The Abnormal Normal: Time Stands Still at Two Minutes to Midnight
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The Abnormal Normal: Time Stands Still at Two Minutes to Midnight


Dr Manpreet Sethi is Senior Fellow, Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), New Delhi. To view the original source at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, please click here.

“The Doomsday Clock, maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1947, has come to symbolise a graphic description of the global security situation at any given time. Every year, the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin, comprising of eminent personalities from the political, scientific and policy domains, undertakes a detailed examination of the two major threats facing mankind – from nuclear weapons and climate change. Based on the developments of the year in these two domains, a determination is made on how far the world is from midnight – or apocalypse. This imagery is intended to drive home the urgency of the threats facing humanity and the planet.

In 2018, in response to the heightened US-North Korea nuclear belligerence, and US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the Bulletin took the minute hand of the clock closer by half a minute to midnight. So, in January 2018, the world came as close as two minutes to midnight – the closest it had ever come to 12 O’clock. In an earlier instance in 1954, when the USSR tested its biggest megaton weapon, the Bulletin declared the world at two and a half minutes to midnight, the closest before 2018.

In January 2019, the Bulletin has chosen to retain the hand at two minutes to midnight – largely because it could not have taken it anywhere else. It could not have pulled it back since nothing reassuring has happened in the nuclear or climate realms over the past one year. Rather, things have only begun to heat up – figuratively and literally – and the coming months could see matters becoming worse. In fact, some of the nuclear related developments of 2018, as discussed below, will begin to reveal their implications in the coming year. Therefore, the time-keepers can be seen as having been prudent in not consuming the little real estate now left between two minutes and 12 O’clock. That might become necessary in 2019 if some of the trends are not reversed.”


Image: Unsplash stock, Adam Kring.