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Current Affairs

Doomsday clock

Date: 01 February 2021 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

The hands of the ‘Doomsday Clock’ remained at ‘100 seconds to midnight’ for the second consecutive year.

 

Background

Doomsday clock is a visual depiction of how vulnerable the world is to a climate or nuclear catastrophe.

 

Details

  • Last year, the hands of the clock moved from two minutes to 100 seconds for the first time in history, indicating an unprecedented existential threat to humanity.

  • However, the panel of scientists has said that there is some hope this year, with US President Joe Biden’s plans to rejoin the Paris Agreement and ramp up the country’s efforts to combat climate change. 

 

Origin

  • The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, founded by Albert Einstein and students from the University of Chicago in 1945, created the ‘Doomsday Clock’ as a symbol to represent how close the world is to a possible apocalypse.

  • It is set annually by a panel of scientists, including 13 Nobel laureates, based on the threats that the world faced in that year.

  • When it was first created in 1947, the hands of the clock were placed based on the threat posed by nuclear weapons, which the scientists then perceived to be the greatest threat to humanity.

  • Over the years, they have included other existential threats, such as climate change and disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence.

  • The clock was originally set to seven minutes to midnight and has since moved closer or further away from the dreaded 12 o’clock position. The furthest it has been is 17 minutes after the end of the Cold War in 1991.

 

Reasons for current position

  • World leaders have undermined several major arms control treaties and negotiations, thus increasing the risk of possible nuclear war.

  • It pointed out that the nuclear threat had increased largely because of the development of nuclear weapons in North Korea and the collapse of the US’ nuclear deal with Iran.

  • The spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories, often by world leaders themselves, is worsening the threat of nuclear conflict and the climate emergency.