What is the Doomsday Clock and what happens when it strikes midnight

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The Doomsday Clock, also known as the “Doomsday Clock”, has been running for 76 years. But this is not just any watch. He tries so hard to assess how close humanity is to destroying the world.

After 2022, the clock was set 100 seconds to midnight; the same time in 2020.

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The watch was not designed to categorically measure existential threats, but rather to start conversations about difficult scientific topics like climate change, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which created the watch in 1947.

“One hundred seconds to midnight reflects the Council’s judgment that we are in a dangerous moment, which does not bring stability or security. The positive developments of 2021 have failed to offset negative longer-term trends,” said Sharon Squassoni, co-chair of the Bulletin’s Science and Safety Council, which sets the clock time.

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Squasson is also a Research Professor at the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University.

What is the Doomsday Clock?

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was a group of atomic scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, the code name for the development of the atomic bomb during World War II.

Originally, the watch was intended to measure nuclear threats, but in 2007 the Bulletin decided to include climate change in its calculations.

Over the last three quarters of a century, the time on the clock has changed, depending on how close scientists believe the human race is to total destruction. In some years the weather changes and in others it doesn’t.

The Doomsday Clock is set each year by experts on the Bulletin’s Science and Security Council in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 11 Nobel Prize winners.

While the clock was an effective wake-up call to remind people of the cascading crises facing the planet, some questioned the usefulness of the 75-year-old clock.

Lawrence Krauss, a former member of the Bulletin Board of Sponsors, said that while time has passed since the clock started ticking, it has been difficult to take the results seriously, as in recent decades it has come perilously close to the end of the civilization.

As a theoretical physicist, Krauss has been concerned with how the clock is evaluated and determined today. Every year, he said, when the clock approaches midnight alarmingly, scientists need to measure how much available “space” is left before deciding how much further the clock should move.

“Now the clock moves in seconds, it used to be minutes,” Krauss told CNN . “Of course, it is not a quantitative scientific assessment, but a qualitative one. What has always been important is the movement of the watch, not its absolute value.”

What happens if the clock strikes midnight?

The clock never struck midnight, and Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin, hopes it never will.

“When the clock strikes midnight, it means that some kind of nuclear exchange or catastrophic climate change has occurred that ended humanity,” he says. “So we don’t want to get there and we won’t know when we will get there.”

How accurate is the watch?

The clock’s schedule is not intended to measure threats, but rather to stimulate conversation and promote public engagement on scientific issues such as climate change and nuclear disarmament. If the watch can do that, Bronson already considers it a success.

When a new time is set on the watch, people listen, he said. In 2021, during the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson cited the Doomsday Clock when discussing the climate crisis facing the world, Bronson noted.

Bronson said he hopes people will discuss whether they agree with his decision and have fruitful conversations about what are the driving forces for change.

It is still possible to turn back the clock with bold and concrete actions. In fact, the hands turned away before midnight, reaching 17 minutes before midnight in 1991, when the administration of President George HW Bush signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with the Soviet Union.

In 2016, the clock was set at three minutes to midnight as a result of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord.

What can an individual do to turn back the clock?

Don’t underestimate the power of discussing these important issues with your peers, Bronson said. “You might not feel it because you’re not doing anything, but we know that public engagement moves [um] leader to do things,” he said.

When it comes to climate change, look at your daily habits and see if there are small changes you can make in your life, like walking more often instead of driving and what you use to keep your home warm, Bronson explained.

Source: CNN Brasil

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