This week, members of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board moved the Doomsday Clock thirty seconds closer to midnight, as a result of concerns over the rise of nationalism across the world, US President Donald Trump’s comments about nuclear weapons and the Trump administration’s disbelief in the scientific consensus behind climate change. Now that the Clock now reads two and a half minutes to midnight, we look at what the Doomsday Clock is, why it was created and what it represents.
The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clock to represent a countdown to global catastrophe. The closer the clock gets to ‘midnight’, the closer humanity is to disaster. Started in 1947 by a group of atomic scientists involved in the Manhatten Project, the clock has been set 22 times; the closest being in 1953 at two minutes to midnight, the furthest in 1991 at 17 minutes to midnight. Originally the clock was intended to represent how close humanity is to thermonuclear conflict, but from 2007 the Doomsday Clock took into account climate change in its set time.
However, there has been some criticism of the clock, claiming that the some of the estimates made to set the time of the clock may be based on incorrect assumptions. That said, its creators have defended it by saying that it is intended to act as a symbol of international threats and to inform the public of the global threats to the survival of the human race.
In the most recent setting of the clock, atomic scientists set the clock to the closest to midnight and global catastrophe since for more than half a century, citing nuclear proliferation, inaction on climate change and the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. Trump’s rhetoric on nuclear weapons, particularly his suggestion that South Korea and Japan acquire nukes in the fight against North Korea, were especially worrisome for the scientists.