The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a nonprofit organization made up of scientists and security leaders from around the world—including 13 Nobel Laureates—has moved the hands of its iconic Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to midnight. Midnight on the clock is a metaphor for “global catastrophe,” and according to the international organization, humanity is now the closest it’s ever been to the brink of total destruction since the clock’s establishment in 1947.
In a live-streamed presentation (above), which took place in Washington D.C., members of the Bulletin, as well as members of The Elders (an NGO made up of “independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights” founded by Nelson Mandela), discussed the multitude of reasons the clock has been moved ahead from its 2019 position of two minutes to midnight.
Robert Rosner, the Chair of the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board, said during the presentation that “a dismal state of affairs in the realms of nuclear security and climate change [described in 2019] now has become an apparently enduring, disturbing reality in which things are not getting any better.” He added that governments across the globe have normalized a dangerous world in terms of the risks of nuclear warfare and climate change.
How close are we to self-destruction? It has been 2 minutes to midnight since 2018. The #DoomsdayClock is used to illustrate threats to humanity & the planet. Every year, these extinction-level threats are assessed & a time is announced. https://t.co/On5ctR1CWK pic.twitter.com/2tUNXKyA7c
— Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (@BulletinAtomic) January 23, 2020
Sharon Squassoni, an expert on international affairs, said that “it is too dangerous to sleepwalk through this newly unstable environment [of international affairs]” and that major players on the world stage desperately need to deal with Iran’s increased stockpile of low enriched uranium. Squassoni noted that Iran began increasing its stockpile of low enriched uranium after the U.S. pulled out of its nuclear deal with the country. Squassoni also highlighted North Korea’s abandonment of talks with the U.S. in regards to nuclear disarmament as especially dangerous.
On the climate change front, Sivan Kartha, a senior scientist at the Stockholm Environmental Institute and author of the Fifth and Sixth Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( the IPCC reports), noted that “If the Earth warms by what we tend to think of as just a few degrees… or even pushes the climate half way there, we have no reason to be confident that such a world will remain hospitable to human civilization.” Kartha added that “[Testing] the limits of Earth’s habitable temperature is madness.”
“Let us not let the moment pass, each one of us can do something” pic.twitter.com/9X4nTSYxTN
— QuickTake by Bloomberg (@QuickTake) January 23, 2020
Along with the potential for nuclear warfare and the catastrophic effects of climate change, the Bulletin also noted cyber warfare and mass disinformation campaigns as being a fundamental threat to the normal workings of human society. Robert Latiff, a member of the Intelligence Community Studies Board and the Committee on International Security and Arms Control of the National Academies of Sciences, said that “Cyber-enabled information warfare strikes at the very heart at what makes human interaction possible,” and that “The continued use in 2019 of untruths, exaggerations, and misrepresentations by world leaders in response to what they deem ‘fake news’ has made worse an already dangerous situation.”
In a press release, the Bulletin summed up the sentiment behind moving the Doomsday Clock forward with the following statement:
“Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change—that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond. The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.”
Although the Bulletin gave countless reasons to worry about humanity’s future on Earth, the organization also offered many possible solutions for the existential threats the species faces. For example, the Bulletin said that U.S. and Russian leaders returning to the negotiating table (in regards to nuclear disarmament) would be hugely beneficial. The Bulletin also noted that the countries of the world should rededicate themselves to the temperature goal outlined in the Paris Agreement, which would restrict global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. On top of that, the Bulletin said that members of the international community should “discourage and penalize the misuse of science” as it provides a “searchlight in times of fog and confusion.”
What do you think of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moving the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to midnight? Do you think humanity does indeed face dire, existential threats, or do you think these horrific global issues will somehow be resolved soon? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Header Image: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists