…there’s an important difference between a real clock and the Doomsday Clock. A real clock, as long as its batteries are working, will always move forward, from second to second and minute to minute. The Doomsday Clock, in contrast, does not have to move forward, for apart from its astrophysical constraints, human civilization is not rolling along a one-way track toward some predestined end where everything comes to a stop. The minute hand on the clock of civilization could well stand still, or indeed even move in reverse, from the danger zone back toward safety. We can, perhaps, delay our final dénouement and flourish – even for many more centuries.
The hand has not moved forward because a giant meteor is about to crash into Central Europe, or because a ring of volcanoes is due to erupt from France to Siberia, or because alien invaders from a distant galaxy are about to land in the American Corn Belt. No, the hand of the clock has moved forward, from five minutes to three minutes before midnight, because of human activity itself. It has moved forward because of bad choices, programs and policies imposed by those at the wheels of power.
The Bulletin cited in particular two factors as the basis for its decision to advance the minute hand of its Doomsday Clock. One is the unchecked increase in climate change, the other the modernization of nuclear weapons systems. Both are clearly reflective of misguided choices, and the scientists spared no punches in laying the blame where it deserved to fall: on world leaders who failed to act “with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe.” Some scientists pointed to the role that nuclear weapons have played in heightening the danger; others stressed the failure to stem climate change. One board member, Richard Somerville, emphasized that “efforts at reducing global emissions of heat-trapping gases have so far been entirely insufficient to prevent unacceptable climate disruption . . . The resulting climate change will harm millions of people and will threaten many key ecological systems on which civilization relies.”