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World leaders react to Doomsday Clock announcement

The clock is now 90 seconds to midnight, the closest it has ever been

Louise Boyle
Senior Climate Correspondent, New York
Tuesday 24 January 2023 16:25 GMT
What is the Doomsday Clock and what does it tell us?

World leaders have warned that a “crisis mindset” is needed to tackle the existential threats facing humanity following the 2023 Doomsday Clock announcement.

How close the clock is set to midnight reflects scientists and geopolitical experts’ views on humanity’s proximity to self-destruction.

On Tuesday, the clock was moved forward by ten seconds and is now 90 seconds to midnight, the closest since it was created in 1947.

The Doomsday Clock announcement 2023 - follow live

Escalating tensions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the nuclear weapons threat, pandemics and the climate crisis were all taken into account for this year’s assessment.

“The Doomsday Clock is sounding an alarm for the whole of humanity. We are on the brink of a precipice. But our leaders are not acting at sufficient speed or scale to secure a peaceful and liveable planet,” Mary Robinson, the first woman president of Ireland and former High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement.

“From cutting carbon emissions to strengthening arms control treaties and investing in pandemic preparedness, we know what needs to be done. The science is clear, but the political will is lacking. This must change in 2023 if we are to avert catastrophe. We are facing multiple, existential crises. Leaders need a crisis mindset.”

Elbegdorj Tsakhia, former President of Mongolia, said in a statement: “As a former President of a country landlocked between two large powers, I know how important international diplomacy is when it comes to tackling existential threats. Today our world faces multiple crises. A common thread runs through them all: failure of leadership. We need a collective response rooted in the spirit and values of the UN Charter that can put us back on a pathway to peaceful co-existence and sustainable development.”

The former presidents joined members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists for the unveiling of the Doomsday Clock. Both are members of The Elders, a group founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007, which uses their collective experience and influence for peace, justice and human rights worldwide.

Ban Ki-moon, deputy chair of The Elders and former UN Secretary-General, also said in a statement: “Three years ago, I helped unveil the Doomsday Clock when its hands were last moved. Today they are even closer to midnight, showing how much more perilous our world has become in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme weather events and Russia’s outrageous war on Ukraine. Leaders did not heed the Doomsday Clock’s warnings in 2020. We all continue to pay the price. In 2023 it is vital for all our sakes that they act.”

The Doomsday Clock was created by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a nonprofit organization. The countdown was established in 1947 by scientists working on the Manhattan Project which designed and built the first atomic bomb.

“The Doomsday Clock must be the motivation for people all over the to rally behind the plan to end nuclear weapons through the #nuclearban treaty. It’s past time for excuses, with only 90 seconds to midnight, there’s no time to waste,” the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize, tweeted.

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