Doomsday Clock moves closer to oblivion than ever before in 2023 update
| Last updated
The time on the Doomsday Clock has been moved forward to 90 seconds to midnight after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as the ongoing threats to humanity from human-led climate change.
This is the closest that the clock has ever stood to midnight, moving forward from the previous record of 100 seconds set in 2020 and maintained in 2021 and 2022.
The questions dealt with by the Doomsday Clock are simple - is humanity safer or at greater risk this year compared to last year, and is humanity at a greater risk than in the past 75 years?
If so, the clock has to move.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists - who set the clock - made an announcement through President Rachel Bronson, who said: "The time on the Doomsday Clock represents the judgement of leading science and security experts about the threat to human existence, with a focus on man-made threats."
In a press release, she added: “We are living in a time of unprecedented danger, and the Doomsday Clock time reflects that reality.
"90 seconds to midnight is the closest the Clock has ever been set to midnight, and it’s a decision our experts do not take lightly. The US government, its NATO allies and Ukraine have a multitude of channels for dialogue; we urge leaders to explore all of them to their fullest ability to turn back the Clock.”
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is a media organisation that consists of world figures and Nobel laureates and explains their understanding of how close the world is to total annihilation.
For 75 years, they’ve been looking at how near to collapse the world is through a variety of threats, such as nuclear war or climate change.
They explain their findings through a hypothetical clock, with midnight set as the marker for full-scale societal breakdown.
It’s a jolly little experiment, but – you have to admit – important and worthwhile.
This is the first time that the statement has been made in English, Russia, and Ukrainian, with the Bulletin aiming to make an impact in the capitals of countries speaking those languages about the severity of the world’s fragile situation.
On their website, the Bulletin explains: "It is a metaphor, a reminder of the perils we must address if we are to survive on the planet.”
They described the clock as ‘a design that warns the public about how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own making’.
Unsurprisingly, we have been pretty close to midnight for a while now, with the Bulletin moving the clock to 100 seconds away from apocalypse in 2020.
The clock has now been reassessed for the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that has set them at odds with much of the rest of the world, also raising once again the spectre of nuclear war.
The 2020 jump was a significant one, as it represented the first time that the clock had moved closer than two minutes to midnight.
However, it was not changed in 2021 or 2022, though they did address the ongoing situation in Ukraine after last year’s assessment.
After the invasion, the Bulletin said that they would not be moving the clock in reaction to that, as the threats made by Russian President Vladimir Putin, including the threat of nuclear escalation ‘is what 100 seconds to midnight looks like’.
However, there is the potential for the clock to go back instead of forwards, with the clock having stood at 17 minutes from midnight in 1991 after the USA and Russia, under the leadership of President George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev respectively, agreed to step down their nuclear arsenals.
That feels a long time ago nowadays, both on the Doomsday Clock and in real time.