From left, Siegfried Hecker, Daniel Holz, Sharon Squassoni, Mary Robinson and Elbegdorj Tsakhia with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists remove a cloth covering the Doomsday Clock at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington. Photo Attributable to Jamie Christiani, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
As of Tuesday of this week the Doomsday Clock displayed a time of 90 seconds before midnight. The Doomsday Clock was invented in 1947 by the scientists who developed the atomic bomb. The clock was created to register the danger of mankind destroying himself and the planet in a nuclear war. The clock was set at seven minutes before midnight. Time on the clock was shortened to three minutes before midnight in 1949 when it was learned that the Soviet Union had detonated its first atomic bomb. It was shortened again to just two minutes when the Soviet Union conducted a successful test of a hydrogen bomb in 1953.
Since 1953, time on the clock has been shortened in response to events which could trigger the sudden reduction of human population and lengthened when events transpire that might delay sudden destruction. In total, the minute hand of the clock has been shifted 25 times. The most distant positioning of the minute hand from midnight was in 1991 when the clock registered 17 minutes from sudden doom. The event which caused the hand to be moved backward to 11:43 p.m. was the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Since 1991, the clock’s hand has been moved forward some 10 times because additional nations have come to possess destructive technology, the failure of treaties to stem nuclear weapon development, the development of biological weaponry, and the failure of nations to unite in a battle against climate change.
The current 11:58:30 positioning of the hand reflects the perception that the present danger of human self destruction is greater than at any previous point in the history of the clock.
Is the 90 seconds to midnight setting justified? Maybe, maybe not. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists state the main reason for repositioning the clock’s minute hand to be the Russia-Ukraine War coupled with bio-threats, nuclear proliferation, climate crisis, state-sponsored disinformation, and disruptive technology. All of these except climate change appears to be a valid reason to move the minute hand forward. Climate change has the potential reduce the habitability of the planet but not to destroy it come midnight.
The experts who set the hand of the Doomsday Clock believe that failure to reduce greenhouse gases is a measure of unwillingness to cooperate. Failure of nations to cooperate is seen as a stumbling block to the establishment of a world government which can restrain biological weapons, nuclear warheads, harmful disinformation, and cyber warfare. The experts believe that a one world government is the answer.
Only time will tell if the experts are right but I think it unwise to trust the creators of biological weapons, nuclear warheads, harmful disinformation, and cyber warfare . . . and climate change.