Doomsday Clock unchanged at 90 seconds to midnight – amid ‘unprecedented level of risk’ | World News

The Doomsday Clock remains at 90 seconds to midnight, the experts predicting the likelihood of a global catastrophe have said.

It comes after a year that saw conflict in Ukraine rage on and war in the Middle East flare up.

Scientists say there is a “continuing unprecedented level of risk” from threats including war, the climate crisis and the “dramatic advance” of AI.

The countdown is a metaphor for global collapse agreed on by experts at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

In 2023, the clock was set at 90 seconds to midnight – the closest to global collapse it has ever been.

While the clock has not edged closer to midnight this year, scientists warned that was not an indication of stability.

Rachel Bronson, president of the bulletin, said: “Make no mistake: resetting the clock at 90 seconds to midnight is not an indication that the world is stable. Quite the opposite.

“It’s urgent for governments and communities around the world to act,” she added, saying the board was “inspired” by younger generations leading the charge.

“The war in Ukraine and the widespread and growing reliance on nuclear weapons increase the risk of nuclear escalation,” the board said in a statement.

“China, Russia, and the United States are all spending huge sums to expand or modernise their nuclear arsenals, adding to the ever-present danger of nuclear war through mistake or miscalculation.”

It also pointed to the threat of the climate crisis, with 2023 the hottest year on record and “massive floods, wildfires, and other climate-related disasters affect[ing] millions of people around the world”.

Other influencing factors were “rapid and worrisome developments in the life sciences” and the advance of AI, both of which the board said governments were making only “feeble attempts” to control.

Governor Jerry Brown, executive chair of the bulletin, compared world leaders to the Titanic’s crew, “steering the world toward catastrophe-more nuclear bombs, vast carbon emissions, dangerous pathogens, and artificial intelligence”.

“Only the big powers like China, America, and Russia can pull us back. Despite deep antagonisms, they must cooperate – or we are doomed.”

The clock is set by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
The clock is set by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Humanity still closer than ever to catastrophe

The change in 2023 of 10 seconds was the due to the “mounting dangers of the war in Ukraine”, the board of experts said.

It had been at 100 seconds to midnight since 2020.

The bulletin said Russia’s “thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons” indicated a “terrible risk” of conflict escalating.

They also pointed towards the focus on developing nuclear capabilities by China, North Korea, Iran and India.

Other influences on the decision to move the countdown forward included the climate crisis, bio-threats such as COVID-19, and disinformation and disruptive technology.

In 2020, “two simultaneous existential dangers of nuclear war and climate change” were cited as reasons for the change.

Read more:
What is the Doomsday Clock and how is it set?
Where you should head to survive an apocalypse

History of the clock

The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947 by experts at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project to design and build the first atomic bomb.

They set up the clock to provide a simple way of showing the danger to the Earth and humanity posed by nuclear Armageddon.

The bulletin is an independent non-profit organisation run by some of the world’s most prominent scientists.

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