The Elders call for action to turn back hands on Doomsday Clock

Mary Robinson and Elbegdorj Tsakhia join the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists for the 2023 Doomsday Clock announcement.
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
31 January 2023

As the Doomsday Clock moves to 90 seconds to midnight, The Elders have warned that urgent action is needed to tackle the existential threats of the climate crisis, pandemics and nuclear weapons.

The Doomsday Clock is a symbol that represents the likelihood of a human-made global catastrophe, in the opinion of the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 90 seconds to midnight is the closest it has ever been to catastrophe since its founding in 1947.

The Elders will spend the next five years focusing on these threats, as well as the ongoing scourge of conflict. Already, the world is seeing the impact of these threats – a rapid rise in extreme weather events, a pandemic that killed millions of people, a war in which the use of nuclear weapons has been openly raised. Some of these threats jeopardise the existence of human life on Earth, yet many countries lack the ability or the will to manage these risks.

The Elders continue to stress that the world faces interlocking crises, which are showing the unwillingness of leaders to act in the long-term interests of their people, and that dialogue in good faith and multilateral cooperation are needed to find sustainable solutions that meet the needs of everyone.

Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “The Doomsday Clock is sounding an alarm for the whole of humanity. We are on the brink of a precipice. But our leaders are not acting at sufficient speed or scale to secure a peaceful and liveable planet. From cutting carbon emissions to strengthening arms control treaties and investing in pandemic preparedness, we know what needs to be done. The science is clear, but the political will is lacking. This must change in 2023 if we are to avert catastrophe. We are facing multiple, existential crises. Leaders need a crisis mindset.”

Ban Ki-moon, Deputy Chair of The Elders and former UN Secretary-General, added: “Three years ago, I helped unveil the Doomsday Clock when its hands were last moved. Today they are even closer to midnight, showing how much more perilous our world has become in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme weather events and Russia’s outrageous war on Ukraine. Leaders did not heed the Doomsday Clock’s warnings in 2020. We all continue to pay the price. In 2023 it is vital for all our sakes that they act.”

Drawing on the values and mandate from Nelson Mandela, The Elders continue to incorporate four cross-cutting commitments across its programmes: multilateralism, human rights, gender equality and women in leadership, and intergenerational dialogue.

Visit The Elders to find out more about how it works, its mission and goals.

The Elders is a group of independent global leaders working together for peace, justice and human rights. Incubated by Virgin Unite and a group of partners, they were originally brought together by Nelson Mandela and his wife, and human rights leader, Graca Machel.