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Doomsday Clock: The world is closer to oblivion than ever before, scientists say as they change time

Clock moves towards midnight – largely because of war in Ukraine

Andrew Griffin
Wednesday 25 January 2023 03:30 GMT
Doomsday Clock stands at 90 seconds to midnight ‘largely’ due to war in Ukraine

The world is closer to oblivion than ever before, according to the Doomsday Clock.

The clock – a reflection of how close to destruction humanity is, and set by experts and scientists – moved 10 seconds forward, to 90 seconds to midnight.

The threat of nuclear war and other problems has risen in the last year, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which manages the Doomsday Clock and decides its time.

It pointed specifically to the ongoing war in Ukraine, which it said it had warned about in January 2022, when it last updated the clock. Then, it stayed at 100 seconds to midnight, as it has since 2019 – but warned that increased violence between Ukraine and Russia could push the world closer to apocalypse.

“This year, the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moves the hands of the Doomsday Clock forward, largely (though not exclusively) because of the mounting dangers of the war in Ukraine,” the Bulletin said in its statement. “The Clock now stands at 90 seconds to midnight—the closest to global catastrophe it has ever been.”

That statement was published in English, Ukrainian and Russian for the first ever time. That was done with the hope that the warning would be heeded in the capital cities involved in the war, said Rachel Bronson, the chief executive of the Bulletin.

Almost all of the Bulletin’s statement pointed to the threat of nuclear war, mostly because of violence in Ukraine but elsewhere too. It did however state that there was ongoing threats from climate change, biological threats and disruptive technologies.

Covid-19 showed how much the human population is at risk from pandemics, for instance, and such outbreaks are likely to become much more common, experts warned.

When the clock moved to 100 seconds to midnight, in 2019, it was already the closest to midnight it had ever been before. It marked the first time the clock had been set in seconds, a reflection of the increasing danger.

Mary Robinson, the first woman president of Ireland who serves as the chair of “The Elders” group of former world leaders, warned during the announcement that politicians need to do more to ensure that the clock does not keep ticking towards midnight.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

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