The clock is still the closest it’s ever been to midnight. BULLETIN OF THE ATOMIC SCIENTISTS points to wars, nuclear threats, the climate crisis, bio-threats and AI.
At 90 seconds to midnight, the Doomsday Clock remains the closest it’s ever been to midnight. Reset today, the Clock reflects the continued state of unprecedented danger the world faces, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Governments and people need to take urgent action to turn the Clock back, advises the organization.
A variety of global threats cast menacing shadows over the 2024 Clock deliberations. These include:
- The Russia-Ukraine war and deterioration of nuclear arms reduction agreements
- The Climate Crisis and 2023’s official designation as the hottest year on record
- Increased sophistication of genetic engineering technologies
- Dramatic advance of generative artificial intelligence (AI), which could magnify disinformation and corrupt the global information environment
“Make no mistake: resetting the Clock at 90 seconds to midnight is not an indication that the world is stable,” explained Rachel Bronson, PhD, president and CEO, the Bulletin. “Quite the opposite. It’s urgent for governments and communities around the world to act. And the Bulletin remains hopeful—and inspired—in seeing the younger generations leading the charge.”
The Doomsday Clock’s time is set by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board (SASB) in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes nine Nobel Laureates. In January 2023, the Doomsday Clock was set at 90 seconds to midnight, the closest to midnight the Clock had ever been.
The Threats: Nuclear Threats, Climate Change, Biological Threats, AI
“Ominous trends continue to point the world toward global catastrophe,” states the Doomsday Clock statement. “The war in Ukraine and the widespread and growing reliance on nuclear weapons increase the risk of nuclear escalation. China, Russia, and the United States are all spending huge sums to expand or modernize their nuclear arsenals, adding to the ever-present danger of nuclear war through mistake or miscalculation. In 2023, Earth experienced its hottest year on record, and massive floods, wildfires, and other climate-related disasters affected millions of people around the world. Meanwhile, rapid and worrisome developments in the life sciences and other disruptive technologies accelerated, while governments made only feeble efforts to control them… But the world can be made safer. The Clock can move away from midnight.”
Gov. Jerry Brown, executive chair of the Bulletin commented: “As though on the Titanic, leaders are 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.”
Bill Nye, who participated in the 2024 Doomsday Clock announcement, said: “For decades, scientists have been warning us of the dangers facing humankind. We could be facing catastrophe unless we better manage the technologies we’ve created. It’s time to act.”
According to the Bulletin, the way to turn back the clock is by reducing the likelihood of global catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, advances in the life sciences, disruptive technologies, and the widespread corruption of the world’s information ecosystem. Despite their profound disagreements, the U.S., China, and Russia need to begin a serious dialogue about each of these global threats.
“At the highest levels, these three countries need to take responsibility for the existential danger the world now faces,” concludes the Doomsday Clock statement. “They have the capacity to pull the world back from the brink of catastrophe. They should do so, with clarity and courage, and without delay.”
Read the full Doomsday Clock statement here.