By Marc Ramsingh

What is the Doomsday Clock?

In 1947 the Chicago Atomic Scientists, who previously worked on The Manhattan Project, created a measurement to show how close humanity was to destruction. This instrument is known as the “Doomsday Clock” and was initially set to seven minutes to midnight.

The Doomsday Clock is designed to be an estimate of roughly when the world will experience its “doom” based on factors such as climate change, geopolitical events, and technological advancements. Originally, the clock only measured the threat of nuclear annihilation; that changed in 2007 to include more factors as a state of humanity’s status as a whole.

The clock is meant to change year over year in the direction that the Bulletins board members believe humanity is headed — adding or subtracting a few seconds to a few minutes. Midnight on the clock is meant to represent a major negative event on a worldwide scale the world has not seen as of yet. The Doomsday Clock has never reached midnight, and for it to reach would require humanity to experience factors such as a nuclear war or a major global climate event.

Has its movement meant anything before?

The Doomsday Clock is currently set to ninety seconds before midnight, the closest the clock has ever been. One of the biggest factors today that set the clock where it currently stands includes the ongoing Russo-Ukraine war, which affects the world via geopolitical turmoil, economic sanctions, and grain shortages coming from the region.

“This would eliminate mutual inspections, deepen mistrust, spur a nuclear arms race, and heighten the possibility of a nuclear exchange.” The dangerous slope of military escalation between world powers is the biggest threat to humanity as this conflict evolves. On top of this pressing issue, the clock moves closer to the worsening effects of climate change.

In the past, we’ve seen a vast change in how the Doomsday Clock operators view the world since 1947. It was set to three minutes to midnight as a warning at the start of the famous arms race between the United States and the USSR. The Clock’s board was afraid of the nuclear threat early on, and with the advent of the Hydrogen bomb in 1953 it was moved to two minutes closer to midnight.

The Clock moved away from midnight first in 1960 when it was set to 7 minutes to midnight as a result of diplomatic actions by the United States, the USSR, and world nuclear powers. By the time the Cold War was over, the Clock was at 17 minutes to midnight.

What does its movement mean to me now?

The Doomsday Clock’s movement should mean something to you: it emphasizes to the population that if humanity doesn’t take care of and handle our affairs properly we can truly hurt our world. The Doomsday Clock is, in some ways, meant to be a metaphor for using time as a gauge of how long humanity has left given its current state. The Clock operators are holding a mirror in front of us hoping that we reflect on ourselves and correct our ways, leaving the world and our way of life better than we found it.

The Clock wants the citizens of the world and their respective countries to hold their leaders accountable, making decisions that are needed to repair climate change, de-escalate nuclear threats, and send diplomats instead of soldiers. Only in doing those will we add seconds to the Doomsday Clock.

Photo Courtesy // Anna Moneymaker, Getty Images //