The disconcerting change reflects the current situation in Ukraine and the increased risk of global annihilation.
Maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1947, the Doomsday Clock is a visual representation of how close the world is to disaster based on political, environmental and technological threats such as nuclear annihilation and climate change.
For several years, the hands of the clock had remained at 100 seconds to midnight, but now, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Putin’s threats of nuclear reprisal, the time on the symbolic clock has been changed to a mere 90 seconds to midnight – the closest it has ever been.
“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,” an official statement accompanying the decision reads.
“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 of accidental damage to a nuclear power station, which could result in a repeat of the Chernobyl incident (or worse), has also been highlighted as a factor in the decision.
“The possibility that the conflict could spin out of anyone’s control remains high,” the statement reads.