The Doomsday Clock Puts Humanity Closer to Catastrophe Than It’s Ever Been

January 24, 2023 By Coby Jones

On Tuesday, the Science and Security Board Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hand of the Doomsday Clock forward to 90 seconds to midnight – 10 seconds closer to midnight than the two previous years and the closest to global catastrophe that it has ever been.

The Board cites the war between Russia and Ukraine as a key driving factor, but not the only factor, in its decision to move the needle forward. In the 75 years that the clock has counted the fate of humanity, it’s fluctuated between 7 minutes to midnight in its inaugural year to the 90 seconds it stands at today. This announcement seems rather terrifying, doesn’t it?

The good news is that there are steps that can be taken to address the concerns that the Board of Scientists cited in their report.

Here’s why the Doomsday Clock has moved forward and how America’s leadership in diplomacy and development can help move that needle further away from midnight.

What Factored into Those 10 Seconds?

The war between Russia and Ukraine is cited as one of the primary reasons that the Doomsday Clock has been moved forward. Not only does this war call into question the international norms that have held since the end of World War II, but the threat of the nuclear option from Russia endangers the entire world, not just Europe and Ukraine.

The Board also mentions the increase in global weather disasters and the threat of climate change as another reason they are moving the needle forward. Historically lethal flooding in West Africa and extreme temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere are two examples. Biological threats and the continued challenges to global health also contributed to the decision with the ongoing threat that COVID-19 continues to pose around the world and the epidemic of water borne diseases resulting from the flooding in Pakistan.

U.S. Diplomacy and Development is Helping Promote Stability

On a bipartisan basis, the United States has been a strong supporter of Ukraine against the unjust invasion by Russia – and is rallying its allies to do the same. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made appeals to the U.S. Congress and countless bipartisan delegations have traveled to Ukraine in an effort to support diplomatic relationships and try to bring about an end to the war.  In 2022, the U.S. also approved $48 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine ranging from humanitarian assistance to economic and security assistance.

In addressing the impacts of extreme weather and continued strains on global health infrastructure, America’s global leadership is also critical to help reduce the global impacts of climate change – on migration, health, and hunger – and the implications for national security.

One of the ways to do this is to support a fully funded International Affairs budget that gives America the tools and resources it needs to lead globally. In 2023, the International Affairs Budget was increased by 6% which means more resources for the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Peace Corps and other government funded programs that can help foster global cooperation to addressing catastrophes related to weather or global health.

The U.S. has long been a leader in addressing humanitarian disasters globally and with this increased funding, the opportunity for America to lead and address the needs of the 339 million people who will need humanitarian assistance in 2023. Experts say there is a $50 billion global gap in finding to meet these needs. This is a prime opportunity for America to step in and help fill this gap in order to achieve peace and stability around the world.

When all is said and done, does the Doomsday Clock really foretell the end to humanity as we know it? Probably not, but it’s still a stark reminder that there are growing threats on the global stage – and it’s critical that America continue to lead in diplomacy and development to create a safer world for us all.