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26 Jan 2018

Doomsday Clock moved to two minutes to midnight

The Doomsday Clock, which serves as a metaphor for how close humanity is to destroying the planet, was moved to two minutes before midnight or doomsday, said the Bulletin for Atomic Scientists.

Rachel Bronson, the CEO and director of the Bulletin, described 2017 as "perilous and chaotic".

After 1953's nuclear tests, this is the closest the Doomsday Clock has been to midnight.

In context

Doomsday Clock closest to midnight since 1953

World leaders failed to address threats to humanity in 2017

"In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change, making the world security situation more dangerous than it was a year ago - and as dangerous as it has been since WWII," said a Bulletin statement.

2018 looks bleak amid a global nuclear ramp-up

Nuclear ramp-up

2018 looks bleak amid a global nuclear ramp-up

The Bulletin said that North Korea's progress in their nuclear programme, coupled with "hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions" by both the US and North Korea "have increased the possibility of nuclear war".

Robert Rosner, an astrophysics professor at the University of Chicago, singled out the Trump administration, saying its "inconsistency" worsened nuclear risks.

Moreover, all "major weapons states" were also investing in nuclear arsenals.

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The origins of the Doomsday Clock

Founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had helped develop the world's first nuclear weapons in the Manhattan Project, the Doomsday Clock was created by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists two years later. The clock has since become a symbol of humanity's vulnerability.

Climate change

Solutions to climate change becoming increasingly difficult to find

Climate change was also a leading factor.

Since 1953, when climate change was perceived as a "distant hypothetical threat", carbon dioxide levels have increased six-folds leaving the Earth one degree Celsius warmer.

2017 saw "cataclysmic damage" across the world from hurricanes, wildfires, and melting of polar ice caps, and finding solutions is becoming harder due to a global "abuse of information", said the Bulletin.

Who makes the decision to change the Doomsday Clock's hands?

The decision to move or not move the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock is made by the Bulletin's Science and Security Board in consultation with the Bulletin's Board of Sponsors which includes 15 Nobel laureates.

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