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Doomsday Clock is now 100 seconds from midnight

The glare of an exploded nuclear bomb rises over a city.
Tick, tick, tick.
(Image: © Shutterstock)

Humanity's headlong dash toward our own destruction is marked in minutes and seconds in the ticking of the hypothetical Doomsday Clock. How close we are to destroying ourselves registers in the nearness of the clock's hands to midnight — the hour of absolute extinction.

In 2019, the clock's "timekeepers" with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) fixed the hands at 2 minutes to midnight; that time, set in 2018, is the closest the clock's hands have come to doomsday since 1953, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union detonated the first hydrogen bombs.

And now the fictional clock ticks forward; its hands rest at 100 seconds to midnight, BAS President and CEO Rachel Bronson announced today (Jan. 23) in Washington, D.C. This new time indicates that humanity has entered "into a realm of a two-minute warning," in which every precious second will count if we want to forestall global catastrophe, Bronson said.

"Danger is high, and the margin for error is low," she said.

Related: Doomsdays: Top 9 Real Ways the World Could End

When the Doomsday Clock was introduced in 1947, the primary threat to humanity was nuclear weapons. That threat still exists today, but it has company: catastrophic climate change and disruptive technologies are also considered by BAS in their assessment of whether humanity is safer or more at risk than we were the year before. 

In 2019, nuclear and climate conditions continued to deteriorate, and decisions by global leaders not only failed to reduce the damage — they made dangerous situations worse. 

"Over the last two years, we have seen influential leaders denigrate and discard the most effective methods for addressing complex threats," Bronson said. Prior nuclear treaties are crumbling, new agreements between the U.S. and Russia are no closer than they were a year ago, and negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea regarding nuclear weapons reduction have been abandoned, according to Bronson.

The shadow of nuclear war also hovers over the Middle East; since 2018, when President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from a nuclear deal with Iran, tensions between the two nations have simmered. They finally erupted when a U.S. strike killed Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 3. Days later, Iran threatened withdrawal from the nuclear deal, and Trump proposed that the deal's other signatories — Germany, France and the United Kingdom — should also abandon the deal, though they have not done so, Business Insider reported.

While the Doomsday Clock was set in November, prior to the U.S. actions against Iran, the events of recent weeks only confirm the board's assessment months earlier: "that we are rapidly losing our bearings in a nuclear weapons landscape that may expand beyond our recognition," Bronson said.

The hands of the Doomsday Clock now stand at 100 seconds to midnight.

The hands of the Doomsday Clock now stand at 100 seconds to midnight. (Image credit: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)

Disruptive technologies

The development of artificial intelligence (AI) for use in weapons "that make kill decisions," and its use in military control and command systems is another new cause for concern, said Robert Latiff, a retired U.S. Air Force major general and an adjunct faculty member with the John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. 

Even space has become "a new arena for weapons development" with the announcement of the U.S. Space Force, a new division of the U.S. armed forces that includes "preparing for space combat" as one of its primary goals, according to Latiff.

Equally troubling is the growing deluge of "fake news" (and its support by prominent politicians) and the rise of "deepfake" footage — digitally manipulated video that is increasingly difficult to distinguish from the real thing. By blurring the lines between truth and fiction, these technologies disrupt information and trust, introducing "a dangerous global instability," Latiff said. 

Heat waves, ice loss, fires

2019 also brought alarming new evidence of climate change's momentum, and demonstrated its destructive power. In fact, humanity's disruption of climate on land and in the oceans is "unprecedented," according to a report released in September 2019 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body that evaluates the impacts of climate change.

Globally, the year was the second hottest since record keeping began in 1880, and the past decade was the warmest on record, NASA reported earlier this month. July 2019 smashed records as the hottest month ever recorded on Earth, after a sweltering heat wave baked countries across Europe and then flowed over Greenland, where it melted 217 billion tons (197 billion metric tons) of ice.

Ocean temperatures are warmer than they've been at any point in human history, and they're heating up at an accelerating rate. The world's thickest mountain glacier is retreating, the Sahara Desert expanded by about 10%, and the Arctic's most stable sea ice is disappearing. 

Severe drought in Australia, also linked to climate change, fueled devastating brushfires that blazed across the continent over recent months. The flames destroyed thousands of homes, damaged fragile ecosystems and killed an estimated 1.25 billion animals, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

And in a report published in August 2019 in the journal Science, scientists warned that rising sea levels, extreme weather events and other disasters such as famines and fires caused by climate change could soon make coastal cities uninhabitable, displacing up to 1 billion people.

"The state of the world does, indeed, demand an emergency response," Sivan Kartha, a senior scientist at the Stockholm Environmental Institute in Sweden, said at the BAS announcement. 

Though years have passed since the historic Paris Agreement, a global compact to reduce fossil fuel emissions, was signed in 2016, "we're far off course" from achieving its goals, Kartha said. However, recent surges in climate activism — despite politicians' inaction and widespread disinformation campaigns that discredit climate science — suggest that the public finds the climate emergency too dire to ignore, he added.

"An environment of misery"

While the Doomsday Clock marks the stroke of midnight as the hour of humanity's annihilation, in reality, the multiple threats of nuclear weapons, climate change, pandemics and weaponized technology will more likely ring in an apocalypse that "probably won’t be quick or final," futurist and author Jamais Cascio wrote in October 2019 for the journal BAS.

"It will be an environment of misery, not an event or an end point," Cascio wrote. "Although worst-case scenarios theoretically make it easier to prevent dire outcomes, in the case of slow-moving apocalypses such as climate change, it’s difficult for humans to envision the scale of the problem and to imagine how we will actually experience it," he explained.

Nevertheless, however large the threat of annihilation looms, that doesn't mean all hope is gone, Cascio added.

"If we can’t stop the disaster, perhaps we can minimize the harm," Cascio said. "Most important, acknowledging the sheer resilience of humanity might be the kick needed to keep fighting, even when things look lost."

Originally published on Live Science.

  • Blushark
    It is sad how far mainstream science has fallen, resorting to meaningless gestures and game-show props to hype pseudo-scientific hoaxes and Chicken Little "the sky is falling" nonsense. Hitching your wagon to brainwashed dupes like Greta Thunberg and grifters like Al Gore is the furthest thing from real science that you can get.
    Reply
  • Conrad
    Quite obviously the warming is correlated to the chemical composition of the atmospheric dispersal of particulate matter that has been called "geo engineering " that has been taking place since the 1960s as has been seen with the patents lists taken out in 1980s- 2012 in the fcc lists of the United states by their military. Correlation of these materials dumped to the atmospheric effects that follow have been seen by millions of people and commented regularly at much denial but when articles applied the term "geo engineering " to the same methodology and patents usages of the types of things seen in the sky around the world combined with new 5g technologies that implement the required radiowave usage of the HAARP stations we must consider that the possibility doesnt just exist that it's a now capable and utilized and rather EFFECTIVE means of controlling ckimate change. Especially when they are laying groundwork for things such as a climate change "movement" galvanized by fear and deception at the hands of whomever is at the control of such a technology. Whats also considerably the more frightening thing to consider is the scientific misleading of a population when carbon in the atmosphere is what proliferates green plant vegetation growth and taking that OUT of the cycle will continue to worsen the lessening if oxygen production as a result. What my suggestion is find the CAUSE of the problem instead of masking it under a chemical reaction of carbon and sunlight when its more possible the new 5G radiation combined woth the fine particles of heavy metals dispersed by planes in their geoengineering having the effect of excitation of those particles ... essentially ionizing the atmosphere and causing upward heating/cooling as a result.

    This is what they dont want you to know...
    Your Government manages your atmosphere with those 5g towers. Hemce their control of the narritive and the lack of information available about the 5g towers installed every 100 meters that they never asked public permission to install. And that using these towers they control the weather the information present and the people that are involved cannot disclose the information due to fear of reprisal . As for the narrative the media are vastly invested in keeping control of your concepts of what is and what isnt real. Testing things for yourself finds these answers. And anyone whom actually tests these concepts finds themselves targeted by those whom work towards stopping this information from becoming public.
    Kinda like propaganda utilized to control nations like in ww2 ...aint it.
    Reply
  • werk71
    my grandfather was a freemason, i lived with him, he was a engineer on atom bombs and reactors. the freemasons were drinking in the basement when i was a kid, we talked about the ice caps. led to how thick they were and i said whats going to happen to them, all of them told me its the end of the ice age dummy, the earth is going to flood back to its normal state and look like it was when dinosaurs roamed the planet. general education does not tell you this, i had to hear it from the most brilliant scientist on the earth. 12000 years ago was the beginning of it melting but not the end.
    Reply
  • dk72
    Blushark said:
    It is sad how far mainstream science has fallen, resorting to meaningless gestures and game-show props to hype pseudo-scientific hoaxes and Chicken Little "the sky is falling" nonsense. Hitching your wagon to brainwashed dupes like Greta Thunberg and grifters like Al Gore is the furthest thing from real science that you can get.
    What a ridiculous comment. Pretending that climate change is some new, non-scientific concept or "hoax" per the staunchest denialists, is laughable. The science behind the conclusions on climate change was solid long before Al Gore was even known by anyone, and before climate change was a household concept. The science is strong and sound, the problem is people like you turned it into a political issue because you didn't like the idea of dealing with the consequences.
    Reply
  • werk71
    dk72 said:
    What a ridiculous comment. Pretending that climate change is some new, non-scientific concept or "hoax" per the staunchest denialists, is laughable. The science behind the conclusions on climate change was solid long before Al Gore was even known by anyone, and before climate change was a household concept. The science is strong and sound, the problem is people like you turned it into a political issue because you didn't like the idea of dealing with the consequences.
    i told you the truth, the ice caps are left over from a cataclysm and will melt even if the planet has no life. humans might accelerate it but its for sure a happening before our civilization wrote on paper.
    Reply
  • wourm
    Blushark said:
    It is sad how far mainstream science has fallen, resorting to meaningless gestures and game-show props to hype pseudo-scientific hoaxes and Chicken Little "the sky is falling" nonsense. Hitching your wagon to brainwashed dupes like Greta Thunberg and grifters like Al Gore is the furthest thing from real science that you can get.
    Your hypothesis is that "mainstream science" has fallen. Please show your evidence to prove it. While you're at it, please define "mainstream science" and what you mean by "fallen".

    Greta Thunberg and Al Gore have read the science. They've seen the evidence. They are responding to the conclusions of scientists who study the climate, conclusions based on analysis of the data. This is science.

    Your opinion calling them "brainwashed" and climate change warnings "nonsense" is just that, your opinion. Without evidence to back it up, without an analysis of data, without a consensus conclusion your opinion is, "...the furthest thing from real science that you can get."
    Reply
  • dk72
    wourm said:
    Your hypothesis is that "mainstream science" has fallen. Please show your evidence to prove it. While you're at it, please define "mainstream science" and what you mean by "fallen".

    Greta Thunberg and Al Gore have read the science. They've seen the evidence. They are responding to the conclusions of scientists who study the climate, conclusions based on analysis of the data. This is science.

    Your opinion calling them "brainwashed" and climate change warnings "nonsense" is just that, your opinion. Without evidence to back it up, without an analysis of data, without a consensus conclusion your opinion is, "...the furthest thing from real science that you can get."
    Exactly. It's ironic that they refer to those who may not be scientists, but are proponents of what the actual scientists are saying and concluding, as "brainwashed"....while taking a stance of science denialism because they don't like what the science clearly shows.
    Reply
  • Kelvarolvar
    Reading these comments makes me question whether or not we deserve to go extinct.
    Reply
  • Urquiola
    admin said:
    A hypothetical timepiece called the Doomsday Clock measures our nearness to armageddon — by nuclear weapons, climate change and other global threats.

    Doomsday Clock is now 100 seconds from midnight : Read more
    I come in anger every time I hear about guys counting the seconds to a 'Nuclear Holocaust', impossible, see comments in SciAm by Asteroidminer to the thread: 'Will we ever come to the grips with nuclear weapons? Even in the times of highest number of nuclear warheads, detonation of it all simultaneously would have been less than 1 in 10'000 of total needed to annihilate life on Earth, thus, somebody wants to live with luxury and have a herd of followers by crying Wolf!, where no animals exist, this is an oax, anxiety inducing, a criminal offense.
    The consequences of Global Warming, already showing, are much worse, but both Donald Trump and Vlad Putin said this is a humbug, they are non-believers, negationists.
    Both Psychopaths and Stalinists have denial mechanisms, they don't believe in reality.
    Trump blames China for Greenhouse emissions, but about emissions, is better talking about emissions per inhabitant, not emissions per country. Check and compare!
    Poor of us! Gesund +
    Reply
  • 13Fox
    admin said:
    A hypothetical timepiece called the Doomsday Clock measures our nearness to armageddon — by nuclear weapons, climate change and other global threats.

    Doomsday Clock is now 100 seconds from midnight : Read more
    This is a good article as it relates to what should be addressed to avoid annihilation. However, 70 years on after 1947 no one would launch a nuclear war and expect to survive beyond launch day in 2020. Surely, whomever launches first strike nuclear acquisition, whether right, warranted or otherwise, becomes an instance public target worldwide. The odds of survivability for anyone who attempts first strike tactical nuclear attack is not even remotely possible. Lethal find public appearances would leave whoever it is acquired. There would be no place to hide in public ever again. Nuclear weapons beyond 1945 meant one thing only, defense. Any offensive nuclear strike in 2020 and beyond is lethal to anyone who launches such suicide. And it is absolutely just that. At least one billion grandmothers, some even with Alzheimer's disease, would insist on the death of whoever launches first strike. There would be a lot of no-nooky until the boys carried it out. Extremely unscientific, but you can believe it.

    And Global Warming/Climate Change? There is not a REAL scientist in the world that will argue that the climate hasn't been changing for 4.5 billion years and won't continue to change nor should it. It is not wise to enter a bated argument of climate scale with anyone who utilizes weather/climate data generated in a limited time scope post 1880. 90% of our Earth-time past climate and temperature has been cooler than today, and sometimes much cooler, however, 10% of our Earth-time past climate and temperature has been warmer, and sometimes much warmer than today. The real argument is one of good stewardship of our Earth. And rightly, corporations with good stewardship of our environment is a huge media advantage in the 21st century. More unforgiving in terms of Doomsday is our planet running out of oil, natural gas and coal that ends next century. For oil? There is 44 years of remaining Proved Oil Reserves on Earth. Probable Recoverable Reserves are also taken up in shear growth within a decade of this. 188 countries have less oil than the U.S. consumes in one year. 147 countries have less oil than the U.S. consumes in ten days. And, 123 countries have less oil than the U.S. consumes in one day. When hoarding begins the Doomsday clock ticks up critically. Our world needs to get to Thorium reactors (that can't blow up), recycling nuclear waste such as Bill Gates' TerraPower, tidal surface energy, garbage to energy existing technologies, and electric vehicles quickly and massively, and, much faster than our current progress. Private funding for wind and solar is fine if you can afford it but most of the world can't. One in five humans of this world does not have access to electricity, for starters. If the United States attempted to replace oil, natural gas and coal with solar PV it would require approximately one acre in every 6.79 acres of the entire United States, excluding surface water acreage, or, 6 acres for every megawatt needed at-load. The United States currently does not have the desire to deforest the country to power it up by those who've done the real math. The Doomsday Clock is a good navigator for recognition of what needs to be addressed, and for some issues, more promptly. No doubt.
    Reply