‘Doomsday clock’ ticks closer to apocalyptic midnight

(ABC News) – The world is as close to apocalyptic destruction as it has ever been in the 71-year history of the symbolic “Doomsday Clock,” the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said.

The Chicago-based nonprofit announced today the decision to advance its Doomsday Clock closer to midnight by 30 seconds. The clock is now two minutes to midnight, the symbolic hour of imminent doom.

The last time the symbolic clock edged that close to the end of humanity was in 1953, when the hydrogen bomb was first tested. The clock was as far away as 17 minutes from midnight in 1991, at the end of the Cold War when the United States and the Soviet Union were actively engaged in arms-control negotiations.

“This is the closest the clock has ever been to Doomsday, and as close as it was in 1953, at the height of the Cold War,” Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said at a news conference today.

“To call the world’s nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger and its immediacy,” she added.

Last year, at the start of Donald Trump’s presidency, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock from three minutes, to two minutes and 30 seconds to midnight, reflecting “a darkening security landscape characterized by an increasing recklessness around nuclear rhetoric and increasing attacks on experts and expertise worldwide,” according to Bronson.

This year, Bronson pointed to nuclear provocations from North Korea, nuclear exercises built into Russia’s military plans and an enhanced commitment to nuclear weapons in Pakistan, India and China as reasons the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists decided to further advance the Doomsday Clock.

The group also weighed the United States’ response, specifically the exchange of provocative rhetoric between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. An insufficient response to climate change, including the Trump administration’s plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, was also a significant factor in the group’s decision, Bronson said.

“We considered at length the lack of predictability in how the United States is thinking about the future and future use of its own nuclear weapons,” she said. “An unpredictability that is embodied in statements and tweets by the president of the United States.”

(CNN) – A panel of scientists and scholars said Thursday they believe the world is as close as it has ever been to a so-called doomsday scenario.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which has been tracking the threat posed by nuclear weapons and other technologies since the 1940s, moved the second hand forward on their Doomsday Clock forward closer to its symbolic apocalyptic midnight.
“It is with considerable concern that we set the time of the 2018 doomsday clock and offer a plea to rewind the doomsday clock,” said Bulletin of Atomic Scientists President and CEO Rachel Bronson. “As of today, it is two minutes to midnight.”
According to the group’s report, the greatest threats to global security came from the nuclear realm.
“North Korea’s nuclear weapons program made remarkable progress in 2017, increasing risks to North Korea itself, other countries in the region, and the United States,” the report notes. “Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions by both sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation.”
Speaking at a news conference Thursday, members of the panel discussed some of the specific threats that led them to revise the clock’s setting. In particular, several panelists bemoaned what they see as a reluctance by policymakers to embrace scientific data.
“Divorcing public policy from empirical reality endangers us all,” said theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, adding, “what we need is evidence-based policy making, not policy-based evidence making.”
The administration of US President Donald Trump was repeatedly singled out by the group over policies they view as harmful. These include the decision last year to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, and the administration’s disparagement of the Iran nuclear deal.
The last time the clock was so close to midnight was in 1953, when the US and the Soviet Union were engaged in a nuclear arms race.
In 2017, the board moved the clock from three minutes to midnight, to two and a half minutes to midnight.
The furthest the clock has been from midnight is 17 minutes in 1991.

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