This year, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists kept the clock 90 seconds to midnight, unchanged from the move last year.
The Doomsday Clock is a design meant to warn the public about how close we are to destroying the world with anthropogenic activity. The BAS was founded by Albert Einstein, Eugene Rabinowitch and J. Robert Oppenheimer. The clock was then created by Martyl Langsdorf, as a symbol of the clock ticking on humanity’s actions. The organisation updates the clock annually after doing a deep analysis of data and judging what would happen if world leaders do not take action to fix the conditions pointing towards the end of the world.
CEO of the BAS, Rachel Bronson stated, “Conflict hot spots around the world carry the threat of nuclear escalation, climate change is already causing death and destruction, and disruptive technologies like AI and biological research advance faster than their safeguards.”
While one may assume that the Doomsday Clock remaining unchanged may be a good thing, it is not as it shows that there has been change to the problems that have already been created. It is not an indication of the world issues being fixed, but rather an indication of no action being taken to fix the issues brought to our attention.
The BAS cited issues such as the Russia-Ukraine War, the Israeli military campaign in Gaza, disruptive technologies like AI and climate change as the main factors behind the decision to keep the clock unchanged, and closer to midnight than ever.
The Russia-Ukraine war has not shown any signs of de-escalation. It will be 2 years since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 20, 2024. The war has brought catastrophic changes in life in the region and Russia has consistently threatened to use nuclear warfare has raised a serious cause for concern. While Russia has not acted on these threats yet, Bronson’s concern lies in the fact the country suspended the START treaty with the US which placed limits on the nuclear arsenals of both countries. The Russian parliament also passed a law withdrawing their ratification of the treaty banning nuclear tests on October 26, 2023.
Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is a cause for concern as the conflict has led to an unprecedented loss of life in the Strip. Israel’s nuclear power furthers the concern, and deeper worries lie in a potential expansion of the conflict to other countries in the region.
Climate change is considered a grave concern and has been at the centre of anthropogenic factors towards a ‘doomsday’ since the inception of the Doomsday Clock in 1947. The world recorded its hottest temperatures in 2023 and emissions continue to rise at alarming rates.
The disruptive technologies were cited by Bronson as tools of deception that could potentially oppose mitigation strategies for nuclear warfare, aggressive government policy or even pandemics. The spread of misinformation through AI was one of the biggest topics of government policy in various countries, showing AI’s power to affect world policies.
Thus, the Doomsday Clock is a powerful representation of the effects of human activity on the planet. It could eventually be the key to swaying public opinion towards government action. Now more than ever, it is important for us to be cognizant of our actions and reflect on the impact that we, as a collective, have on the world.
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