The world’s apocalypse index, the Doomsday Clock, has for the first time since 1953 indicated that the world is on the brink of global disaster, with it now set at two and a half minutes to midnight.
Originally created in 1947, the clock’s time is regulated by a panel of scientists and scholars who make up the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and at the beginning of every year, they alter the time based off of current world events and the geopolitical climate.
When it was created, the organization believed the apocalypse would come in the form of a nuclear war, but has since evolved to include other treats such as climate change, cyber-terrorism and biological weapons. The independent non-profit group meet every year and analyse and discuss the issues affecting the world and make a decision as to how close humanity could tilt into a potential apocalypse.
For the past two years, the clock’s time had stayed steady at three minutes to midnight, but, as the experts unveiled this week, the time had been moved up to one of its’ highest points yet. The Doomsday Clock has only struck two minutes to midnight once in 1953 when both the United States and the Soviet Union were still testing the power of hydrogen bombs and nuclear technology. So what exactly could have affected the panel so much?
During its’ news conference, the Bulletin’s executive director, Rachel Bronson, explained the group’s decision, per NPR:
“Over the course of 2016, the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change … This already-threatening world situation was the backdrop for a rise in strident nationalism worldwide in 2016, including in a U.S. presidential campaign during which the eventual victor, Donald Trump, made disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.”
The Doomsday Clock has often times been an accurate tell-tale of the current standing of world politics, with events such as Partial Test Ban Treaty (1963), the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (1970) and the end of the Cold War (1991) all affecting the clock in its own way. Historically speaking, the relations between the United States and the Soviet Union were often the main catalyst in the decision to change the time on the clock, but, as physicist Lawrence Krauss point out, both countries were at the forefront of the Atomic Scientists’ discussions: