Doomsday Clock and the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

by Ryan Kang ’25

Source: Vox

Published Apr. 8th, 2022

The Doomsday Clock measures how long humanity has to live. Created by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the clock depicts how long humans have until they reach “midnight,” which effectively represents when we destroy the planet and ourselves. Initially, in 1947, the doomsday clock’s only factor for humanity’s extinction was nuclear warfare and the potential dangers that it posed. However, in recent years, the bulletin has expanded to include additional factors that can lead to humanity’s extinction, such as climate change, biological threats (Coronavirus), and misinformation about these threats to humans.

Accounting for all the factors, in January of 2022, it was decided by the Bulletin that humanity had around 100 metaphorical seconds until midnight. However, this was decided before the Russia-Ukraine conflict occurred. Because of the conflict, there have been numerous threats from Russia regarding their usage of nuclear weapons. 

On February 24th, Vladimir Putin, after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, stated, “… for those who may be tempted to interfere in these developments from the outside… consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history,” and therefore many speculate and fear the use of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, Putin’s decision to put Russia’s nuclear weapons on alert heightens the risk of world-ending nuclear warfare. As tensions rise, it is uncertain what path Russia will take. 

However, although the dangers of nuclear warfare, along with the numerous other threats to humanity’s existence, are threatening and frightening, not all is lost. The doomsday clock is not a linear time that only goes forward in time, but instead a clock that varies depending on the current threats against humanity. When the doomsday clock was created, it was set initially at 7 minutes until midnight. However, it has been as far back as 17 minutes in 1991, due to the peace negotiations at the time. Given the right steps and the precautions, it is possible for humans to reverse this clock. 

Through national cooperation and peace, it is possible for the threats of nuclear warfare, and eventually the other threats like the Coronavirus, to be reduced and potentially even removed completely. However, the first step is to simply be aware of the massive threats to our existence, and only through the many being educated on these matters can real change happen.

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