Doomsday Clock is Just 100 Seconds Away from 'Midnight'. How Close Are we to an Apocalypse?

·3-min read

The "Doomsday Clock", which illustrates the threats facing the planet and mankind, is closest to midnight this year with a gap of 100 seconds. This timing comes amid the threats of the coronavirus pandemic, nuclear war and climate change. The clock as such is keeping the same time that it had in 2020.

"The hands of the Doomsday Clock remain at 100 seconds to midnight, as close to midnight as ever," Rachel Bronson, president of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said in a statement. Bronson called out the lack of faith in in science and overall lack of preparedness for the coronavirus pandemic.

"The lethal and fear-inspiring Covid-19 pandemic serves as a historic 'wake-up call,' a vivid illustration that national governments and international organizations are unprepared to manage the truly civilization-ending threats of nuclear weapons and climate change," Bronson said.

Last year, the clock moved to 100 seconds from two minutes to midnight, in what was being seen as a pessimistic push.

But what is a Doomsday Clock and what happens when the clock strikes midnight? Here is a brief explainer on how the clock came into being and what it predicts.

The clock was developed by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947. This non-profit group was founded by Albert Einstein and students from the University of Chicago in 1945.

The board members include 13 Nobel laureates.

The 'Doomsday Clock' is a visual depiction of how close (or vulnerable) the Earth is to a catastrophe, like a nuclear accident or the perils of climate change. The clock moved to 100 seconds to midnight in January of last year, the closest to midnight it has been in its history.

It was originally set at seven minutes to midnight. The furthest it has ever been from midnight is 17 minutes, following the end of the Cold War in 1991.

But has the clock always been inching towards the "apocalypse" with no possibility of a reversal? Even tough, the clock has essentially been moving toward doom in the last 10 years, there is hope. When it was first launched in 1947, it was set to seven minutes from midnight. But optimism and hope was the highest in the post-Cold War era when the clock was 17 minutes away from midnight.

Calls for eliminating nuclear weapons have been rising to reverse the clocks ticking toward the midnight of an apocalypse, the final doom.

The Bulletin members recommended that the United States and Russia extend the New START nuclear treaty and that the US return to the nuclear deal with Iran.

They also urged governments, technology giants and media organizations to cooperate on finding "practical and ethical ways to combat internet-enabled misinformation and disinformation."

Former California governor Jerry Brown, executive chair of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said it's "time to eliminate nuclear weapons, not build more of them. "Likewise, with climate change: the US, China and other big countries must get serious about cutting lethal carbon emissions -– now," Brown said.

Susan Solomon, professor of environmental studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said "the pandemic-related economic slowdown temporarily reduced the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming.

"But over the coming decade fossil fuel use needs to decline precipitously if the worst effects of climate change are to be avoided," Solomon said.

Former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said the Covid-19 pandemic "is a terrible warning against complacency in the face of global threats to all human life.

"It is only through collective action and responsible leadership that we can secure a peaceful and habitable planet for future generations," she said.