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Doomsday Clock moves 90 seconds to midnight over nuke risk

The Doomsday Clock now stands at 90 seconds to midnight. (Jamie Christiani/Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)
January 24, 2023

The “Doomsday Clock” moved forward to 90 seconds to midnight on Tuesday, largely over the increased risk of nuclear escalation amid Russia’s nearly year-long invasion of Ukraine.

The symbolic countdown clock is now the closest it has ever come to midnight, a metaphor for global catastrophe. The “clock” is set annually by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a nonprofit organization.

“We are living in a time of unprecedented danger, and the Doomsday Clock time reflects that reality,” said Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in a statement. “The US government, its NATO allies and Ukraine have a multitude of channels for dialogue; we urge leaders to explore all of them to their fullest ability to turn back the Clock.”

The clock had previously spent two years at 100 seconds to midnight. The last time the clock ticked away from midnight was in 2010, when the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists hailed progress toward nuclear arms reduction and international pledges to limit climate-warming emissions.

The clock started out at seven minutes to midnight in 1947 and reached a maximum of 17 minutes to midnight in 1991 after the U.S. and Soviet Union signed a nuclear reduction treaty, according to the official timeline.

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Besides the Ukraine war, other factors in the clock moving forward this year are climate change; increasing biological threats, including frequent “laboratory accidents”; as well as “disinformation and disruptive technology,” according to the announcement.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists highlighted China’s deployment of surveillance technology in the Xinjiang province as having “disturbing implications” and posing “a distinct threat to civil society.” The province is the center of a crackdown on Uyghur Muslims condemned by the U.S. as a genocide.

The group also stated that China’s “considerable expansion of its nuclear capabilities,” while refusing to provide transparency, could have “unpredictable consequences for stability.”