On Tuesday, January 24, 2023, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists will reveal how close humanity is to self-annihilation with the unveiling of this year’s symbolic Doomsday Clock. The clock currently sits at 100 seconds to midnight.
After a year of increasing tension between Russia and the West, will the minute hand edge even closer to 12 o’clock?
The Doomsday Clock was first unveiled at the start of the Cold War in 1947 when it was set at seven minutes to midnight. Every year since, members of the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have adjusted the time to reflect on whether the events of the previous year have pushed humanity closer to or farther away from destruction.
The furthest the clock has ever been from midnight was in 1991 after the U.S. and Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty to cut down on nuclear weapons. At this time, the clock was set to 17 minutes to midnight. Since then, the minute hand has been steadily creeping forward.
The catastrophic threat posed by climate change was first considered by the Bulletin as a hand-setting factor in 2007 when the clock was moved from seven minutes to midnight to five minutes to midnight.
In 2020, the clock was set to 100 seconds to midnight—the closest it has ever been. “Civilization-ending nuclear war…is a genuine possibility,” The Bulletin’s editor, John Mecklin, said in a statement after the clock was unveiled that year. “Climate change that could devastate the planet is undeniably happening. And for a variety of reasons…democratic governments and institutions that should be working to address these threats have failed to rise to the challenge.”
For the last two years, the clock has remained at 100 seconds to midnight. Whether the events of the last year—which include increasing global greenhouse gas emissions and nuclear threats from President Putin—will affect the minute hand remains to be seen.
Next Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET, The Bulletin will host a virtual conference to reveal the position of the Doomsday Clock for 2023, which will be available to watch live on the Bulletin’s website and Facebook page.
The announcement will include speakers from The Bulletin and members of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders, founded by Nelson Mandela, who work for peace, justice, and human rights.