100 seconds have separated us from the “end of the world” since the past three years, and on Tuesday, the supervisors of the “Doomsday Clock” are changing it for the first time since Russia launched its war on Ukraine and raised fears of nuclear disasters during a year that witnessed several natural disasters across the planet.
And since the year 2020, the clock has fixed its scale for the extinction of humanity, to separate only 100 seconds from midnight, or in other words, the extinction of humanity. The watch is expected to reveal its predictions for this year in a virtual conference at 3:00 pm GMT, according to what it said on its website.
What is the “doomsday clock”?
The clock, which was founded by the scientist, Albert Einstein, and researchers from the University of Chicago in 1947, is a measure of how close humanity is to self-destruction, and the closer the hour reaches midnight, the greater the chances of humanity’s extinction.
The “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists” organization was founded by atomic scientists who contributed to the development of US nuclear weapons within what is known as the “Manhattan Project”, which introduced the first atomic bomb to the world, because they could not ignore the dangers behind their work, according to what was said. It was reported by The Independent newspaper.
Although the goal behind establishing the watch at the beginning was to measure the extinction of humanity according to nuclear weapons, it later expanded to meet all the challenges facing humanity. The University of Chicago hosts the clock in one of its halls.
The hands of this clock can move forward or backward according to the deterioration or improvement of the humanitarian situation. In 1991, with the end of the Cold War, 17 minutes separated midnight, and it remained in that form until 1995.
Since 1947, that is, since its founding, the clock has moved back eight times, while it has advanced towards “disappearance” 16 times.
The organization indicates on its website that the “Doomsday Clock” is subject to modification every year in consultation with experts on the organization’s board of directors, who specialize in the field of security and science, in addition to discussions with a group of researchers and scientists, including 13 Nobel Prize winners.
The organization adds that the clock “has become a well-known indicator around the world of the world’s vulnerability to any catastrophe resulting from nuclear weapons, climate change and destructive technologies in other sectors.”
Throughout its history, this clock has been subjected to several criticisms, including an article published by the newspaper “The Conversation” in 2015, in which the researcher from Oxford University, Andre Sandberg, warned against using the “doomsday clock” to predict future events, noting that it was measured by “the strength of a sense of urgency” before. Its supervisors, while others believe that this watch should not be taken seriously at all, according to the “Washington Post” in a report on the watch in 2017.
“Doomsday Hour” at its finest
The aspirations of the hour were not brighter than December of 1991. In the fall of that year, the US President at the time, George Bush, declared the removal of the state of emergency that required the flight of American bombers and ordered the disabling or destruction of thousands of nuclear warheads in accordance with the Strategic Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty, and the Soviet President responded , Mikhail Gorbachev, then with a similar order.
Two years earlier, when the Separation Wall in Berlin brought down the end of the Cold War, the stewards of the “Doomsday Clock” set it back 10 minutes before midnight.
After the US and Soviet declarations of limiting nuclear armament, the watch supervisors entered into a deep discussion about whether they should set it back an additional seven minutes.
Indeed, for the first time since its history, the clock has moved back 17 minutes.
A 1991 article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which oversees the clock, praised Bush and Gorbachev’s disarmament decisions as “the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.”
The magazine was published at that time
In another article for the magazine, the two leaders’ decision was described as a “revolution for peace”.--
It was all cause for optimism, admitted Mike Moore, the magazine’s editor. But he said it was not without good reason.-
“There are times when one should be forgiven for thinking now and then that a world without nuclear weapons has become a possibility, however remote, rather than a mystical daydream,” Moore wrote.
The dream dissipates
And since January of 2020, the clock has been stuck for 100 seconds after midnight, and that was the first time that it exceeded the two-minute barrier since its inception, and the organization said, last year, that this symbolized “that we are stuck in a moment fraught with danger.”
Last year, which saw the clock change according to the events of 2021, members of the organization confirmed that the US elections that brought Joe Biden victory in the presidency “brought hope that what seemed like an international race towards disaster could be suspended,” adding that “the expected and moderate approach that was taken by the two largest countries world’s two nuclear-armed nations, which reflected a welcome change from the previous four years.
They mentioned that the meeting held by US President Joe Biden with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, and their agreement on the importance of never going to a nuclear war.
However, at the same time, the organization pointed to the risks associated with the high rates of demand for military armaments in the Middle East.
And she warned in a statement: “Iran continues to build stocks of enriched uranium, and insists that all sanctions be lifted before returning to talks with the United States on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The window of opportunity appears to be closing.”
“Over time, Iran’s neighbors, particularly Saudi Arabia, may feel compelled to acquire similar capabilities, heralding a frightening prospect for a Middle East with many countries with the expertise and materials to build nuclear weapons.”
“The possibility of Saudi Arabia’s nuclear armament” after Iran… The timing of the “doomsday hour” does not bode well
The “doomsday clock”, which is a symbolic indication of the end of the world, has remained the same for two years now, with a hundred seconds separating it from midnight, that is, the point at which humanity may be wiped out.
She also confirmed that the year 2021 witnessed indications of an increase in Chinese nuclear armament, in addition to that Moscow and Beijing increased anti-satellite missile tests, “which is risky because it may threaten the spread of waste around Earth’s orbit, and thus may impede any future space travel efforts.”
The organization reviewed other disasters, such as the Corona pandemic, the effects of climate change, and the consequences of the spread of misinformation and cyber attacks.
What does the watch have in its arsenal for this year?
Over the past year, the conflict in Ukraine has led to escalating tensions between Washington and Moscow and bombing near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, and in September last year, Putin issued threats to use nuclear weapons after several obstacles witnessed his forces controlling Ukrainian lands.
In her interview with The Washington Post, on Monday, Rachel Bronson, director of the organization overseeing the “Doomsday Clock,” said: “What we were looking at was the disintegration of the international system … when there is a dispute between two countries that control the largest nuclear arsenals in the world … and what What we’re trying to say is we really need to find a way to contain this crisis.”
What happens when the “doomsday clock” strikes?
It wouldn’t be possible to change the clock to midnight, Bronson notes, “because at that moment we wouldn’t be able to,” adding, “We wouldn’t have any adequate tools to respond.”
And she noted that the countdown may become more complicated as midnight approaches with regard to climate change. “We are talking about a real and evolving crisis. The decisions we take today will be felt by us 30 years later,” she said.
Bronson hopes that the historic clock will not only be a warning, but also an indication of reassurance by reminding people, “We have set the clock back before, and we will be able to do it again.”