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Doomsday Clock remains at 90 seconds to midnight

The setting still represents the closest to 12 the clock has ever been.

Nina Massey
Tuesday 23 January 2024 17:11 GMT
Doomsday clock: Humanity closer than ever to destroying itself, experts say

The Doomsday Clock has remained at 90 seconds to midnight for a second year in a row as scientists say “humanity continues to face an unprecedented level of danger”.

Maintaining last year’s setting – the closest to 12 it has ever been – means the clock’s keepers believe the threat of global apocalypse has not cooled off in the past 12 months.

And they emphasised it is not an indication of stability in the world.

Rachel Bronson, president and chief executive of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said: “Make no mistake: resetting the clock at 90 seconds to midnight is not an indication that the world is stable.

“Quite the opposite. It’s urgent for governments and communities around the world to act.

“And the Bulletin remains hopeful – and inspired – in seeing the younger generations leading the charge.”

The scientists cited the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, multi-dimensional nuclear threats, failures to address the climate crisis, bio-threats, and artificial intelligence (AI) as reasons for the setting.

The Doomsday Clock’s time is set by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board (SASB) in consultation with its board of sponsors, which includes nine Nobel laureates.

The Doomsday Clock statement said: “Ominous trends continue to point the world toward global catastrophe.

“The war in Ukraine and the widespread and growing reliance on nuclear weapons increase the risk of nuclear escalation.

China, Russia and the United States are all spending huge sums to expand or modernise their nuclear arsenals, adding to the ever-present danger of nuclear war through mistake or miscalculation.

“In 2023, Earth experienced its hottest year on record, and massive floods, wildfires, and other climate-related disasters affected millions of people around the world.

“Meanwhile, rapid and worrisome developments in the life sciences and other disruptive technologies accelerated, while governments made only feeble efforts to control them …

“But the world can be made safer. The clock can move away from midnight.”

The scientists suggest a number of ways to “turn the clock back”.

At the highest levels, these three countries need to take responsibility for the existential danger the world now faces

Doomsday Clock statement

They say that as the first step, and despite their profound disagreements, the US, China and Russia should have a serious dialogue about each about the global threats they have outlined.

“At the highest levels, these three countries need to take responsibility for the existential danger the world now faces.

“They have the capacity to pull the world back from the brink of catastrophe. They should do so, with clarity and courage, and without delay,” the Bulletin says.

The countdown was established in 1947 by scientists who were working on the Manhattan Project to design and build the first atomic bomb.

It was created to provide a simple way of demonstrating the danger to the Earth and humanity posed by nuclear war.

Although originally intended to warn of the threat of nuclear Armageddon, the Doomsday Clock has evolved to take into account the likelihood of other emerging threats such as climate change and advances in biotechnology and artificial intelligence.

The clock first started ticking at seven minutes to midnight – and has moved forwards and backwards over the years as the threats to the world changed.

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