Doomsday: Mere Minutes Away
Simple in its design but sobering in its message: the infamous Doomsday Clock has been set to two and a half minutes to midnight.
This clock has served as a symbol that represents the countdown to possible global catastrophe and the destruction of humanity. Maintained by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the clock was created in 1947 due to the Bulletin’s fear regarding the Soviet Union’s development of atomic weapons.
For the next 70 years, the clock’s minute hand has been moved forward and backward 22 times—“midnight” representing the hypothetical demise of the human race. The Bulletin’s chief concern is to cover global security and public policy issues relating to danger posed by nuclear threats (or other weapons of mass destruction), climate change, evolving technologies, and disease.
Nuclear war remained the Bulletin’s main concern until 2007 when climate change was proving to be a serious threat. The safest we’ve ever been from global disaster was in 1991 when the Soviet Union was dissolved, pushing the clock back to 17 minutes to midnight.
1953 brought the clock the closest it has ever been to midnight: two minutes. This was a result of the United States testing its first thermonuclear weapon.
But 2017 is close behind that record, at only two minutes and 30 seconds— which also happens to be the first time a fraction has ever been used. All because of the newly elected president.
President Trump’s disturbing comments about expanding the country’s nuclear arsenal, his skepticism of climate change, and the danger of an arms race with Russia brought great unrest to the Bulletin and in turn, brought us closer to the Earth’s symbolic ruin. The clock had been at a steady three minutes to midnight since 2015 due to the continual lack of global and political action concerning climate change.
In a recent New York Times article, Lawrence M. Krauss (a theoretical physicist and chairman of the board of sponsors of The Bulletin) and David Titley’s (former chairman of the Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change) comment, “Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person. But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.”
How much will President Trump’s words end up mattering? An entire 30 seconds worth, according to the Bulletin. In regard to the rest of the world, it will have to decide that for itself in these coming months.