The Doomsday Clock is now closer to midnight than ever.
Symbolizing the likelihood of a man-made global disaster, the metaphorical clock has been moved forward—from two minutes to 100 seconds.
“We are now expressing how close the world is to catastrophe in seconds—not hours, or even minutes,” Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of timekeeping body the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said in a statement.
Originally fixed at seven minutes to midnight in 1947, the timepiece has been set backward (as far as 17 minutes in 1991) and forward a total 23 times—three of which occurred in the last four years.
Adjusted in 2017 from three minutes to two-and-a-half, it was again set forward 30 seconds in 2018. The clock did not move in the final year of the decade.
At the start of a new one, however, we continue to face two “existential dangers”—nuclear war and climate change. Compounded, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, by cyber-enabled information warfare.
“We now face a true emergency,” Bronson warned, describing “an absolutely unacceptable state of world affairs that has eliminated any margin for error or further delay.”
This is nothing new: Everyone from teen activists to world leaders have been cautioning us to make changes, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, raise barriers to nuclear war, and save our planet from extinction.
Sure, things look bleak, and it’s really hard to give up red meat. But all hope is not lost—yet.
Among its end-times admonition, the Bulletin of the Atomic Sciences’ statement does identify possible steps to turn back the hands of the Doomsday Clock.
That includes a return to the negotiating table to take action against “unnecessary” arms races, reduce nuclear arms, and start talks on cyber warfare. Countries are also urged to publicly rededicate themselves to the “well-below 2 °C” temperature goal of the Paris climate agreement and boost their pledges to curb emissions.
“We ask world leaders to join us in 2020 as we work to pull humanity back from the brink,” The Elders chair Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said. “The Doomsday Clock now stands at 100 seconds to midnight, the most dangerous situation that humanity has ever faced. Now is the time to come together—to unite and to act.”
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