The Doomsday Clock has given a grim warning for 2024, as it’s the closest it’s ever been to midnight.
The symbolic clock, which was created by a group of atomic scientists (including Albert Einstein), was established in 1947, as per Reuters.
It marks how close our planet is to destruction due to man-made actions.
It’s updated annually by the Chicago-based non-profit organisation the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and the figures are based on numerous threats, including geopolitical tensions, the climate crisis, and weapons of mass destruction.
On the device, midnight represents the point of destruction and last year it moved 10 seconds – making it 90 seconds to midnight and the closest it has ever been to Armageddon.
While I’m sure everyone is hoping the clock will move backwards – which it has done in the past – 2024 is not looking so promising.
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Last year, the clock moved forward due to a number of factors, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – which had brought back fears of nuclear warfare – and climate issues.
Rachel Bronson, president of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, explained at the time why the clock has moved closer to disaster during a presentation of the Doomsday Clock (via Vice).
“In February 2022, weeks after our [last] announcement, our fears were born out,” she said.
“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.”
With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine coming to no end in 2023 and now the Israel-Hamas conflict, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to suggest that the Doomsday Clock may inch that little closer to midnight in 2024.
At the time of writing, 64% of participants on Manifold Markets believe that the Doomsday Clock will advance toward midnight in/by January 2024.
However, Pavel Podvig, a Russian nuclear expert, thinks there could be a possibility of the clock moving away from midnight.
Explaining his theory to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in November 2023, he said that if Russia were to use nuclear weaponry in their invasion of Ukraine, it would have already happened by now.
Podvig then cited the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), also known as the ban treaty, that was held in Vienna in late June 2022, when any nuclear threats, ‘whether they be explicit or implicit and irrespective of the circumstances’, were emphatically condemned.
He added: “The most important factor in mobilising the opposition to nuclear weapons and in lowering the nuclear rhetoric was probably the understanding that nuclear weapons do not really have any other role than to kill a lot of people…
“This means that the threshold for a decision to use (any) nuclear weapons is therefore quite high, and rightly so.
“To ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again, world leaders and the public should first recognise the role of the consolidated, universal opposition to nuclear threats, acknowledge this opposition, and make sure it endures.
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“The Doomsday Clock is well positioned to do so. By moving its hands backwards the next time it is set, even if a little, this message can be sent clearly and forcefully.”
Back when the Doomsday Clock was established, it was set at seven minutes to midnight and it has moved backwards eight times and forward 17 times since.
The clock was furthest from doomsday in 1991 when it was 17 minutes from midnight, due to the end of the Cold War and the United States and Soviet Union signing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty – which substantially reduced both countries’ nuclear weapons.
But now at 90 seconds, it is the closest it has ever been and there is a possibility in 2024 it could edge even closer to midnight.