National News Desk

2023 ‘Doomsday Clock’ announcement: What to know and expect

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EVA HAMBACH/AFP via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Scientists will reveal on Tuesday how close humanity is to armageddon with its latest edition of the “Doomsday Clock.”

For the past 75 years, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a nonprofit media organization comprised of world leaders and Nobel laureates, has announced how close it believes the world is to collapse due to nuclear war, climate change and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is a metaphor, a reminder of the perils we must address if we are to survive on the planet,” the Bulletin, which created the clock, said on its website, also calling it “a design that warns the public about how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own making.”

Tuesday’s announcement will be the first since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which could move the clock closer to “doomsday.”

“Every year, the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board looks at the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from manmade threats,” Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, told ABC News in a statement. “This year, the war in Ukraine and the ripple effects it has caused around the world and on many issues is a major factor in that consideration.”

Launched in 1947, scientists wanted to highlight the possibility of catastrophe to the public as it pertained to the nuclear arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, according to the Bulletin, saying that “the greatest danger to humanity came from nuclear weapons” at the time.

The clock indicates how much time remains until midnight, theoretical doomsday.

At its launch, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the “Doomsday Clock” at seven minutes before midnight because artist Martyl Langsdorf, who sketched the clock that appeared on the June 1947 edition of the magazine, said “it looked good” in her eyes, the organization says.

Today, humanity is 100 seconds to midnight, the closest the world has ever been to disaster, according to the Bulletin. Before 2020, the closest the hand was set to midnight was two minutes.

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Bulletin kept the clock at 100 seconds to midnight, saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons if NATO stepped in to help Ukraine “is what 100 seconds to midnight looks like.”

In September, Putin issued a thinly veiled threat that Russia would resort to using nuclear weapons in its fight against Ukraine following several setbacks.

The Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine has come under repeated fire since Russia took it over in March 2022, increasing the risk of nuclear disaster.

Rafael Grossi, director general of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, said last week that he is worried that the world has become complacent about the potential risks to the plant.

The furthest the clock has ever been from midnight was 17 minutes in 1991 after then-President George H. W. Bush and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev both announced reductions in the nuclear arsenals of their respective countries.

“That reflected a moment when the world was seriously engaging with issues of risk and working together to mitigate it,” Bronson said.

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