Exemplifying what they are calling “the new abnormal,” the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on Thursday declined to move the minute hand of its iconic Doomsday Clock, keeping it at two minutes to midnight.
Two is the closest the metaphorical minute hand has ever been to its vertical position, which symbolizes the apocalypse.
“The message we’re conveying is it is as dangerous as it has been since we’ve been looking at it, including the dark days of the Cold War,” said Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin.
Former California Governor Jerry Brown, who was named executive chairman of the group last year, joined the panel at the unveiling and focused on maintaining a positive dialogue with Russia.
"I think it’s stupid for the Democrats to be attacking Putin on all issues, and not holding open the channel of nuclear dialogue," Brown said.
Brown added that this does not mean Russian misdeeds should go ignored.
"The fact that we find Putin and the Russians doing things we abhor is all the more reason to talk," Brown told ABC News. "Because if the world gets blown up, the fact that we stood on our high horse not willing to talk will look pretty bad."
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists cited an easing of tensions with North Korea as a positive trend, but said more needs to be done.
"Although the United States and North Korea moved away from the bellicose rhetoric of 2017, the urgent North Korean nuclear dilemma remains unresolved," the 2019 Doomsday Clock statement read. "Meanwhile, the world’s nuclear nations proceeded with programs of 'nuclear modernization' that are all but indistinguishable from a worldwide arms race, and the military doctrines of Russia and the United States have increasingly eroded the long-held taboo against the use of nuclear weapons."
Climate change, the dismantling of the Iran nuclear deal and the growing specter of cyber attacks were cited by the organization as other threats pushing the clock forward.
Before 2018, the last time the clock was two minutes from midnight was in 1953, after both the United States and Soviet Union had tested their first hydrogen bombs.
"The hands of the clock of doom have moved again," Bulletin co-founder Eugene Rabinowitch wrote at the time. "Only a few more swings of the pendulum, and, from Moscow to Chicago, atomic explosions will strike midnight for Western civilization."
The clock is not meant to translate into any literal amount of time, but instead is intended to give a relative idea of how much danger the world is in, according to the panel of experts that sets it. It does not imply an inevitable countdown to annihilation.
And the clock has occasionally been unwound. The fall of the Berlin Wall helped bring the long hand backward by 14 minutes between 1984 to 1991, for instance.
The clock began as the cover of a 1947 issue of the Bulletin's magazine. The artist who designed it arbitrarily set it at seven minutes to midnight, according to the organization.
While the hands were not moved forward this year, the Bulletin was careful to note that their announcement is not meant to be good news.
"Though unchanged from 2018, this setting should be taken not as a sign of stability but as a stark warning to leaders and citizens around the world," their statement read.