The Doomsday Clock, a metaphorical measure of how close humanity is to ultimate destruction, is now set at 90 seconds to midnight. This is the closest the clock has ever been set to Armageddon in its 76 year history.
The Doomsday Clock is kept by a group of scientists and experts called The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. It includes experts on international relations, as well as scientists who study nuclear weapons, climate, and disease. For the past two years, scientists have kept the clock at 100 seconds to midnight.
Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, explained that the clock’s keepers had kept the clock so close to midnight for so long over fears that Russia might invade Ukraine and raise nuclear tensions. “In February 2022, weeks after our announcement, our fears were born out,” Bronson said during the presentation that set the clock at 90 seconds to midnight. “Russia's thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that escalation of the conflict by accident, intention, or miscalculation is a terrible risk. The possibilities that the conflict could spin out of anyone’s control remains high.”
According to Bronson, the decision to move the clock forward 10 seconds was “largely, but not exclusively, because of the mounting dangers of the war in Ukraine.”
To say tensions are high is an understatement. Since it escalated its invasion in 2022, Russia has repeatedly threatened nuclear war with NATO. Former Russian president and current deputy chairman of the Kremlin’s Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev recently warned the world that a loss of Ukraine for Russia might mean nuclear war. Moscow has deployed new hypersonic nuclear-capable missiles, built a new super torpedo powered by a nuclear engine, and put its nuclear forces on high alert.
Later this year, members of the Group of Seven (G7), will meet in Hiroshima. It’s a symbolic meeting because the Japanese city is one of the only places in the world to feel the devastating effects of nuclear war. The G7 was once the G8, but Russia was suspended from the group after its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, invoked the memory of Hiroshima in her statement about the Doomsday Clock. “We have had enough of the Doomsday Clock warnings being followed by inaction,” she told Motherboard in a statement. “The leaders of the G7, all of whom either command nuclear arsenals or support the use of nuclear weapons, must seize the moment of their meeting in the first city to have been devastated by an atomic bomb at huge human cost to tell us how they will work with Russia and China to fulfill the commitment to disarm they have all made.”