CHICAGO — The famed “doomsday clock” is now the closest to midnight it’s ever been.
The clock is now set at only 100 seconds to midnight, according to a Thursday announcement from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The clock represents threats to humanity and Earth.
The clock was created by two University of Chicago scientists in 1945 after they helped develop atomic weapons for the Manhattan Project. The clock changes regularly, being as far as 17 minutes to midnight in 1991, when the Cold War ended. But it’s inched steadily closer to midnight in the years since.
This year, staff from the Bulletin moved the clock 20 seconds closer to midnight because “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,” the Bulletin wrote.
“Civilization-ending nuclear war … is a genuine possibility,” according to the Bulletin, and governments and other groups have failed to address that threat.
And world leaders, including the United States, have not sufficiently addressed climate change despite it gaining increasing attention, according to the Bulletin.
Already, climate change has caused massive death and destruction throughout the world, with the Bulletin using “wildfires from the Arctic to Australia” and record-breaking flooding in India as examples.
The world is also struggling with information warfare and disruptive technologies, according to the Bulletin.
And at the same time, world leaders have been dismantling processes and infrastructure that once helped nations cooperate to address major threats — without making plans for new or better ways to manage and end risks to the world.
“This situation — two major threats to human civilization, amplified by sophisticated, technology-propelled propaganda — would be serious enough if leaders around the world were focused on managing the danger and reducing the risk of catastrophe,” according to the Bulletin. “Instead, over the last two years, we have seen influential leaders denigrate and discard the most effective methods for addressing complex threats — international agreements with strong verification regimes — in favor of their own narrow interests and domestic political gain.
“By undermining cooperative, science- and law-based approaches to managing the most urgent threats to humanity, these leaders have helped to create a situation that will, if unaddressed, lead to catastrophe, sooner rather than later.”