It was big news yesterday morning: that day the Doomsday clock would get a new time. We all expected it to be a minute to twelve by now, but it isn’t. The war in Israel appears to be no reason to move the symbolic clock a little closer to 12 o’clock: where 12 o’clock means a global catastrophe.
Many people found the year 2023 harder than 2022. This is partly due to the war in Israel, but also the recently started war in Sudan, while it is still raging in Ukraine, and the world also seems to be becoming more divided, including the elections in our own country have shown. Nevertheless, the scientists responsible for that doomsday clock do not believe that the world is in a worse position now than in 2022.
So we are no closer to our demise than we were a year ago. It is still a minute and a half before midnight. Although we thought it would be 30 seconds closer to that fateful time, scientists apparently find no reason to do that: not even 10 seconds, while that happened last year, precisely because of the war in Ukraine. Last year the hands were closer to twelve o’clock than they have been since the clock began in 1947, but this year it remains the same. Scientists are still afraid that the war in Ukraine could become a nuclear war, but do not point the finger at Russia alone. They indicate that China and the United States also continue to modernize their nuclear weapons and expand their arsenals.
War, AI and genetic engineering
Scientists do not completely ignore the war in Gaza: they acknowledge that this could mean that a broader conflict arises in the Middle East. Now it is more often unrest in that region, but this seems more serious than what we have seen in recent years. Yet scientists agree that this does not mean that the needle is ticking. While they also point out other problems: for example, 2023 was the hottest year on Earth ever. Climate disasters, greenhouse gases, it goes on and on and too little is being done to tackle climate change, they say.
Also another popular and very emerging potential danger is artificial intelligence. AI, but also genetic manipulation, are also highlighted by experts as problematic, especially without legislation. Fake news spreads more easily, but autonomous weapons can also be a threat. More rules are needed there too. Have the scientists said nothing positive? Yes, one thing, which is introduced by something much less beautiful…
Paris Climate Agreement
“The world is already at risk of exceeding a target of the Paris climate agreement – a temperature increase of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – due to insufficient commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and insufficient implementation of already made commitments. To stop further warming, the world must reduce carbon dioxide emissions to zero. The world invested a record $1.7 trillion in clean energy by 2023 and countries representing half the world’s gross domestic product pledged to triple their renewable energy capacity by 2030.”
It’s positive, but scientists say all of that was offset by $1 trillion in fossil fuel investments. “If efforts are not significantly increased, the toll in human suffering from climate change will increase inexorably.”
Cooperation is the only solution
In short, all of these things make us feel more like we’re 80, 70, or maybe even 60 seconds from sleep. Apparently scientists see things a little more positively, though to emphasize They do say that turning back the clock will require a lot of work: “Everyone on Earth has a stake in reducing the potential for global disaster from nuclear weapons, climate change, advances in life sciences, disruptive technologies, and the widespread corruption of shrink the world’s information ecosystem. These threats, individually and in their interactions, are of such a nature and magnitude that no nation or leader can control them.”
The scientists emphasize that collaboration is key. “That is the job of leaders and nations working together in the shared belief that common threats require common action. As a first step, and despite their deep differences, three of the world’s leading powers – the United States, China and Russia – should engage in serious dialogue on each of the global threats outlined here. At the highest level, these three countries must take responsibility for the existential danger the world now faces. They have the capacity to pull the world back from the brink of catastrophe. They must do so, with clarity and courage, and without delay.”
USA, China and Russia
It’s a shame, but true: as an individual you can certainly do something to ensure that the problems do not become worse, for example by doing more to encourage sustainability of the earth. However, the big things that need to be done are not within our reach: that is up to the world leaders who run the US, China and Russia, and reconciliation and building a good relationship are still very far away. Doom, on the other hand, is very close, because 90 seconds is considerably less than just after the Cold War, when the clock was in a much more positive position at 17 minutes to 12.