Doomsday Clock set at '90 seconds to midnight' for 2nd year in a row

The decision to keep the clock at 90 seconds doesn’t mean the world is stable or improving, but it is a call for governments to act.
Posted at 6:41 PM, Jan 23, 2024

The Doomsday Clock is as close to midnight as ever, signaling the world’s risk of total annihilation as scientists warn “ominous trends continue to point the world toward global catastrophe."

From wildfires, floods, and record-setting heat to nuclear threats and artificial intelligence outpacing the government's ability to control them, a panel of scientists deemed Tuesday that humanity is facing an “unprecedented level of danger."

“The Oct. 7 attack in Israel and war in Gaza provides further illustration of the horrors of modern war, even without nuclear escalation,” said Rachel Bronson, the president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “And lack of action on climate change threatens billions of lives and livelihoods.”

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reset the Doomsday Clock at 90 seconds to midnight for the second year in a row, matching the closest to the hour it’s ever been. Once the clock strikes 12, it means humans have made the earth uninhabitable.

“Our problems are political,” said science educator Bill Nye. “You guys, we can do this. We can solve these problems. And I strongly believe it starts with voting.”

The Bulletin warns that their decision to keep the clock at 90 seconds doesn’t mean the world is stable or improving, but after experiencing the hottest year on record in 2023 amid a rapidly expanding nuclear arms race, this move is a call for governments to act.

“There’s now talk in Washington that the U.S. nuclear arsenal will have to increase in order to match the arsenal of Russia and China combined,” said Alex Glaser, mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University.

The symbolic clock debuted in 1947, beginning at seven minutes to midnight and ticking back and forth for decades. The furthest away it has been from midnight was 17 minutes in 1991, after the end of the Cold War, while 2023 marked the closest to midnight it has ever been.

But not all hope is lost.

Scientists say the world is making slow progress with climate change, and optimism is key, but nations must act now to move the clock backward.