This Just In: We’re Not Doomed Quite Yet
January 26, 2016
Scientists voted today to leave The Doomsday Clock positioned at three minutes to midnight for the year 2016. In 2015, the clock was moved from five minutes before midnight to three minutes before midnight and we thought we were getting much closer to doom.
The Doomsday Clock is internationally recognized, and is a symbolic clock face, representing a countdown to a possible global catastrophe. The clock face conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies stemming from our own doings. The things that are taken into consideration before adjusting the clock are nuclear weapons, dangers in climate-changing technologies, developing biotechnologies, and cyber-technology that could result in a major catastrophe or inflict irrevocable harm. The decision involves all of those things, whether by intention, miscalculation, or by accident, to our way of life and to the planet we live on.
The Clock's setting is decided annually by the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The closer they set the Clock to midnight, the closer the scientists believe the world is to global disaster.
Originally, the Clock, which currently hangs on a wall in the Bulletin's office in the University of Chicago, represented just an analogy for the threat of global nuclear war; however, since 2007 it has also reflected climate change as well as new developments in the life sciences and technology that could inflict irrevocable harm to humanity. This year's clock setting determination also took into consideration the tensions between the United States and Russia and the recent North Korean nuclear test.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons. The clock was created two years later, with midnight symbolizing apocalypse.
Last year, experts on the board said they felt a sense of urgency, and moved the clock to three minutes before midnight
because of the world's ongoing addiction to fossil fuels, procrastination with enacting laws to cut greenhouse gas emissions and slow efforts to get rid of nuclear weapons. Prior to last year, the clock had remained at five minutes before midnight where it had been since 2012.
Looking back to the Doomsday Clock timeline
for previous clock changes, the closest the clock was moved toward midnight was in 1953 when it was set at two minutes before midnight. A more in-depth explanation of the factors considered in changing the clock’s position can be found on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
All things considered with current factors involved, and with respect to the end of civilization as we know it, it’s nice to find out that we’re no worse off right now than we were in January of 2015. However, that of course depends on who you ask. For now, we can breathe a sigh a relief, the world is not getting closer to the end.
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