After advancing toward midnight in 2017 for the first time in years, the Doomsday Clock has inched us closer to symbolic destruction yet again, signaling that for the second year in a row, the world has moved closer to possible catastrophe. The clock, maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, assesses the state of the world’s dangers and the likelihood of existential catastrophes due to global threats such as those posed by nuclear weapons and climate change. Last year, the clock advanced from 3 minutes to 2:30 to midnight; this year, it has advanced to 2 minutes.
The last time the Doomsday Clock read 2 minutes to midnight was in 1953, during the height of the Cold War, after the United States and the Soviet Union tested their first nuclear weapons within six months of each other. Annual placement of the clock’s minute hand is determined by the Bulletin’s expert analysis of how close the world is to destruction. Historically, the clock was altered primarily according to the dangers posed by nuclear weapons, but more recently, it has been adapted to consider threats from other man-made dangers as well, such as cyber threats, biotechnology and climate change.
“Nuclear weapons took center stage this year” as experts deliberated whether the clock should change, said Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin.