On Thursday, scientists moved the minute hand on the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to midnight citing an increase in dangers to humanity including climate change and nuclear warfare. The clock is now two-and-a-half minutes away from midnight.
Every year, the Chicago-based Bulletin of Atomic Scientists decide if the clock, a symbolic countdown to the end of the world, will move.
This is the first time the clock has been this close to midnight since 1953, when it was set to two minutes from midnight when both the Soviet Union and the United States were first testing hydrogen bombs. It remained at two minutes to midnight until 1960.
In 2015, the clock was moved from 5 minutes to midnight to 3 minutes to midnight.
“There is no single biggest factor and the three or four that we focused on, the traditional one of nuclear concerns is now joined clearly by climate change, but also cyber and new scientific developments,” said Thomas Pickering, Bulletin Board of Sponsors and former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.
Explaining its decision to move the minute hand, the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board said:
“Over the course of 2016, the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change … This already-threatening world situation was the backdrop for a rise in strident nationalism worldwide in 2016, including in a U.S. presidential campaign during which the eventual victor, Donald Trump, made disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.”
A team of scientists at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have been compiling research to set the Doomsday Clock since 1945. According to the group, the clock “conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making.”
The Doomsday Clock was initially created as an indicator of nuclear conflict, but now includes threats such as climate change, biological weapons and cyber threats.
The decision to move the minute hands on the clock is made by the board of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists along with input from a board of sponsors, including 15 Nobel Laureates, the group says.