Story by Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
The world is closer to annihilation than it has ever been since the first nuclear bombs were released at the close of World War II, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said Tuesday. The time on the Doomsday Clock moved forward from 100 seconds to midnight to 90 seconds to midnight.
It’s a reset of what has come to be known as the Doomsday Clock, a decades long project of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists featuring a clock face where midnight represents Armageddon.
Between Russia's nuclear brinkmanship in its war on Ukraine, the real threats of climate change becoming increasingly dire and ongoing concerns about more possible pandemics caused by humans encroaching on formerly wild areas, the Bulletin chose to set the clock the closest to midnight yet.
The world is facing a gathering storm of extinction-level consequences, exacerbated by the illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia. This explains the latest advance of the clock, said Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
ANALYSIS: Why Doomsday Clock scientists are worried about nuclear war
"The threats are even more acute, and the failures of leadership even more damning. We live today in a world of interlocking crises, each illustrating the unwillingness of leaders to act in the true long-term interests of their people," she said.
The Bulletin was founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein and University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons at the Manhattan Project. Two years later they launched the clock as a way to warn humanity just how close to nuclear apocalypse the world was.
"It's a way to remind people of issues that are so big they post a threat to civilization as a whole," said Steve Fetter, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland and member of the Bulletin's Science and Security Board, which sets the clock each year.
Watch the 2023 Doomsday Clock announcement:
The clock has ticked minutes or seconds toward or away from catastrophe over the years. Wars bring it closer, treaties and cooperation further away.
For the past two years, it has been at 100 seconds to midnight. In recent years, the threat of human-caused disasters such as climate change has also been factored into the clock's setting.
Why did the Doomsday Clock tick forward to 90 seconds to midnight?
The movement of the clock to just 90 seconds to midnight sends a message that the world's situation is urgent, with possible broad consequences and long-standing effects, said the Bulletin's president, Rachel Bronson.
"What we're conveying with this clock move is things are not going in the right direction, and they haven't been going in the right direction. Those who are listening say 'The world doesn't feel safer today,' – they're not alone," she said.
Their hope is that this year's announcement will focus on world awareness and push people toward action and away from a business-as-usual mindset. Scientists are unequivocal, said Robinson.
"Leaders, wake up! This is your responsibility. This is on your watch," she said.
Nuclear risks from Russia's war on Ukraine
The clock ticked forward largely, though not exclusively, because of the nuclear dangers posed by the war in Ukraine, the Bulletin said in its statement.
The war has eroded norms of international conduct.
"Russia’s thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that escalation of the conflict – by accident, intention, or miscalculation – is a terrible risk. The possibility that the conflict could spin out of anyone’s control remains high," the statement read.
ANALYSIS: Why any use of nuclear weapons would be a disaster
Climate change is also a concern
“These years leading up to 2030, from a climate and biodiversity perspective, are probably the most important years in human history because either we will do what the scientists are telling us to do or we will condemn future generations to a terrible world,” said Robinson.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the strains that it put on European energy has resulted in increased use of greenhouse gas-producing coal and oil.
The good news is that there’s been a tremendous expansion in innovation around renewable energy and the coming generation is deeply engaged in the issue, said Sivan Kartha, a senior scientist at the Stockholm Environmental Institute and a member of the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board.
“The generation that’s growing up now, the generation that will be our leaders in the future, is fired up about climate change,” he said.
“Our generation has been talking about climate change as a problem for future generations. This is the future generation that’s coming up now, and that will see the potential very dire impacts. And so their motivation, their energy and their seriousness about climate change is (different) in a way the former generations hasn't been.”
Who sets the Doomsday Clock?
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists for decades has regularly published a new Doomsday Clock setting, showing just how close – or far – its experts believe humanity is from the brink.
The clock “conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making," according to the group.
Nobody should be kidding themselves.
Hope = wishful thinking.
Early on UC Stanford started the doomsday clock study. It predicted the breakdown of politics and it came right on time. It also predicted 2040 would be a pivotal year. The basic prognosis is will we go down all of a sudden with a nuclear holocaust or would it be the death of a thousand cuts (as we are now experiencing). Perhaps the later which will lead up to the former?
I worry about 2024, I'm afraid some shit is going to go down. I'm just glad I'm not young. This world is going to be a lot different in 20 years.
Exactly who "resets" the clock?
I don't know a single friend who disagrees with this....it's a good time to be older! We won't have to see what's going to happen.
The US has chosen to fight a proxy war of choice with the world's second most powerful nuclear power. This is madness, and may very well end in a nuclear war. No one wins in a nuclear war.
NATO countries came to the aid of a country that asked for help in defending itself
against an act of naked aggression. The only madness in view here resides in the Kremlin.
@NostraDumbass This was one of the most provoked wars in history, decades of US aggression in the making. About as justified as the US war against Vietnam. You are regurgitating Cold War propaganda.
@Druvius You’re regurgitating Kremlin propaganda. In a different time and place you’d be accusing Churchill of provoking Hitler. Some people just never learn….
@NostraDumbass Read some Cold War-era history and rethink what you wrote.
Since WW2 ended, the US has been trying to destroy an economic system that in the early 1990s finally succeeded in destroying itself.
Hell, after WW1, the US sent armed forces to abort that system but failed.
@yvilletom I suspect what you actually mean is “read my Cold-War history” literature in order to gain a proper understanding of current events. Which is just as biased and conspiratorial as anything you’ll find on the far right. As for myself, I try to filter out the extremes for the same reason I would automatically throw out the high and low bidders in a construction project: The truth is most likely to lie somewhere in the middle.
@NostraDumbass That Biden has chosen to prolong this war rather than try to end it isn't propaganda, it's a fact. That the US spent decades provoking this war is again, fact, not propaganda. This war is madness, and the US should be trying to end it, not risk nuclear war in their Cold War obsession with destroying Russia.
@Druvius After the breakup of the Soviet Union, both Russia and Ukraine signed a treaty guaranteeing Ukraine’s sovereignty and borders (including Crimea). That is a fact. So the war really began in 2014 with the illegal annexation of this territory. Had the West’s response not been so anemic, it may have ended there, with the expulsion of the Russian occupiers. Instead, they took your advice and did nothing, thus pretty much guaranteeing the full-scale invasion that began last year. So the madness belongs to appeasers such as you, who embolden tyrants like Putin by projecting weakness and indifference. And then try to rewrite the historical record by shifting the blame in order to paper over your own naïve complicity. But none of this would be happening if the Ukrainians had kept their nukes. In retrospect, that was their fatal mistake.
@Druvius You have to believe that. Because if it’s not me, then it’s you. But it can’t be you, therefore it must be me. Behold, the wonders of circular logic. I envy the pre-pubescent simplicity of your worldview.
It's a dangerous world out there. Think I'll go ride my bike.
While you ride your bike--- after years of total stress, I have gotten out my art material, and I am not doing any 'cutesy painting'. I am also done with the pub bull-shit. The bike is also an excellent idea.
It can never get there. Before it gets there, it has to get half way, then before it gets there next time it has to get halfway again and so on.
And when it finally gets there, nobody will be around to pay attention.
If it lasts for another 800 million years, a thousand years, or next Tuesday fortnight what then?
They’ve been saying that for ages.
Russia and china still have 30-50 years left from a geopolitical scale though
I’ve been saying “I’m glad I’m old” for a while now. Unfortunately, the things I saw coming are accelerating and instead of being dead when they happen, I fear I will witness, after all.