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The Doomsday Clock is a metaphor that represents how close humanity is to self-destruction, due to nuclear weapons and climate change.The clock hands are set by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a group formed by Manhattan Project scientists at the University of Chicago who helped build the atomic bomb but protested using it against people.
It warns how many metaphorical “minutes to midnight” humanity has left. Set every year by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, it is intended to warn the public and inspire action.
When it was created in 1947, the placement of the Doomsday Clock was based on the threat posed by nuclear weapons, which Bulletin scientists considered to be the greatest danger to humanity. In 2007, the Bulletin began including catastrophic disruptions from climate change in its hand-setting deliberations.
The furthest the clock has been set was 17 minutes to midnight, in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Until recently, the closest it had ever been set was at two minutes to midnight—first in 1953, when the U.S. and Soviet Union both tested thermonuclear weapons, and then in 2018, citing “a breakdown in the international order” of nuclear actors, as well as the continuing lack of action on climate change.
Then, in 2020, the clock moved the closest it has ever been: 100 seconds to midnight.
The Doomsday Clock is located at the Bulletin offices at 1307 E. 60th St., in in the lobby of the Keller Center, home to the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.