Leaders at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (a journal) last week moved the minute hand of their virtual Doomsday Clock to three minutes before midnight, symbolizing how very close the world is to disaster. Especially citing unchecked climate change and nuclear weapons modernization as the biggest threats to humanity’s future, the group said, “world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe.”
The last time that the Doomsday Clock was moved this close to midnight was in 1984 when relations between the two nuclear superpowers, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, were at a low point. Then in 1991, by which time relations between the superpowers had improved, the hands of the Doomsday Clock moved to 17 minutes from midnight. Since then, unfortunately, the clock has been moved closer and closer to zero hour.
Explaining why they are now resetting the Doomsday Clock from 5 minutes before midnight to three, the Bulletin’s science and security board said that “stunning governmental failures have imperiled civilization on a global scale.” Richard Somerville, a world-renowned expert on climate change (whose ideas were discussed in the preceding post on this blog), is a member of that board. He and colleagues urged citizens to “demand action from their leaders.”
The Doomsday Clock is a symbol that presumably can be easily understood by ordinary citizens and policymakers alike. But the Doomsday Clock image, which has been in use since 1947, is probably not as familiar to many people as it should be.
The Bulletin‘s timeline for the Doomsday Clock can be found online.