The doomsday clock never so close to midnight, the hour of the end of time

It is 90 seconds to midnight and this means that humanity has never been so close to a planetary cataclysm: this is in any case what was announced on Tuesday, citing in particular the war in Ukraine, the group of scientists managing the doomsday clock, which watches not time but the end of time.

The “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists”, responsible for this symbolic project since 1947, unveiled its new schedule at a press conference in Washington, supposed to measure the imminence of a global catastrophe. It has been advanced by 10 seconds and now marks 90 seconds minus midnight, approaching midnight, the fateful hour that scientists hope will never be reached. This is a record since its creation. Since 2020, the clock was 100 seconds from midnight.

“We’re moving the clock forward, and it’s the closest it’s ever been to midnight,” the band said as they unveiled the new schedule. “Russia’s thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that an escalation of conflict – accidentally, deliberately or by mistake – is a terrible risk. The possibility that the conflict could spiral out of control remains high,” he warned.

Climate crisis

“We live in a time of unprecedented danger, and the doomsday clock represents that reality,” said Rachel Bronson, president of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Bringing the schedule forward “is a decision that our experts do not take lightly. The US government, its NATO allies and Ukraine have a multitude of channels for dialogue at their disposal; we urge leaders to do their utmost to review them all in order to turn back the clock,” she added. This is why the statement of the group of experts is available in English, Russian and Ukrainian, a first, she said.

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In addition to the war in Ukraine and the nuclear danger, the scientists took into account “the continuing threats posed by the climate crisis” as well as the fact that “devastating events, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, can no longer be considered as rare occurrences that only happen once every hundred years”. The panel also discussed misinformation and surveillance technologies.

“Like a doctor”

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017, saw the ad as a wake-up call that should not be dismissed out of hand and called for “urgent action to avert a nuclear catastrophe.

But the news was also greeted, on Twitter for example, by some skeptical comments, questioning the usefulness of the doomsday clock or its reliability. “We don’t predict the future,” the expert group said on its site, anticipating criticism.

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The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists “is a bit like a doctor making a diagnosis. We look at data like doctors look at lab tests and x-rays, and we also take into account harder-to-quantify factors like doctors do when talking with patients and family members.” “Then we arrive at a judgment that summarizes what could happen if leaders and citizens do not act to cure the diseases,” explain the scientists.

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The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein and scientists who worked on the “Manhattan” project, which produced the first atomic bomb. Originally, after the Second World War, the clock showed midnight minus 7 minutes. In 1991, at the end of the Cold War, it had dropped to 17 minutes before midnight. In 1953, as well as in 2018 and 2019, it displayed midnight minus 2.

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