The Doomsday Clock has rung in 2017, and it is two-and-a-half minutes to midnight.
The symbolic timepiece – where midnight represents our species’ destruction through a global catastrophe – has been ticking since 1947. This year, for the first time, the clock was moved forwards 30 seconds rather than back or forwards in minutes.
The reasons cited for its advancement from 2016’s time of 23:57 are painfully obvious to anyone that’s even briefly taken a glance at the news. The rise of nationalism, particularly in Europe and the US, is singled out, as is almost every aspect of the Trumpocalypse we now face ourselves with.
From his nuclear arms race sabre rattling with an increasingly aggressive Russia to his administration’s profound rejection of the science of climate change, it’s clear that the new President of the United States had a huge influence over the decision to move the clock closer to midnight.
“In the wake of the landmark Paris climate accord, the nations of the world have taken some actions to combat climate change, and global carbon dioxide emissions were essentially flat in 2016, compared to the previous year,” the official statement reads. “Still, they have not yet started to decrease; it is two and a half minutes to midnight the world continues to warm.”
“This already-threatening world situation was the backdrop for a rise in strident nationalism worldwide in 2016, including in a US presidential campaign during which the eventual victor, Donald Trump, made disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.”
Set up by the members of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in response to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the Doomsday Clock has recently come to take into account other threats – notably, climate change, which officially was taken into consideration in 2007.
Since it began, the furthest it has been from midnight was in 1991, just as the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union collapsed, and the Cold War came to an end. Back then, it was a full 17 minutes away.
The chronology of the Doomsday Clock. Fastfission/Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain
The closest it has ever been was back in 1953, when an uprising in occupied East Germany was crushed by Russian troops, and nuclear weapons were being manufactured – and tested – by world powers at a breakneck speed. Back then, it was two minutes to midnight.
As a point of comparison, we are closer to midnight now than we were back in 1984, when the nuclear arms race picked up speed, US cruise missiles were deployed in Europe, Russian forces had invaded Afghanistan (whose rebel fighters were ultimately funded by the US), and Reagan had recently declared the Soviet Union to be an “evil empire”.