“Unprecedented Danger”: Russia-Ukraine War Pushes Iconic Doomsday Clock Closest to Midnight Ever in its History.
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Also Cite Bio-Threats, Nuclear Proliferation, Climate Crisis, State-Sponsored Disinformation and Disruptive Technology.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – January 24, 2023 –The Doomsday Clock was set at 90 seconds to midnight, due largely but not exclusively to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the increased risk of nuclear escalation. The new Clock time was also influenced by continuing threats posed by the climate crisis and the breakdown of global norms and institutions needed to mitigate risks associated with advancing technologies and biological threats such as COVID-19.
Rachel Bronson, PhD, president and CEO, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said: “We are living in a time of unprecedented danger, and the Doomsday Clock time reflects that reality. 90 seconds to midnight is the closest the Clock has ever been set to midnight, and it’s a decision our experts do not take lightly. The US government, its NATO allies and Ukraine have a multitude of channels for dialogue; we urge leaders to explore all of them to their fullest ability to turn back the Clock.”
The Doomsday Clock’s time is set by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board with the support of the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, which includes 10 Nobel Laureates. Previously, the Doomsday Clock had been set at 100 seconds to midnight since 2020.
The Doomsday Clock statement explains that “Russia’s war on Ukraine has raised profound questions about how states interact, eroding norms of international conduct that underpin successful responses to a variety of global risks. And worst of all, Russia’s thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that escalation of the conflict—by accident, intention, or miscalculation—is a terrible risk. The possibility that the conflict could spin out of anyone’s control remains high . . .. Russia has also brought its war to the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor sites, violating international protocols and risking widespread release of radioactive materials. Efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency to secure these plants so far have been rebuffed.” The statement has been translated into Ukrainian and Russian.
Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said:
“The Doomsday Clock is sounding an alarm for the whole of humanity. We are on the brink of a precipice. But our leaders are not acting at sufficient speed or scale to secure a peaceful and liveable planet. From cutting carbon emissions to strengthening arms control treaties and investing in pandemic preparedness, we know what needs to be done. The science is clear, but the political will is lacking. This must change in 2023 if we are to avert catastrophe. We are facing multiple, existential crises. Leaders need a crisis mindset.”
Ban Ki-moon, Deputy Chair of The Elders and former Secretary-General of the United Nations, said:
“Three years ago, I helped unveil the Doomsday Clock when its hands were last moved. Today they are even closer to midnight, showing how much more perilous our world has become in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme weather events and Russia’s outrageous war on Ukraine. Leaders did not heed the Doomsday Clock’s warnings in 2020. We all continue to pay the price. In 2023 it is vital for all our sakes that they act.”
Elbegdorj Tsakhia, former President of Mongolia and member of The Elders, added: “As a former President of a country landlocked between two large powers, I know how important international diplomacy is when it comes to tackling existential threats. Today our world faces multiple crises. A common thread runs through them all: failure of leadership. We need a collective response rooted in the spirit and values of the UN Charter that can put us back on a pathway to peaceful co-existence and sustainable development.”
Sivan Kartha, PhD, senior scientist, Stockholm Environmental Institute, lead author for the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, and member, Science and Security Board (SASB), Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said: “Dealing with the crisis of climate change requires faith in institutions of multilateral governance and cooperation. The geopolitical fissure opened by the invasion of Ukraine has weakened trust among countries and the global will to cooperate.”
Suzet McKinney, DrPH, Principal and Director of Life Sciences, Sterling Bay, and member, Science and Security Board (SASB), Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said: “Devastating events like the COVID-19 pandemic can no longer be considered rare, once-a-century occurrences. However, disease-induced disaster can be avoided if countries around the world cooperate on global health strategies.”
Steve Fetter, PhD, dean of the graduate school and professor of public policy, University of Maryland, fellow, American Physical Society, member, National Academy of Sciences Committee on International Security and Arms Control, and member, Science and Security Board (SASB), Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said: “Even if nuclear use is avoided in Ukraine, the war has challenged the nuclear order—the system of agreements and understandings that have been constructed over six decades to limit the dangers of nuclear weapons.”
The 2023 Doomsday Clock statement details other threats and threat multipliers beyond the most immediate risks related to the Russia-Ukraine War:
Disinformation and Disruptive Technology
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Eugene Rabinowitch and University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project. The scientists felt that they “could not remain aloof to the consequences of their work” and worked to inform the public and policymakers about man-made threats to human existence.
The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to convey how close humanity is to destroying itself. Designed by painter Martyl Langsdorf, the Clock has become an international symbol of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change and disruptive technologies.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Additional members of the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board will be available for interviews on the day of and after the announcement: https://thebulletin.org/about-us/science-and-security-board/. Ukrainian and Russian versions of the materials will be made available to the media following the event.
An embeddable HD stream of the announcement is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxB9dM0u4mU
Hi-res video, photos, headshots and logos are available to members of the media at https://bit.ly/DDC2023PressKit. A streaming replay of the Doomsday Clock announcement and the full text of the 2023 Statement are available online at thebulletin.org/.
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