Assessed in January of each year, the Doomsday Clock is a symbol representation of the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe.
Maintained since 1947 by the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Clock is considered a measure for threats to humanity from unchecked scientific and technical advances. The Clock represents the hypothetical global catastrophe as “midnight.” The Bulletin‘s opinion on how close the world is to a global catastrophe as a number of minutes to midnight. The main factors influencing the Clock are nuclear risk and global warming (climate change). The Bulletin‘s Science and Security Board also monitors new developments in the life sciences and technology that could inflict irrevocable harm to humanity.
The current setting is 100 seconds to midnight, much higher than the periods when the U.S. and Soviet Union faced nuclear annihilation.
Genetic engineering and synthetic biology technologies are now increasingly affordable, readily available, and spreading rapidly. Globally,
governments and companies are collecting vast amounts of health-related data, including genomic data, ostensibly for the purpose of improving
healthcare and increasing profits. But the same data could also be useful in developing highly effective biological weapons, and disagreements
regarding verification of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention continue to place the world at risk.
Recent changes to the Doomsday Clock:
2012 IT IS 5 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT
“The challenges to rid the world of nuclear weapons, harness nuclear power, and meet the nearly inexorable climate disruptions from
global warming are complex and interconnected. In the face of such complex problems, it is difficult to see where the capacity lies to address
these challenges.” Political processes seem wholly inadequate; the potential for nuclear weapons use in regional conflicts in the Middle East, Northeast
Asia, and South Asia are alarming; safer nuclear reactor designs need to be developed and built, and more stringent oversight, training, and attention are needed to prevent future disasters; the pace of technological solutions to address climate change may not be adequate to meet the hardships that large-scale disruption of the climate portends.
2010 IT IS 6 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT
International cooperation rules the day. Talks between Washington and Moscow for a follow-on agreement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty are nearly complete, and more negotiations for further reductions in the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenal are already planned. Additionally, Barack Obama becomes the first U.S. president to publicly call for a nuclear weapon free world. The dangers posed by climate change are still great, but there are pockets of progress. Most notably: At Copenhagen, the developing
and industrialized countries agree to take responsibility for carbon emissions and to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.
2007 IT IS 5 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT
The world stands at the brink of a second nuclear age. The United States and Russia remain ready to stage a nuclear attack within minutes, North Korea conducts a nuclear test, and many in the international community worry that Iran plans to acquire the Bomb. Climate change also presents a dire challenge to humanity. Damage to ecosystems is already taking place;
flooding, destructive storms, increased drought, and polar ice melt are causing loss of life and property.
2002 IT IS 7 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT
Concerns regarding a nuclear terrorist attack underscore the enormous amount of unsecured—and sometimes unaccounted for—weapon-grade nuclear materials located throughout the world. Meanwhile, the United
States expresses a desire to design new nuclear weapons, with an emphasis on those able to destroy hardened and deeply buried targets. It also rejects a series of arms control treaties and announces it will withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
1998 IT IS 9 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT
India and Pakistan stage nuclear weapons tests only three weeks apart. “The tests are a symptom of the failure of the international community to fully commit itself to control the spread of nuclear weapons—and to work toward substantial reductions in the numbers of these weapons,” a dismayed Bulletin reports. Russia and the United States continue to serve as poor examples to the rest of the world. Together, they still maintain 7,000 warheads ready to fire at each other within 15 minutes.
1995 IT IS 14 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT
Hopes for a large post-Cold War peace dividend and a renouncing of nuclear weapons fade. Particularly in the United States, hard-liners seem reluctant to soften their rhetoric or actions, as they claim that a resurgent Russia could provide as much of a threat as the Soviet Union. Such talk slows the rollback in global nuclear forces; more than 40,000 nuclear weapons remain worldwide. There is also concern that terrorists could exploit poorly secured nuclear facilities in the former Soviet Union.