doomsday Clock was two minutes to midnight was in 1953, when the nuclear hydrogen bomb was tested.

The board of scientists, which includes 15 Nobel laureates from the field of both arts and sciences, has been meeting regularly to discuss the Doomsday Clock’s position ever since it was set up in 1947 following concerns over the founders’ nuclear research. 

What is Doomsday Clock?

The Doomsday Clock was devised by the board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947 in response to the increasing threat of nuclear war at the end of World War II. At its most simple, midnight on the clock represents a nuclear disaster or apocalyptic event. The closer the Doomsday Clock moves to midnight, the more real the threat of an apocalyptic event.

The Doomsday Clock was the brainchild of the atomic scientists involved with the Manhattan Project who could see, or who understood, first-hand how devastating nuclear weapons could potentially be. They would often produce a bulletin providing updates about the nuclear weaponry and the clock design feature on the front cover of the first edition.

The global threats taken into consideration in the modern-day Doomsday Clock include 

  • Nuclear threats
  • Climate change
  • Biosecurity
  • Bioterrorism
  • “Miscellaneous” threats including cyber warfare and AI

The Doomsday Clock history

  • 1947 – 7 minutes to midnight
  • 1949 – 3 minutes to midnight: The clock moved closer to midnight as the Soviet Union tested its first nuclear device
  • 1953 – 2 minutes to midnight: America created the hydrogen bomb
  • 1963 – 12 minutes to midnight: Atmospheric nuclear testing ended
  • 1984 – 3 minutes to midnight: The height of the Cold War 
  • 1991 – 17 minutes to midnight: The end of the Cold War 
  • 2015 – 3 minutes to midnight: This update represented the first time other global threats featured so prominently in the Doomsday Clock’s history. The bulletin explained that “unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernisations and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals posed an extraordinary and undeniable threat to the continued existence of humanity”.
  • 2017: 2 and a half minutes to midnight: The bulletin explained: “The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon” 
  • 2018: 2 minutes to midnight

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