Doomsday Clock Moves to 90 Seconds Before Midnight Following ‘Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine and the Increased Risk of Nuclear Escalation’

Members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists with the 2023 Doomsday Clock
Members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Siegfried S. Hecker, Daniel Holz, Sharon Squassoni, Mary Robinson and Elbegorj Tsakhia stand with the 2023 Doomsday Clock ahead of a live-streamed event on Jan. 24, 2023 in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images
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The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists set its Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds to midnight on Tuesday — the closest the metaphoric clock has ever been to the apocalyptic hour.

Originally conceived as a symbolic measure of humanity’s proximity to global nuclear destruction in 1947, the Bulletin officially began including climate change in its calculations in 2007. Set at 100 seconds to midnight from 2020-2022, the Bulletin said it moved the clock 10 seconds ahead “largely but not exclusively” because of “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the increased risk of nuclear escalation,” in addition to the worsening impacts of climate change, “unabated” online disinformation, and the continued threat of disease outbreaks.

In addition to a humanitarian crisis caused by Russian atrocities in Ukraine itself, the war has set off and exacerbated energy crises and food shortages (which are also exacerbated by drought and climate-fueled flooding) around the world.

As reported by The Associated Press:

“We are sending a message that the situation is becoming more urgent,” Bulletin President Rachel Bronson said at the online announcement. “Crises are more likely to happen and have broader consequences and longer standing effects.”

And to emphasize the effect that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had on moving closer to theoretical doomsday, the group said it was also announcing the clock movement in the Russian and Ukrainian languages for the first time.

“Putin has repeatedly raised the specter of nuclear use,” said Steve Fetter, dean of the graduate school and a public policy professor at the University of Maryland.

“Putin has given no indication that he’s willing to accept defeat,” Fetter said. “He might make desperate moves if no other options are available that he regards as acceptable.”

Scientists and activists at the Bulletin announcement also mentioned nuclear weapon proliferation in China, Iran increasing its uranium enrichment, missile tests in North Korea, future pandemics from animal diseases, pathogens from lab mistakes, “disruptive technologies” and worsening climate change as other existential threats to humanity.

For a deeper dive:

The New York Times, AP, CNN, Reuters, The Hill, Reuters, explainer

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