Since 2020, the hands of the Doomsday Clock have sat at 100 seconds until midnight. With the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists making their 75th-anniversary announcement Thursday morning, how close are we to doomsday in 2022?
The Doomsday Clock was established in 1947 as a way for the scientific community to show world leaders and the public how close humanity is to annihilating ourselves. The purpose was to bring awareness to the threats in the hopes that leaders would make the world safer and thus move the hands of the Clock back.
In the early years of the Clock's timeline, the primary threat was nuclear war. It stood at 7 minutes to midnight its first year. As tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union worsened in the two years following, the Clock ticked forward to 2 minutes to midnight. From the 1960s through the 1980s, nuclear treaties and peace agreements between the world's nations allowed the scientists tracking world threats to move the hands of the Clock back. By 1991, they stood at 17 minutes to midnight — the furthest from doomsday that we've been since the start of the Cold War.
Two added threats have been considered in the years since. The first is the worsening threat of anthropogenic climate change. The second is the impact of disruptive technologies, which are eroding trust in our institutions through the spread of misinformation and disinformation. Taking these into account, along with the continued threat of nuclear war, has caused the Clock's hands to move closer and closer towards doomsday.
The Doomsday Clock from 2020, set to 100 seconds to midnight. Credit: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
As of 2020, the Clock was set to just 100 seconds from midnight, the closest to doomsday it has ever been. At the time, the threat of nuclear war and the increasing impact of climate change were the reasons for the hands to be moved forward. In 2021, although there was a slight improvement in some issues, adding the Covid-19 pandemic meant that the hands stayed where they were.
At 10 a.m. EST, on Thursday, January 20, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists will host a live stream of their 75th anniversary Doomsday Clock announcement. Watch below.
Have conditions remained the same, keeping the hands of the Clock where they have been for the past two years? Have they worsened, forcing the Clock to be reset closer to midnight? Or, have we made enough improvements that we can move the Clock further from the brink?
Tune in Thursday morning for the answer.