Doomsday Clock warning: What happens when the Doomsday Clock hits midnight?

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Doomsday Clock warning: What happens when the Doomsday Clock hits midnight?

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The new year has already seen shockwaves sent through the political world, with Joe Biden warning this week that Vladimir Putin will “move in” on Ukraine. He has warned his Eastern European counterpart would face a “stiff price” for invading its neighbour, with other officials joining to condemn the ongoing pressure. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists will decide how close these developments, combined with the weight of the Covid pandemic, bring the world to destruction this afternoon.

What happens when the Doomsday Clock hits midnight?

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is a collective of eminent academics responsible for curating the Doomsday Clock.

Established in 1945 by former Manhattan Project leads, the nonprofit collective exists to educate the public on the dangers of atomic weapons and “reduce man-made threats to our existence”.

They curate the famed Doomsday Clock – an instrument used to review humanity’s descent to destruction.

Bulletin scientists translate global peril into “minutes to midnight”, with the danger increasing as the clock’s hand moves forwards. 

READ MORE: Biden calls crisis meeting with EU over Russia: ‘They will move in’

They set the device at seven minutes to midnight (or 11.53pm) in 1947 and move the hand when necessary.

The clock will move towards midnight as the probability of “technologically or environmentally-induced catastrophe” increases.

The next time the Bulletin moves the clock’s hands is this afternoon at 10am EST (3pm GMT).

If the Doomsday Clock’s hand ever hit midnight, it means the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists believes a “global catastrophe” has erupted.

The hand may move back again if the Bulletin deems international tensions have eased enough in the year since their last release.

For example, in 1949, they moved the hand four minutes closer to midnight (11.57pm) as the Soviet Union successfully tested the RDS-1 nuclear bomb.

That bomb kickstarted the arms race and saw the Bulletin move the clock one-minute closer in 1953 (to 11.58pm) as the US responded with the first thermonuclear device.

But in 1960, increased cooperation and understanding of the dangers atomic weapons posed shown in events such as the 1958 Lebanon crisis convinced scientists to move it back five minutes to 11.53pm.

They set the hand its farthest back as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 to 11.43pm.

Since 2012, Bulletin scientists have only seen reason to move the clock forwards.

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At present, the hand is the closest it has ever come to midnight, at 11.58.20pm.

The clock last moved forward in 2020, when 100 seconds to midnight represented “the most dangerous situation that humanity has ever faced”.

Bulletin scientists reaffirmed the distance to midnight in 2021 with a new statement on world affairs.

On January 7, 2021, they said Covid “revealed just how unprepared and unwilling countries and the international system are to handle global emergencies properly”.

The scientists added: “In this time of genuine crisis, governments too often abdicated responsibility, ignored scientific advice, did not cooperate or communicate effectively, and consequently failed to protect the health and welfare of their citizens.”

They also cited increased technological development on nuclear weapons and the intensifying threat of climate change, which caused a rash of fires and floods.

The Bulletin concluded its statement with a blistering analysis, with the “existential risk” to humanity demanding “quick and comprehensive action across the 21st century’s complex threat spectrum”.

They added: “Given the pandemic experience, no one can reasonably say he or she was not warned.

“It remains 100 seconds to midnight, the most dangerous situation that humanity has ever faced.”



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