The ‘Doomsday Clock’ is now at 2.5 minutes to midnight

Beginning in 1947, members of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (an academic journal) have taken time each year to evaluate the state of the world and estimate how close we are to doomsday. They relate this analysis as a handy clock analogy, where midnight is certain global disaster. The Doomsday Clock has been holding steady at three minutes to midnight for the last several years, but the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board has now taken us 30 seconds closer to doomsday. This is the closest to midnight the clock has been in 64 years.

As the name of the Bulletin implies, the Doomsday Clock was devised over 70 years ago as a way to measure the likelihood of a nuclear war. The atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the end of World War II are history to us, but in 1947 the memory of such a powerful weapon was fresh on everyone’s mind.

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The clock started off at seven minutes to midnight, but things worsened just a few years later in 1953. The clock reached just two minutes to midnight following the test of powerful thermonuclear devices by both the US and USSR. The two nations seemed poised to strike, but tensions eased a few years later and the clock backed off a bit. The earliest time on the clock was 17 minutes to midnight, which was in 1991. That was after the fall of the USSR and the signing of the first Strategic Arms Reduction treaty.

More recently, the clock has ticked closer to midnight because of continued nuclear tests in India and Pakistan, as well as North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons. In 2007 the Bulletin added climate change to nuclear war as a potential threat to humanity, and this led to several ticks closer to midnight.


In this year’s announcement, the Science and Security Board cites comments made by new US president Donald Trump as the reason for moving closer to midnight. Trump has reportedly endorsed the use of nuclear weapons and seemed unconcerned with the prospect of a new nuclear arms race. He also famously referred to climate change as a Chinese hoax and removed all mention of climate change from the White House website hours after being sworn in.

As of 2017, the doomsday clock is sitting at two and a half minutes to midnight. This is the first time a 30 second increment has been used. So, in the opinion of this group, we’re getting dangerously close to doomsday. Maybe another year and we’ll beat the record.

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