Smashing the Doomsday Clock
The Doomsday Clock was created in simpler times in 1947, but it serves no useful purpose today. Since 2007, when climate change was added to the calculations, the clock has become an inaccurate metaphor for the advent of human doom. Its hands are calibrated once a year, but even the smart atomic scientists who run it can't conflate disparate threats, nor synchronize different timing systems.
According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, "[t]he clock isn't designed to definitively measure existential threats, but rather to spark conversations about difficult scientific topics such as climate change."
Well, it's always a day late and a dollar short — make that a year late. The clock was just reset from 100 to 90 seconds before midnight, the closest it has ever been. The main justification for the recent move was Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which was almost a year ago in February of 2022.
Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin, noted that at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, U.K., in 2021, former prime minister Boris Johnson cited the Doomsday Clock when talking about the climate crisis the world is facing.
That's pretty paltry evidence of "sparking conversations." How about current leaders in Russia, China, Iran, and other places who hold humanity hostage to their megalomaniacal ambitions? It would be Panglossian in the extreme to suggest that the malfunctioning Doomsday Clock is even in their consciousness.
Even in the West, it's unlikely the clock's time settings infiltrated policymakers' minds when they mulled sending tanks (Abrams, U.S.; Challenger, U.K; Leopard 2, Germany) to Ukraine. Concerns about escalation were considered (hence the coordination with Germany), but an uncalibrated clock — off by a year in a new take on relativity — probably didn't add spark to the discussions.
Neither do we need it to raise alarms about climate change. Biden, the U.N., the WEF, a plethora of obsessive crusaders, woke ESG companies, "socially conscious" retirement funds, extremist environmental groups, and extraterrestrials like John Kerry already do that until the cows come home — at least until they ban the cows because of their methane emissions. Add weather forecasters to the list of alarmists every time there's stormy weather, and after all that, I don't need the Doomsday Clock to remind me about anthropogenic climate change.
Bronson seems defensive about the Doomsday Clock's diminishing impact on our collective consciousness. Indeed, she encourages people to "look at your daily habits and see if there are small changes you can make in your life such as how often you walk versus drive and how your home is heated." Does that include considerations to ban gas stoves?
While looking at her own daily habits, perhaps Bronson should have a wee chat with climate czar John Kerry. It's astonishing that it's not in the climate czar's job description that travel be conducted with the least possible carbon footprint.
If Czar Kerry and his coterie of effete elites are as wise as extraterrestrials, then why doesn't he set an impressive example and fly commercial? That really would spark conversation, but it's clearly too inconvenient for the pompous milquetoast. Maybe he's not truly committed to his convictions.
Prior to adding convoluted threats such as climate change and A.I., the clock served as a reminder of our precarious existence. Now it's a muddled metaphor. Rather than spark conversations among those who incite the greatest threats to our longevity and posterity, it sparks criticism about its usefulness.
As Matt Reynolds points out in Wired magazine, "it also undercuts the complexity of climate change and the way that risks spread across time and bleed into one another[.] ... [T]he Doomsday Clock is a warning from a much simpler era."
What's the point of a clock that inaccurately measures things — even when it measures only once a year?
What's the point of a mixed metaphor that doesn't spark insight, but prompts confusion and generally unhelpful conversations?
Even a broken clock is right twice a day, but the Doomsday Clock is not even right once a year. It's incapable of being fine-tuned; instead, it's time to smash it to smithereens.