I long been fascinated, and just a little terrified, by the Doomsday Clock that is updated every January by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

It had last been set at two minutes to midnight. However, the symbolic countdown that represents the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe was reduced by 20 seconds, and now sits at 100 seconds to midnight thanks to the “existential danger” from nuclear war and climate change.

Civilization-ending nuclear war—whether started by design, blunder, or simple miscommunication—is a genuine possibility. Climate change that could devastate the planet is undeniably happening. And for a variety of reasons that include a corrupted and manipulated media environment, democratic governments and other institutions that should be working to address these threats have failed to rise to the challenge.

The Doomsday Clock, created at the University of Chicago by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in 1947, is intended to metaphorically alert mankind to our march toward nuclear Armageddon.

Originally set at seven minutes to midnight, it retreated as far away as 17 minutes from global catastrophe following the signing of the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the US and the Soviet Union along with the break-up of the Soviet Union. It had reached just two minutes to midnight in 1953 at the height of the Cold War.

“The former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, said »

We are 100 seconds from midnight and the planet needs to wake up.

In a statement on the change, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists President and CEO Rachel Bronson said:

As far as the Bulletin and the Doomsday Clock are concerned, the world has entered into the realm of the two-minute warning, a period when danger is high and the margin for error low. The moment demands attention and new, creative responses. If decision makers continue to fail to act—pretending that being inside two minutes is no more urgent than the preceding period—citizens around the world should rightfully echo the words of climate activist Greta Thunberg and ask: “How dare you?”

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