The Doomsday Clock Just Ticked Closer To Midnight - Here's Why That's Scary

The Doomsday Clock is controlled by an esteemed group of atomic scientists, and can be used to measure the political, social, and environmental health of the world. Unfortunately, The Doomsday Clock is moving towards midnight, which is a strong indication that humanity is approaching some kind of apocalyptic event. 

But just what is the Doomsday Clock? While no physical clock exists, the term denotes a warning system set up to signal global catastrophe. The closer the clock's hands are to midnight, the more imminent the end of the world is.

While the midnight hour on the Doomsday Clock is often synonymous with nuclear war, it can actually represent a lot of things. Movement towards midnight can signal a drastic, dark change in world politics, such as a breakdown in global diplomacy, or it could be a sign of dire and irreversible climate change. All these factors are considered en masse to discern humanity's proximity to the end. 

So, are we on the brink of Armageddon? 

  • The Doomsday Clock Is At 90 Seconds To Midnight As Of January 2023

    The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the symbolic clock's hands 10 seconds closer to midnight on January 24, 2023, putting the world at 90 seconds from 12:00 am. The Bulletin cited the ongoing threat of climate change and emergent pandemics, as well as a host of other issues exacerbated by Russia's catastrophic attempted invasion of Ukraine. The 10-second shift comes after two years at 100 seconds to midnight, which was set shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic had so thoroughly spread across the globe.

    Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and president of Ireland Mary Robinson explained that the jump reflects escalating intensity, saying, “The threats are even more acute, and the failures of leadership even more damning. We live today in a world of interlocking crises, each illustrating the unwillingness of leaders to act in the true long-term interests of their people.”

    Bulletin president Rachel Brosnan added, “What we're conveying with this clock move is things are not going in the right direction, and they haven't been going in the right direction. Those who are listening who say, 'The world doesn't feel safer today,' - they're not alone.”

  • The Clock Moved 10 Seconds Closer To Midnight In 2020

    On January 23, 2020, scientists moved the clock closer to midnight, making the hands a mere 100 seconds from the supposed catastrophe. In a press release, editor for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, John Mecklin, states that we are "closer than ever" to global disaster because of the combined threat of "nuclear war and climate change." 

    Mecklin suggests our current situation is dire in part because "world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing [these threats] to erode." And though our social awareness is growing, we are still just short of "meeting the challenge at hand." 

    Scientists warn that "immediate action is required" in response to the dangers posed by technological communication which "undercuts society’s ability to respond" to existential and literal threats.

  • The Clock Was Created In 1947 In Response To Nuclear Threats
    Photo: United States Navy / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    The Clock Was Created In 1947 In Response To Nuclear Threats

    Invented in 1947, the Doomsday Clock came about after a group of atomic scientists recognized the need for a warning system that could be used to monitor potential global catastrophes. At the time, the thought of a nuclear attack was rapidly becoming more of a rational fear, and the group wanted a way to gauge the severity of the threat at any given point.

    Since its creation, the Doomsday Clock has been managed by members of the Science and Security Board at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. To accompany the introduction of the Doomsday Clock, artist Martyl Langsdorf created an imagined depiction of the clock that ran in Bulletin's June 1947 issue.

  • The Clock Gauges Other Potential Threats As Well

    Nuclear was is not the only threat measured by the Doomsday Clock. This terror is only one of the many relevant aspects that figure into the adjustment of the clocks hands. The effects of climate change — such as natural disasters — are another major consideration that influences the atomic scientists' decision.

    Other factors include bioterrorism and biosecurity issues, the latest on cyber warfare, and the state of artificial intelligence. 

  • The Clock Is Only Adjusted After Considerable Thought And Research

    The Doomsday Clock is not equivalent to a fortuneteller's crystal ball or a biblical prophecy. On the contrary, extensive scientific research is performed before any decision is made regarding the movement of the clock's hands. During their analysis, scientists consult with a team of 15 Nobel laureates, and the final decision is the result of painstaking investigation into the current state of the world.

    If the hands of the clock are moving forward, you can bet that there are a lot of horrible things going on that you should probably look into. 

  • The Doomsday Clock Has Moved 25 Times Since It Was Created

    Since the clock was first introduced in 1947, scientists have had to move the hands 25 times as of January 2020. Each of these 25 cases was preceded by an event that researchers classified as potentially globally catastrophic.

    The safest the world has been — according to the clock — was 1991, when the hands moved back to 17 minutes to midnight. That year, the signing of an arms treaty between the US and the Soviet Union scaled back the threat of nuclear war considerably. With politics, diplomacy, and environmental concerns constantly in flux, it's safe to assume that the Doomsday Clock will inevitably move again. At this point, however, there's no saying which direction it will move.