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Doomsday Clock nears midnight second year in a row, closest to global catastrophe since 1947

Doomsday Clock nears midnight second year in a row, closest to global catastrophe since 1947 Doomsday Clock (Getty Images)

A well-known clock called the Doomsday Clock shows that humanity is only 90 seconds away from a global catastrophe for the second year in a row. It is the closest point to the apocalypse since the clock was started in 1947, according to AP News.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a group that created the concept to alert humanity about the danger of nuclear weapons, announces every year how close we are to the apocalypse. This year they listed the potential threats: Russia's war against Ukraine, an attack in Israel on October 7, the climate change issue, and the risks of super-smart AI computers.

“Last year, we expressed amplified concern by moving the clock to 90 seconds to midnight, the closest to global catastrophe it has ever been,” says the leader of the group Rachel Bronson. “The risks from last year continue with unabated veracity and continue to shape this year.”

The group believes that if leaders and countries work together, they can turn back the clock. They specifically mentioned powerful countries like the United States, China, and Russia as the ones who can make a difference.

Doomsday Clock

In 1947, the Doomsday Clock idea started with a group of scientists called the Atomic Scientists of Chicago. The founding members were scientists who created or contributed to making the first atomic bombs as part of the American Manhattan Project, including physicists Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer. Their goal was to enlighten the public about the potential outcomes of nuclear energy.

In 1949, the Doomsday Clock was set to three minutes to midnight for the first time because the Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb, starting a nuclear arms race with the U.S. In 1953, after the U.S. and the Soviet Union tested even more powerful hydrogen bombs, the clock was moved to two minutes to midnight.

The closest the clock came to midnight since 1947 was in January 2023, when it was set to 90 seconds to midnight. It was a response to concerns about Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine, including threats to use nuclear weapons. Nowadays things are changing rapidly around the world, so the countdown is in seconds instead of minutes.

Sometimes, the Doomsday Clock has been set back from midnight when the world seemed less dangerous. In 1960, it was moved back to seven minutes to midnight because negotiations were taking place to stop nuclear testing. In 1963, it went back even further, to 12 minutes to midnight, after the U.S., the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom signed a treaty to ban nuclear testing in certain environments.

In 1991, the clock was set to its safest point, 17 minutes to midnight, after the U.S. and the Soviet Union agreed to reduce their nuclear weapons.