The Doomsday Clock measures the probability of widespread human catastrophe, with the closeness to midnight representing the likelihood of that. Midnight on the Doomsday Clock represents at least a very large portion of humanity — and quite possibly all of it — being finished, destroyed beyond reasonable recovery, resulting in many millions of lost lives and massive damage. Originally designed to measure the dangerousness of nuclear weapons in 1947, the Doomsday Clock now also accounts for the threat of climate change as an existential threat to human survival. The closest to midnight the clock has ever been previously was in 1953, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union detonated thermonuclear weapons, and now the Doomsday Clock is at the same ominous level of closeness — only 2 minutes to midnight.
In response to rising nuclear tensions and concerns about inadequate action to address the climate crisis, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced Thursday the hands of the Doomsday Clock have been moved and it is now just two minutes midnight, a signal to the world that international scientists and policy experts are increasingly worried about the likeliness of global catastrophe.
“In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change, making the world security situation more dangerous than it was a year ago—and as dangerous as it has been since World War II,” said a statement from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
The Bulletin was established decades ago by creators of the atomic bomb and aims to keep the world informed “about threats to the survival and development of humanity from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in the life sciences.”
“North Korea’s nuclear weapons program appeared to make remarkable progress in 2017, increasing risks for itself, other countries in the region, and the United States. Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions on both sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation,” the statement continued. “On the climate change front, the danger may seem less immediate, but avoiding catastrophic temperature increases in the long run requires urgent attention now.”