Doomsday Clock: Is it a Sign of Hope for Mitigating Climate and Other Catastrophes?

Reader Contribution by Staff

Maintained since 1947 by the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago, the symbolic “Doomsday Clock” represents the analogy that the human race is at a time that is a “few minutes to midnight,” where midnight represents destruction by nuclear war. In recent years, the analogy of midnight has also included catastrophic destruction as a result of climate change. The minute hand on the clock has been moved, backward and forward, only 19 times since the clock’s creation. On Jan. 14, the Bulletin, which includes more than a dozen Nobel Laureates, moved the minute hand back one minute, from five to six minutes before midnight.

In their statement regarding the move, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said that “By shifting the hand back from midnight by only one additional minute, we emphasize how much needs to be accomplished, while at the same time recognizing signs of collaboration among the United States, Russia, the European Union, India, China, Brazil, and others on nuclear security and on climate stabilization.”

Changing the time on the Doomsday Clock always garners media coverage, but perhaps more so following December’s Copenhagen climate talks, which have generally been declared disappointing, at the least. Despite the offical results of Copenhagen, if media coverage is any indication, environmental awareness and responsibility are on the rise. Grist reports, for example, the hopeful news that Developing Nations Continue to Lead Post-Copenhagen.

The decision to move the hand back a minute is a hopeful one, and it indicates that there is much work to be done. Do you think, in the analogy of the clock, that the Bulletin’s decision is accurate? Do you agree, or do you think we’re in better or worse shape than the one-minute move indicates? Post your comments below.

You can read more about the Doomsday Clock and this year’s time change in these articles:

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, official statement, plus a video of the Bulletin’s Clock Announcement
‘Doomsday Clock’ Moves Away from Midnight, but Only by 1 Minute, from ABC News
Scientists Cautiously Optimistic as Doomsday Clock Reset, from Grist