Doomsday is only 100 seconds away due to increased anxieties regarding climate change.
The Doomsday Clock moved 20 seconds forward, leaving it resting 100 seconds before midnight. This is the closest to midnight the clock has ever been. According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “When midnight is reached, we are dangerously close to destroying our world with our own technologies.”
The main reason for the clock being moved so close to midnight on Jan. 23 is climate change and the governments of the world failing to try and combat it.
In an interview with NPR, Sharon Squassoni, a member of the board, said, “We set the clock in November … This was before recent military actions by the U.S. and Iran, Iran’s statement or threat that it might leave the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and North Korea’s abandonment of talks with the United States.”
The Doomsday Clock began in 1947. The clock was created by Martyl Langsdorf, whose husband helped work on the Manhattan Project. Langsdorf set the original clock to seven minutes before midnight. When asked about her decision, she reportedly said, “It looked good to my eye.”
The clock first changed in 1949 due to the Soviet Union’s first successful test of an atomic bomb. It went from seven minutes to three minutes until midnight.
In 1953, the clock was also set for two minutes until midnight. The time for 1953 was chosen because of the U.S. and the Soviet Union both testing their thermonuclear weapons within six months of each other.
The main characteristic for a clock’s time to be set further back (away from midnight) is peace. At times when the regions of the world are more at peace with each other, the clock will go backward in time. The clock was set to 17 seventeen minutes until midnight in 1991 — the furthest back the clock has ever been set. This was largely due to the United States and Soviet Union signing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
In 2018, the clock was again set for two minutes until midnight. 2018’s time was chosen based off nuclear risk and climate change. Until this year, two minutes was the closet the clock had ever been to midnight. The board decided to hold the two-minute warning for 2019 as well.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, who determine where we are on the Doomsday Clock, consists of a Science and Security Board, in which some members have backgrounds in nuclear technology and climate change. According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, they meet twice a year to discuss world events and take in account how the events should change the time.
Regardless of what the clock says, it has always been met with scrutiny due to the sensationalist behavior put forth by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and the clock itself. Many experts view the clock as a form of clickbait. In an interview, Tom Vaughan, an expert of international politics, said, “The image of a clock counting down to midnight imbues planetary threats with a quality of inescapability.”
Regardless if the clock is to be believed or not, the problems that caused the clock to move forward are very much real problems.