The world is closer than ever to catastrophe: the Doomsday Clock, the metaphorical measure of challenges to humanity, was reset to 90 seconds before midnight on Tuesday.
The Scientific and Safety Council of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists said the move – the closest humanity has ever come to a widespread calamity – was “largely, but not exclusively” due to the war in Ukraine.
The scientific body evaluates the clock every January. This is the first full update since Russia began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February, sparking war in Europe and a new flood of refugees.
The clock caused a stir when it was set to 100 seconds at midnight in 2020, the first time that the famous clock had gone down to seconds rather than minutes. At the time, the scientists of the Bulletin said that we were “on the threshold of fate”. It stayed at 100 seconds at midnight in 2021 and 2022.
The scientists behind the Doomsday Clock use it to alert humanity to threats from within – the perils we face from our own technologies, especially through nuclear war, climate change world and biotechnology.
Commenting on the new update, Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “The doomsday clock is ringing the alarm for all of humanity. . We are on the edge of a precipice. But our leaders are not acting with sufficient speed or scale to ensure a peaceful and livable planet.”
Much of Tuesday’s announcement focused on Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons and his refusal to accept anything other than victory in Ukraine.
“Even though nuclear use is avoided in Ukraine,” said Steve Fetter, graduate school dean and professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, “the war has challenged the nuclear order – the system of agreements and agreements that have been built over six decades to limit the dangers of nuclear weapons”.
Fetter also noted that the United States, Russia and China are working to modernize their arsenals.
The Chicago-based Bulletin was founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein and scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons as part of the Manhattan Project. Over the years, its members have included dozens of Nobel laureates.