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We are Two Minutes Closer to Doomsday. Why and What Does This Mean?


By Brittany Da Silva


It’s official. We are two minutes to midnight. On January 25, 2018, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that they had moved the Doomsday Clock ahead by 30 seconds. So, what does this mean?


The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947 – during the Cold War – as a means to predict the likelihood of a global catastrophe caused by human beings. In its inception, “midnight” on the clock represented threats such as war and nuclear weaponry. With the end of World War II, as well as the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki fresh on everyone’s mind, these were deemed the biggest global threats to human survival. The clock was set at seven minutes to midnight in 1947 and has been adjusted 22 times in the years that followed.


The scientists from The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reevaluate and decide what “midnight” and global catastrophe really means each time they consider altering the Doomsday Clock. In modern times, politics, energy, weapons, diplomacy, and climate science are all taken into account. Potential threats may include nuclear threats, climate change, bioterrorism, and artificial intelligence. Members discuss how close they believe humanity is to the end of civilization and adjust the clock’s hands forward or backward, respectively.


At two minutes to midnight, this is the closest that we’ve come to global catastrophe since 1953, when the United States and the Soviet Union decided to begin developing and testing hydrogen bombs. The hydrogen bomb was proven to be a weapon more powerful than any atomic bomb ever created. So why are we so close to midnight in 2018?


The Doomsday Clock sat at three minutes to midnight in 2015, due to unchecked climate change, advancements in global nuclear weapons technology, and the overall failure of international leaders to ensure the health and vitality of human civilization. In 2016, it stayed the same. Scientists warned world leaders that they needed to take action, as the probability of global catastrophe remained high. In 2017, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists decided to move the Doomsday Clock ahead to two and a half minutes to midnight, as their previous call for action had fallen on deaf ears and had only become more urgent.


Now we’re in 2018, with the clock inching its way closer to midnight. With no effective response from world leaders in the past, threats like nuclear war and climate change have created a world just as dangerous as it had been post-World War II. These scientists believe that even to call the world nuclear situation dire is an understatement. Countries like North Korea, the United States, Russia, China, Pakistan, India, and Iran are not only at odds with each other, but are also making progress in their nuclear programs and building up their arsenals of nuclear weapons.


So, where do we go from here? Our world leaders absolutely must respond to these threats. Cross-country tensions cannot get resolved without their input and expertise. Once the threat of imminent war has been reduced, these leaders can take a hard look on what we all need to do to decrease our greenhouse gas emissions and how technological and informational changes are affecting the weapons industry as a whole.

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