What is the Doomsday Clock?
The Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (long name, we know) has moved the Doomsday Clock from two minutes to midnight to 100 seconds to midnight, the closest to midnight it’s ever been. The Clock is a metaphor that aims to warn the public how close we are to “destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own making”. Naturally, midnight represents the catastrophe.
The threat of nuclear war and climate change are the main factors in deciding the Doomsday time. Members of the Board with the long name, comprising of nuclear technology and climate science experts, meet biannually to decide if the time requires changing. They also consult their colleagues and the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, which “includes 13 Nobel Laureates”.
Why is the End Near?
The full statement is rather long, so we’ll give you a quick run-down. It starts off with a strong warning, declaring “a state of emergency that requires the immediate, focused, and unrelenting attention of the entire world.”
In terms of the threat of nuclear weapons, the statement highlights the breakdown of arms control treaties in the past year. These include the US pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and the demise of the US-Russia Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The failed US-North Korea denuclearisation talks and increasing tensions between world powers have not helped either.
Regarding climate change, increasing greenhouse gas emissions and climate crises across the globe are brought up. Governments are criticised for failing to enact policies that address climate change sufficiently, or even withdrawing from and dismantling policies that did (looking at you US and Brazil).
Fake news and deep fakes, among other potentially “disruptive” technologies, are another big concern. The statement warns that disinformation could “sow distrust in institutions and among nations”, threatening democracy and efforts to “foster peace and protect the planet.”
As for what can be done, world leaders are encouraged to reopen negotiations, including denuclearisation talks, and commit to climate goals. Individually, we are implored to “insist on facts, and discount nonsense” and pressure our leaders to “take immediate steps to reduce the existential threats of nuclear war and climate change”.