The Doomsday Clock: How Close Are We To The Doomsday?

Since 1947, the The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have maintained a symbolic clock face that represents a countdown to doomsday.

What Is The Doomsday Clock?

The Doomsday Clock is a representative clock that counts down to midnight, the moment of worldwide disaster. It is regulated by the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, an academic journal that focuses on global security and policy surrounding disease, weapons of mass destruction, new technologies, and climate change. The members of the Board work together with the journal’s Governing Board and Board of Sponsors, which is made up in part by 18 Nobel Laureates, to decide the world’s vulnerability.

The Doomsday Clock currently hangs in the University of Chicago office of the Bulletin. Prior to 2007, the clock was only used to measure the risk of nuclear war. Today, however, it offers a more comprehensive analysis of the risk of global catastrophe. As of January 2017, the clock is set to 2.5 minutes to midnight. This estimate is closer to midnight than any time since its implementation in 1947 - with the exception of 1953 when it was set to 2 minutes to midnight.

History Of The Doomsday Clock

The Doomsday Clock was created by the Chicago Atomic Scientists, a group of researchers who had previously participated in the Manhattan Project. The Manhattan Project gave birth to the first nuclear weapons, which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. After this tragic event, the researchers began publishing a newsletter and later the Bulletin Journal.

Martyl Langsdorf, artist and wife of a Manhattan Project researcher, designed the cover of the June 1947 issue. This was the debut of the Doomsday Clock. The intention behind the clock was to measure the changing dangers of life in the age of nuclear technology. Since 1947, the Doomsday Clock has been on the cover of every issue.

In 2007, the depiction of the clock was changed to give it a more modern look. This change corresponded to the inclusion of additional threats to humanity, such as disease and climate change. In 2009, the journal went digital. The clock can now be found as part of the website’s logo and continues to be warning about how close humans are to destroying the world.

Factors That Influence The Doomsday Clock Time

The researchers at the Bulletin are very clear that their intention is not to predict the future. Instead, these scientists and experts analyze past events and current trends to calculate the world’s vulnerability. Board members look at numbers and statistics around the world, including: the number of nuclear weapons, the measure of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the rate of sea level rise, and the level of acidity in the oceans. These statistics are compared to global efforts (of governments and civilians) to reduce these risks and to respect for international agreements.

2017 - One Step Closer To Doomsday

Since its inception, the Doomsday Clock has been changed 22 times. The most recent change was in January 2017, when the clock was set from 3 minutes to only 2.5 minutes to midnight. This resetting was due to several factors, including: an international move toward nationalism, commentary about nuclear warfare made by US President Donald Trump, and the Trump administration’s disregard for scientific fact concerning global climate change.

The executive director of the Bulletin suggested that this year’s setting was more urgent than ever before. This is because normalcy within the political sphere has taken a complete turnaround, causing a sense of instability throughout the world. Besides the previously mentioned threats, the world has also seen the US President attack credible news sources, giving rise to less truthful news sites. This is the first time in the history of the Doomsday Clock has been advanced based on the comments and actions of one person alone. The Journal cites the political environment in the US as particularly concerning.

1953 - Apocalypse Near

With all the concern surrounding the recent Doomsday Clock advance, it is important to remember the history of the clock’s timeline. In 1953, the clock was set to 2 minutes to midnight. This extreme advance was after the US invested in research aimed at creating a hydrogen bomb, which is more potent than an atomic bomb. As part of its pursuit, the government tested a thermonuclear device on a tiny island located in the Pacific Ocean. The islet was destroyed. In response, the Soviet government began testing its own hydrogen bomb just 9 months later. Fear of atomic war between the two nations plagued society at the time. This event prompted the closest setting to midnight since the clock’s creation.

1991 - A Safer Era

The early 1990’s brought about increased political security around the globe. The Cold War was over, and the governments of the Soviet Union and the US began working together to reduce their stores of nuclear weapons. Additionally, the leaders of these two countries signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which further reduced the number of nuclear weapons. Their improved political relationship influenced each country to remove the high alert status that was previously placed on their intercontinental ballistic missiles. In December of the same year, the Soviet Union dissolved. At this point in history, the idea that nuclear weapons could guarantee national security disappeared. The Doomsday Clock was set for 17 minutes to midnight, the most time given in its history.

2007 - The Second Nuclear Age And The Threat of Climate Change

As the world headed toward the threat of a second nuclear age, the Doomsday Clock was modified yet again to 5 minutes to midnight. In 2007, the US and Russia were set to respond to a nuclear attack against each other in a matter of minutes. However, the world saw a significant shift in military power. Until this moment in history, most of the world’s military technology belonged to the US and Russia as well as a few other countries in Europe and North America. This monopoly came to an end as several Asian countries acquired weapons of mass destruction. This year saw the assertion of Asia as a competing military power. For example, North Korea began testing nuclear bombs, and rumors of Iran’s nuclear capabilities arose.

Additionally, climate change was seen as a significant threat to the future of humanity. Across the globe, natural disasters began threatening human populations and unique environmental habitats. Events like tsunamis, flooding, stronger storms, increased droughts, and glacier melting were identified as direct challenges to human life and progress. Since this year, these factors have been considering when setting the Doomsday Clock.

Prediction Of The Future?

The Doomsday Clock may not provide an accurate prediction of the future, but it does offer an accurate depiction of current world affairs. If its warnings are not heeded, humanity risks self-destruction.

The Doomsday Clock: How Close Are We To The Doomsday?

RankYearMinutes To Midnight
2320172 1⁄2

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