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Time’s up? World Doomsday Clock ticks perilously closer to midnight destruction

By Benjamin Bullard
Mushroom cloud following detonation of a nuclear weapon

Welp, it’s been a good run. But now time’s almost up for the human race, at least according to the group of scientists who’ve been calibrating their metaphorical Doomsday Clock for the past 50-plus years to caution against mankind’s self-destruction.

Sure, we (or at least some of us) may already have survived locusts, disease, famine, flooding, wars, Thanksgiving table fights, nuclear proliferation, and maybe even an exorcism or a stealth alien abduction or two. But whatever we’ve done in the past to keep the Earth from imploding under the weight of humanity’s global burden just isn’t gonna cut it much longer, cautions the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. On Thursday, the group lit up media outlets everywhere with news that they’ve moved the Doomsday Clock’s minute hand to within less than two minutes ’til midnight — the zero hour when all the bad crap that we’re doing wrong leads to civilization’s ultimate destruction.

Party time, right? Begun in 1945 from the remnants of the Manhattan Project team, the nonprofit watchdog community of scientists has tasked itself with the job of keeping tabs on the approach of our self-wrought demise ever since first deploying its cautionary clock metaphor back in 1947. With Thursday’s reset, the Doomsday Clock now stands at precisely 100 seconds until midnight — 20 seconds nearer the apocalypse than its last reset in 2018, when the (thankfully forestalled) threat of nuclear conflict between the U.S. and North Korea prompted them to move the minute hand to 11:58 p.m.

Why, specifically, did the Bulletin decide 2020’s the time to tell the world we’re all only 100 symbolic seconds from going kablooey? Climate change, those pesky nukes, and the wild card of unchecked cybercrime, according to a lengthy statement on the clock’s reset from the nonprofit’s president and CEO, Rachel Bronson:

     'Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers — nuclear war and climate change — that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond. The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.'

Well, if there’s comfort to be found there (and believe us, we’re looking for some), maybe it’s that those sound like such dystopian, high-level structural problems that all the average geek can really do is crack open a beer, dial up Dr. Strangelove, and watch Slim Pickens ride that warhead all the way to oblivion….while we keep one eye on the window as we await the blessed, sweet release of that real-world orange glow. 

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