Top scientists and security experts moved forward the “Doomsday Clock” on Tuesday to 90 seconds to midnight – indicating the increasing threat to human survival from the nuclear shadow of the war in Ukraine and the growing climate crisis.
The new clock time established by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is closer to midnight than ever before.
The hands of the clock, which the Bulletin describes as “a metaphor for how close humanity is to self-destruction,” had been 100 seconds to midnight since January 2020 – the closest to midnight it has ever been in its history.
The decision to renew the hands of the symbolic clock is taken every year by the scientific and security organization of the Bulletin and its team of supporters, which includes 10 Nobel laureates.
In a statement, the Bulletin said it was advancing the hands of the clock by 10 seconds this year “largely but not primarily because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the increased nuclear threat.”
“Russia’s veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that the escalation of conflict — accidental, intentional, or misguided — is a serious risk,” it said. “The possibility that the conflict could get out of everyone’s hands is still high.”
The bulletin said the timing of the new clock “was also affected by the threat of continued climate and the destruction of global cultures and organizations that are needed to reduce the risks associated with technological advances and natural threats such as COVID-19.”
“We are living in a time of unprecedented danger, and the Doomsday Clock reflects this,” said Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
“90 seconds to midnight is the closest the clock has ever been set to midnight, and it’s a decision our engineers don’t take lightly,” Bronson said.
“The US government, its NATO allies and Ukraine have many options to negotiate,” he said. “We urge the leaders to investigate all of them so that they can turn back the clock.”
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A call to action
Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also called on world leaders to take action in a country that has become dangerous due to COVID-19, climate events and “Russia’s dangerous war in Ukraine.”
“Leaders have not heeded the warnings of the Doomsday Clock in 2020,” Ban said. “We all continue to pay the price. In 2023 it is important for all of us to act.”
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons also saw the hands of the clock change.
“We have had enough Doomsday Clock warnings followed by inaction,” ICAN CEO Beatrice Fihn said in a statement.
“The leaders of the nuclear-weapon states must urgently discuss nuclear weapons, and the G7 summit in Hiroshima in May 2023 is the perfect place to outline such a plan,” Fihn said.
The clock was set at 7 minutes to midnight.
The furthest since midnight has been 17 minutes, the end of the Cold War in 1991.
The Bulletin was founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer and other scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project which developed the first nuclear weapons.
The idea of a clock to represent the world’s risk of disaster followed in 1947.
© Agence France-Presse