THE Doomsday Clock warns the public about how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own making.
Today (January 27), at 3pm, the clock will be revised for 2021's apocalyptic forecast.
What is the Doomsday Clock?
The symbolic Doomsday Clock was created by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists as an indicator of the world’s susceptibility to apocalypse.
It was devised in 1947 by the respected journal – with its clock face signifying the likelihood of man-made global annihilation.
The clock is a metaphor for threats to humanity from unchecked scientific and technical advances.
So, if the time is set closer to midnight, the closer the world is considered to be to catastrophe.
When the clock was created 74 years ago, the greatest danger to humanity came from nuclear weapons, in particular from the prospect that the US and the then Soviet Union were headed for a nuclear arms race.
Back then, the clock was set at seven minutes to midnight.
The Bulletin has reset the minute hand on the Doomsday Clock 24 times since its debut in 1947, most recently in 2020 when it was moved from two minutes to midnight to 100 seconds to midnight.
This year, Bulletin experts have written an open letter to new US President Joe Biden, warning "that an absolutely catastrophic US-Russian nuclear blunder is possible.
"Russia poses the most serious threat imaginable to the United States; it could launch – possibly by mistake or miscalculation – hundreds of nuclear missiles, with absolutely catastrophic consequences.
"We, of course, pose a similar threat to the Russians."
The decision to move (or to leave in place) the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock is made every year by the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board in consultation with sponsors, including 13 Nobel laureates.
"The clock has become a universally recognised indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and disruptive technologies in other domains," the Bulletin adds.
What is the current time on the Doomsday Clock?
In 2020, the Doomsday Clock was reset to 100 seconds to midnight.
"Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers – nuclear war and climate change – that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond.
"The international security situation is dire," explained the Bulletin.
Its experts added: "The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board today moves the Doomsday Clock 20 seconds closer to midnight – closer to apocalypse than ever.
"In so doing, board members are explicitly warning leaders and citizens around the world that the international security situation is now more dangerous than it has ever been, even at the height of the Cold War.
"Civilisation-ending nuclear war – whether started by design, blunder, or simple miscommunication – is a genuine possibility."
Who updates the Doomsday Clock?
The new time for 2021 will be revealed during a live conference hosted by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced it would host the international news conference at 10am EST/3pm GMT on Wednesday, January 27, 2021, to announce whether the minute hand of the iconic Doomsday Clock will be adjusted – or stay the same.
The Bulletin’s Science and Security Board meets twice a year to discuss world events and reset the clock as necessary.
The board is made up of scientists and other experts with deep knowledge of nuclear technology and climate science, who often provide expert advice to governments and international agencies.
What was the time in 2020?
Looking back over the last decade, the clock has consistently edged closer to midnight.
In 2020, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board moved the Doomsday Clock 100 seconds closer to midnight – closer to apocalypse than ever.
Its experts warned: "The world is sleepwalking its way through a newly unstable nuclear landscape.
"The arms control boundaries that have helped prevent nuclear catastrophe for the last half century are being steadily dismantled."
The movement of the clock to represent the threat level gauged for 2021 won't be known until 3pm (GMT) today.
The clock ticked over to two minutes before midnight in 1953, when the Soviet Union and US tested new hydrogen bombs within a few months of each other.
In 1981, its hand was moved forward, to rest at four minutes to midnight, with the Bulletin's experts explaining: "As the year 1980 drew to a close, the world seemed to be moving unevenly but inexorably closer to nuclear disaster.
"The clock must record this movement.
"The second phase of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with the Soviet Union appears to be out the window.
"Nuclear weapons-more and more unambiguously aimed at war-fighting rather than war deterrence-are now being rapidly deployed by the East and the West in Europe."
- 2020 – 100 seconds to midnight
- 2019 – still two minutes to midnight
- 2018 – two minutes to midnight
- 2017 – two-and-a-half minutes to midnight
- 2015 – three minutes to midnight
- 2012 – five minutes to midnight
- 2010 – six minutes to midnight
- 1998 – nine minutes to midnight
- 1995 – 14 minutes to midnight
Atomic scientists’ advice to US President Joe Biden over Russia threat
In an open letter to US President Joe Biden, the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board writes: "The United States must deal with Russia as it is, not as we wish it to be.
"This means engagement and diplomacy on the issue that threatens all of humanity.
"When there is trouble – like the recent massive intrusion into US government computer systems – the preferred US response is to punish Russia by curbing communication. This is a huge mistake.
"As with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Russia today is an essential partner in managing the global nuclear order, in spite of the hostile relations between our two countries.
"In this current state of dismal relations, dialogue is not a reward or an exercise of naivete; it is an imperative for survival.
"When things are bad – as they are now – is precisely the time to talk.
"Only you, Mr President, can make that happen."
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