The Doomsday clock is closer to midnight now than ever before after scientists announced Tuesday they had inched the hands 10 seconds forward to 90 seconds until midnight.
“We are living in a time of unprecedented danger, and the Doomsday Clock time reflects that reality,” Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said in a statement, per NBC News. Bronson added that the decision to move the hands of the clock is not one their experts take lightly.
The symbolic Doomsday Clock was unveiled in 1947 to serve as a metaphor for public and world leaders to convey the proximity of threats to humanity, the outlet reported. At that time, the clock was set to 7-minutes until midnight or human-caused apocalypse. Though the clock moved up to 2-minutes to midnight as tensions in the Cold War mounted, the clock was set back to 7 minutes in 1960 and remained so, even through the Cuban Missile Crisis, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
The clock was moved back from 2-minutes to midnight in 2018 over “reckless language in the nuclear realm” and climate issues, the Bulletin reported. The clock was then moved up 20 seconds in 2020 over the same issues, putting the world at 100 seconds until midnight. For two years, even with the global pandemic of COVID-19 and economic lockdowns, the clock did not advance.
The Doomsday Clock was moved to 90 seconds to midnight today, Jan. 24, the closest it’s ever been.
— USA TODAY Graphics (@usatgraphics) January 24, 2023
“We are on the brink of a precipice,” former United Nations high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson said.
Citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, expanding nuclear threats in North Korea, India and Pakistan, and the modernization of nuclear arsenals in the United States, Russia and China, scientists believe we are dangerously close to disaster, NBC News reported.
“From almost every perspective, the risk of nuclear catastrophe is higher today than last year,” Bulletin’s science and security board member Steve Fetter told the outlet.
Climate change worries also gave scientists pause. Though global emissions significantly dropped in 2020 due to lockdowns, levels rebounded to record highs in 2021 and were higher still in 2022, NBC reported. (RELATED: ‘One Minute To Midnight’: Boris Johnson Compares Climate Change To A ‘Doomsday Clock’ That’s Almost Run Out)
Sivan Kartha, a senior scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute and a member of the Bulletin’s science and security board stated that while carbon emissions continue to be a problem, there is a ray of hope in the younger generation. “There’s a generation growing up now, a generation that will be our leaders in the future, that is fired up about climate change,” Kartha told NBC. “They’re concerned about it as a personal issue.”
The organization is hoping the clock’s symbolic march forward will be a wake-up call “for the whole of humanity,” the outlet reported.