The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has announced that the Doomsday Clock will be kept at 90 seconds to midnight for a second year – which is still the closest to "Doomsday" it's ever been. Since its inception in the late 1940s, the clock has been a symbol to reflect the state of the world and our proximity to midnight or "Doomsday" signifying the annihilation of our species - and it has been ticking forward dramatically in the last few years.
“Make no mistake: resetting the Clock at 90 seconds to midnight is not an indication that the world is stable. Quite the opposite,” said Rachel Bronson, PhD, president and CEO of the Bulletin, in a statement. “It’s urgent for governments and communities around the world to act. And the Bulletin remains hopeful—and inspired—in seeing the younger generations leading the charge.”
This year's announcement is not a surprise. A lack of commitment to tackling the unfolding climate crisis resulting in 2023 being the hottest year record and working to build preparedness for the next pandemic are still global issues. There are unfolding humanitarian crises across the world while military conflicts continue too with the Russian war in Ukraine about to enter its third year. The last few months have also seen the Israeli invasion of Gaza following the Hamas attack of October 7 that so far has resulted in the death of over 25,000 Palestinian civilians and a daily death rate exceeding any other 21st-century conflict.
The Bulletin also listed the deterioration of agreements to reduce nuclear weapons and the threat of biological weapons as a major threat, as well as the continued spread of misinformation on the internet, stoked by politicians, media, and pundits. The unregulated development of cyber technologies that might exacerbate the problem adds to the current concern about the future of humanity.
Why Does The Doomsday Clock Move?
The clock is moved based on the opinions and expertise of the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Since 1947, the Doomsday Clock has represented the ability of human-made threats to lead to our extinction. It's not surprising it was established at the dawn of the Cold War, when the US and the USSR raced to build as many nuclear weapons as possible.
An atomic war today, as then, would certainly spell doom; even a relatively small conflict fought with nuclear weapons could kill tens of millions in just a few hours. Following such a war, it's estimated that 5 billion people would die from the subsequent famine.
In 1947, the clock was initially set at 7 minutes to midnight. The furthest from midnight it has ever been set was in 1991, following the easing of tensions between the former Soviet Union and the United States, the reunification of Germany, and the signing of the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. It was set at 11:43 pm – 17 minutes to midnight.
So, what are the criteria the Bulletin members must ask themselves to make their decisions? They must answer just two questions: is humanity safer than last year, and is humanity safer than it has been over the last 76 years from human-made threats?
It has been set at less than two minutes to midnight for the last several years, reaching the 90-second mark for the first time last year. This year, the clock – and the threat – stays the same.
“For decades, scientists have been warning us of the dangers facing humankind,” Bill Nye, who participated in the 2024 Doomsday Clock announcement, said. “We could be facing catastrophe unless we better manage the technologies we’ve created. It’s time to act.”