Closer to Midnight… – The Countdown to Doomsday Earth

Artwork for Trinity Event's Doomsday Clock at One Minute Past Twelve.  Digital Image: NaturPhilosophieWhat Time Is It?

No need to be an atomic scientist, when you’re considering the state of the World today, to understand the picture is an alarming one.  Allegorically-speaking, the Earth is now only two minutes away from impending catastrophe. 

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS) reported

“North Korea’s nuclear weapons program made remarkable progress in 2017, increasing risks to North Korea itself, other countries in the region, and the United States.”

“Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions by tooth sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation.”

“It is with considerable concern that we set the time of the 2018 doomsday dock and offer a plea to rewind the doomsday clock,” said Bulletin of Atomic Scientists President and CEO Rachel Bronson.

“As of today, it is two minutes to Midnight.”

 

Origin of the Doomsday Clock

The Doomsday Clock turned 70 last year.

The Clock is a metaphor.  An allegory, if you will.  Its symbolic minute hand indicates how vulnerable to a self-inflicted catastrophe humanity might be at any given time in our recent history.

Since 1947, it represents the likelihood of a global man-made disaster that would potentially wipe out humankind.

After the atomic bombings in Japan, an international scientific collective of scientists who worked on the Manhattan  Project, began publishing the ​Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS)​ – a non-technical journal about global security and issues related to the danger of nuclear threats and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).

In the 1950s, the ​Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs​ started the conversation on the role of science in society, and nuclear proliferation.

A graphical representation of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists' Doomsday Clock.
Minutes away from Catastrophe?  The Doomsday Clock was set to three minutes to Midnight or less in 1949, 1953, 1984, 2015 and 2017. Source: Bulletin Atomic Scientists

What can humanity do when faced with the danger of its self-inflicted imminent extinction?

 

The Doomsday Clock was originally set at 7 minutes to Midnight. But  that was back in 1947.  About 70 years ago.

Over the years, the hands moved backwards and forwards.

1949: Soviet Union’s first nuclear test

1953: United States test hydrogen bomb

1984: US-Soviet relations reach their lowest point

2015: Climate change and nuclear warfare concerns

 

A 24-hour clock model of the story of Earth.  0:00:00 is the moment of the Earth formation.  Human beings arrive on the scene at 11:58:43.
If Earth history were to be told in 24 hours, humankind would have just arrived.  Source: Department of Geoscience, University of Wisconsin-Madison

It’s Two Minutes to Midnight

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists acted to set the Doomsday Clock forward by 30 seconds, because the World was becoming “more dangerous”.

The team of scientists singled out a series of intercontinental nuclear missile tests by North Korea, which recently dramatically escalated tensions on the Korean peninsula, and led to a war of words with “unpredictable” US president Donald Trump.

In 2017, the Clock was reset a mere two-and-a-half minutes away from the fateful deadline – its  second closest approach to Midnight since the beginning of the Cold War.

Right now, we’re just two minutes away from Midnight.  The closest to apocalypse it has been since 1953 – the year when both US and Soviet nations started testing hydrogen bombs.

Too close for comfort.

After all, we’ve only just got here!

Humans, have barely just arrived on the geological scene.

 

Countdown to Impending Catastrophe

Today, the threat to our planet is threefold: nuclear armament, climate change, and bio-security.

Add the following to that explosive recipe:

  • the rise of nationalism throughout western nations,
  • a dysfunctional West Wing administration,
  • a couple of well-armed megalomaniac politicians here and there,
  • the ever present cyber-threat and
  • a touch of glacial melting.

 

Mix well…  And hey presto!

Before you even know it, you’re standing over that proverbial apocalyptic cliff edge!

Suddenly, it’s Hollywood-style disaster time… without the glamour.

 

Infographic showing a world map of the distribution of nuclear warheads owned by various nations.  United States: 6,800; United Kingdom: 215; France: 300; Israel: 80; Pakistan: 140; India: 130; Russia: 7,000; China: 270; North Korea: 15.
Estimated Global Nuclear Warhead Inventories in 2017. Source: Arms Control Association

Tick, Tick, Tick…

The Doomsday Clock is not synchronised with real time.  Rather, the Science and Security Board meets twice annually to discuss global events in a deliberative manner.

But like during the Cuban Missile Crisis, events can sometimes go from full-blown crisis to peaceful resolution prior to the Clock being re-adjusted to reflect the revised potential threat.

The Clock is not set to respond to ongoing events in real time.

The Clock reflects changes in the level of continuous danger in which humankind lives.

 

The Doomsday Clock reflects basic changes in the level of continuous danger in which humankind lives in the nuclear age.

To set it right, atomic scientists consider a number of  factors:

Those threats lurk in the current background.

Ever present.

Think about it…

Nowadays, it’s much cheaper to launch a rocket into space… than it costs to make a blockbuster movie.

What, oh what, are we doing to our planet world?