What is The Doomsday Clock? and What Time is It Now?
The Doomsday Clock is a symbol that represents how likely a man-made global catastrophe will happen. The clock was first created and maintained in 1947 by a group of scientists who saw the threat of nuclear war at an all time high. The group, known as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board, has been keeping track of global events that could potentially account for the downfall of civilization. The clock represents a hypothetical catastrophe or apocalyptic event by how close the hands are to midnight. When it was first created the clock was 7 minutes to midnight, and has since changed over time. In 1991, the clock was the furthest it has ever been from midnight, with 17 minutes. Currently, it is closest than it has ever been the midnight – it is now 2 minutes away.
The clock is currently set so close to midnight for a number of reasons that contribute to a likely global catastrophe. This includes climate change, global leaders, and the extreme threat for nuclear war with North Korea. The Doomsday Clock science and security board said, “In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change, making the world security situation more dangerous than it was a year ago — and as dangerous as it has been since World War II.”
The committee found that the current rising carbon emission contributing to climate change that is contributing to the rapid warming of the planet, along with the spread of misinformation and technological changes that are causing the undermining of democracy. The Trump administrations hard stance on climate change and curbing carbon emissions has become a cause for concern. They state in their most recent report, “In 2017, the United States backed away from its longstanding leadership role in the world, reducing its commitment to seek common ground and undermining the overall effort toward solving pressing global governance challenges.”
The last time the clock was set this close to midnight was in 1953, after America and the Soviet Union both tested powerful thermonuclear weapons. Both of these tests happened within 10 months of each other, causing the Cold War to become more intense than ever with the start of a global arms race between the worlds two superpowers at the time. Eugene Rabinowitch, a former Manhattan Project scientist, and co-author of that years bulletin, said, “The achievement of a thermonuclear explosion by the Soviet Union, following on the heels of the development of ‘thermonuclear devices’ in America, means that the time, dreaded by scientists since 1945, when each major nation will hold the power of destroying, at will, the urban civilization of any other nation, is close at hand.”
While the clock is simply a reminder of the potential danger mankind currently faces, some people see it as nothing more than a political symbol that is meant to drive an agenda. According to cosmologist Lawrence M. Krauss “the point of this is to encourage public discussion. What you’re trying to do is get people to act. The clock captures for one day, deep existential threats that for the most of the rest of the year aren’t talked about.”
However you choose to view the Doomsday Clock, it is an important reminder of the fragile state of mankind, and how close we often teeter on the brink of potential catastrophe.