Doomsday Clock is a hypothetical and symbolic clock that depicts the likelihood of a man-made catastrophe. The clock measures how far humanity is from a catastrophic situation and assigns the midnight mark for it. If the imaginary clock is far from midnight, it means that humanity is also far from catastrophe and vice versa.
The doomsday clock is re-timed in the month of January every year. This year the clock has been re-timed to show that there are only 100 seconds—a minute and 40 seconds—till midnight. This happens to be the closest time to midnight the doomsday clock has ever reached and is a symbolic representation that humanity is the closest to a man-made catastrophe than it has been ever since the doomsday clock came into being. The main factors influencing the re-timing of the clock are increased nuclear risk and climate crisis.
The origin of the Doomsday Clock can be traced back to 1947, when a group of scientists calling themselves the ‘Chicago Atomic Scientists’ began a mimeographed newsletter, which eventually became the magazine Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. This group of scientists were part of the Manhattan Project, which developed the nuclear bomb during the Second World War, that was dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
Since then, the bulletin has maintained the Doomsday Clock in its cover and the clock has gone through re-timing several times, according to how close humanity is to a catastrophe. The decision of moving the minute hand of the clock every year is done with consultations and suggestions of the board of sponsors of the bulletin, which includes 13 Nobel laureates.
As far as this year’s re-timing is concerned, the Bulletin says, “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change—that are compounded by…cyber-enabled information warfare that undercuts society’s ability to respond. The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.”
Also read: Earth Approaching Climate Tipping Points: Cascading Devastation in Store
A gist of the history of the ‘Doomsday Clock’s depiction of how close the planet is to apocalypse can be seen in the diagram below.
Image Courtesy: Hindustan Times. Image is for representation.
The bulletin clearly says that nuclear risk and climate crisis are the two major threats to humanity, and it has been amplified by ‘technology-propelled’ propaganda. It also warns that the world leaders ought to focus on managing the imminent danger so that the risk of the catastrophe can be minimised. The bulletin warns, “Instead, over the last two years, we have seen influential leaders denigrate and discard the most effective methods for addressing complex threats—international agreements with strong verification regimes—in favour of their own narrow interests and domestic political gain. By undermining cooperative, science and law-based approaches to managing the most urgent threats to humanity, these leaders have helped to create a situation that will, if unaddressed, lead to catastrophe, sooner rather than later. Civilisation-ending nuclear war—whether started by design, blunder, or simple miscommunication—is a genuine possibility. Climate change that could devastate the planet is undeniably happening. And for a variety of reasons that include a corrupted and manipulated media environment, democratic governments and other institutions that should be working to address these threats have failed to rise to the challenge.”