The Doomsday Clock strikes three ’til midnight
In today’s edition of news that should depress you, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have moved the “Doomsday Clock” two minutes forward, putting it at three minutes to midnight. That move signifies that the chances of a global catastrophe are now considered to be “very high.”
According to USA Today, the scientists are citing unchecked climate change and the continued threat of nuclear weapons. This is the closest the clock has been to midnight since 1984, when the Cold War made the threat of nuclear war seem very real.
“In 2015, unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity,” the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said in a statement.
“World leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe. These failures of political leadership endanger every person on Earth.”
History of the Clock
The Doomsday Clock was first introduced in 1947 as a symbolic way for scientists to show how close to disaster humanity is thanks to its own actions. The group behind the clock, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, was founded in 1945 by members of the Manhattan Project after developing the first atomic bomb.
The closest the clock has ever been to midnight was in 1953, when it hit two minutes to midnight following the first test of the Hydrogen Bomb.
Until this most recent movement, the last time the clock changed was in 2012. During that shift it moved from six minutes to five, again citing climate change and nuclear proliferation.
The furthest it has ever been from midnight was in 1991, when it was moved back to 17 minutes out. That followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, which brought with it the hopes for nuclear disarmament. In 1998, it jumped five minutes to 9 minutes til midnight following the almost simultaneous nuclear weapons tests of hostile neighbors, India and Pakistan.
After that, the clock has steadily moved forward – with one brief exception in 2010 when it moved back one minute to six minutes out, following the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the US and Russia that limited the number of nuclear weapons. That proved to be a brief glimmer of hope though, as the threat of climate change paired with the continued threat of nuclear weapons pushed it back up.
“Human influence on the climate system is clear,” Richard Somerville of the Bulletin said. “Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer than any preceding on record.”
The Clock is not alone
Of course, the Clock is entirely symbolic, but it joins a growing chorus of scientists and researchers that are trying to point out the danger that is not just looming, but is upon us right now.
Another group of scientists recently joined together to publish a paper analyzing the nine boundaries that define the Earth’s environment as we know it. Humanity has crossed four of those boundaries, leading scientists to warn that the Earth may soon no longer be a “Safe Operating Space” for humans.
Both the clock and the boundaries can be reversed, but time is quickly running out.