What time is it on the “Doomsday Clock”?

February 8, 2023

The Doomsday Clock is now 90 seconds to midnight, which means 90 seconds to total global catastrophe.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres addressing the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday, discussing his priorities for 2023. Guterres said, “We need to wake up – and get to work.”

Why It Matters: In the beginning of Guterres’ remarks, he referenced the “Doomsday Clock,” a symbolic clock made to warn the public about how close it is to destroying the world with dangerous technologiesof its own making (e.g., nuclear weapons). In 2023, this clock was set at 90 seconds until midnight, the closest it has ever been set to “global catastrophe.”

History of the Doomsday Clock:

  • The Doomsday Clock debuted in 1947. It was created by an artist named Martyl Langsdorf, who was married to a physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project (a U.S. government project which led to the development of the world’s first atomic bomb).
  • Langsdorf was creating a cover for the first magazine issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which was founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein as well as scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project. The Bulletin shares that as she “listened to the scientists who had worked on the Bomb, as they passionately debated the consequences of the new technology and their responsibility to inform the public, she felt their sense of urgency.” Thus, she drew a clock “to suggest that we didn’t have much time left to get atomic weapons under control.” This image was re-designed in 2007, though still looks very much the same.
  • Who sets the clock? A group of experts and scientists with significant knowledge of nuclear technology and climate science. This group meets twice a year to decide whether and how the clock should be changed; since 1947, the clock has been changed 25 times. At the end of the Cold War in 1991, the clock was set at 17 minutes from midnight – the furthest it’s ever been set away from global catastrophe.
  • Why was the clock changed in 2023? “… largely (though not exclusively) because of the mounting dangers of the war in Ukraine.” Read more HERE.

UN Secretary-General: “the Doomsday Clock is a global alarm clock” (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)

2023 Doomsday Clock Statement (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)

‘Act decisively before it is too late’, Guterres warns countries, laying out his priorities for 2023 (UN News)

by Jenna Lee,