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The Doomsday Clock has been ticking for exactly 75 years. But it is not an ordinary watch.
Try to gauge how close humanity is to destroying the world.
On Tuesday, the clock went to 90 seconds to midnight, the closest to time there has ever been, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which created the clock in 1947. Midnight represents the time by which we will have made Earth uninhabitable for humanity. From 2020 to 2022, the clock was set at 100 seconds to midnight.
The clock is not designed to definitively measure existential threats, but rather to start conversations about difficult scientific topics like climate change, according to the Bulletin.
The decision to move the clock forward 10 seconds this year is largely due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the increased risk of nuclear escalation, the Bulletin said in a press release. The continuing threats posed by the climate crisis, as well as the collapse of the regulations and institutions necessary to reduce the risks associated with biological threats like Covid-19, also played a role.
“We live in a time of unprecedented danger, and Doomsday Clock reflects that reality,” said Rachel Bronson, Bulletin President and CEO, he said in the statement. “This is a decision our experts do not take lightly. The US government, its NATO allies, and Ukraine have a multitude of channels for dialogue; we urge leaders to explore them all to their fullest capacity to turn back the Clock.”
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was a group of atomic scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, the code name for the development of the atomic bomb during World War II.
It was originally intended to measure nuclear threats, but in 2007 the Bulletin made the decision to include climate change in its calculations.
Over the past three-quarters of a century, clock time has changed according to how close scientists believe the human race is to total destruction. Some years the weather changes, and some years it doesn’t.
The Doomsday Clock is set each year by experts on the Bulletin’s Science and Safety Council in consultation with its Board of Trustees, which includes 11 Nobel laureates.
Although the clock has been an effective wake-up call when it comes to reminding people of the cascading crises facing the planet, some have questioned the usefulness of the 75-year-old clock.
“It’s an imperfect metaphor,” Michael E. Mann, Presidential Distinguished Professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s department of earth and environmental sciences, told CNN in 2022, noting that the clock framing combines different types of risk that have different characteristics and occur on different time scales. Still, he adds, “it remains an important rhetorical device that reminds us, year after year, of the precariousness of our current existence on this planet.”
Each model has limitations, Eryn MacDonald, an analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program, told CNN in 2022, adding that the Bulletin has made thoughtful decisions each year about how to draw people’s attention to threats. existential and required action.
“While I wish we could go back to talking about minutes to midnight instead of seconds, unfortunately that no longer reflects reality,” he said.
The clock never struck midnight, and Bronson hopes it never does.
“When the clock strikes midnight, that means there has been some kind of nuclear exchange or catastrophic climate change that has wiped out humanity,” he said. “Us We never really want to get there and we won’t know when we do.”
The hour on the clock is not meant to measure threats, but rather to spark conversation and encourage public engagement on scientific issues like climate change and nuclear disarmament.
If the watch is capable of doing that, then Bronson sees it as a success.
When a new time is set on the clock, people listen, he said. At the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, UK, in 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson cited the Doomsday Clock when speaking about the climate crisis facing the world, Bronson noted.
Bronson said he hopes people will discuss whether they agree with the Bulletin’s decision and have fruitful conversations about what the driving forces for change are.
moving It is still possible to turn back the clock with bold and concrete actions. In fact, the hand moved the further from midnight, a whopping 17 minutes before the hour, in 1991, when the administration of President George HW Bush signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with the Soviet Union. In 2016, the clock read three minutes before midnight as a result of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord.
“We at the Bulletin believe that because humans created these threats, we can reduce them,” Bronson said. “But doing it is not easy, nor has it ever been. And it requires serious work and global commitment at all levels of society.”
Don’t underestimate the power of talking about these important issues with your peers, Bronson said.
“You may not feel it because you’re not doing anything, but we know that public participation moves (a) leader to do things,” he said.
To have a positive impact on climate change, look at your daily habits and see if there are small changes you can make in your life, like how often you walk instead of drive and how warm your home is, Bronson explained.
Eating seasonally and locally, reducing food waste, and recycling properly are other ways to help mitigate or deal with the effects of the climate crisis.