'Doomsday Clock' moved 20 seconds closer to catastrophe

The metaphorical clock is now set at 100 seconds before midnight.

January 23, 2020, 10:54 AM

The world just got 20 seconds closer to catastrophe.

Gauging the duel threats of nuclear warfare and climate change, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced on Thursday that the minute hand on the metaphorical "Doomsday Clock" has been moved forward to 100 seconds before midnight, the closest it has come to signaling a global meltdown.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, comprised of world leaders and Nobel Laureates, announced its decision in a live-stream webcast.

The world is now closer to an apocalyptic meltdown with the recalibration of the "Doomsday Clock."

PHOTO: The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announce the Doomsday Clock is moving 20 seconds closer to midnight, Jan. 23, 2020.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announce the Doomsday Clock is moving 20 seconds closer to midnight, Jan. 23, 2020.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

"The bulletin is thus joining with tomorrow's leaders and today's most authoritative political ones to assert that the current environment is profoundly unstable and urgent action and immediate engagement is required by all," Rachel Bronson, president of the organization, said at a news conference.

She went on, "Both the nuclear and climate conditions are worsening, and we note that over the last two years we have seen influential leaders denigrate and discard the most effective methods for addressing complex threats -- international agreements with strong verification regimes -- in favor of their own narrow interests and domestic political gain. By undermining cooperative science and law-based approaches to managing the most urgent threats to humanity, leaders have help to create a situation that will if unaddressed lead to catastrophe sooner rather than later."

In January 2019, the atomic scientific group decided not to move the minute hand, a year after it adjusted the clock ahead 30 seconds.

“We are living in a period of great uncertainty caused by both technology and failures of leadership. It is urgent that we collectively work to reduce the instability that causes,” Robert Latiff, a member of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and an adjunct professor at the University of Notre Dame’s Reilly Center for Science, Technology and Values, said in a statement.

Latiff was scheduled to speak at Thursday's event along with former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, and former California Gov. Jerry Brown, who is the executive chairman of the Bulletin of Scientists.

The "Doomsday Clock" was established in 1947, less than two years after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, during World War II. The clock was initially set at seven minutes before midnight.

Over the past seven decades, the clock has been adjusted forward and backward. The farthest the minute hand was pushed back from the cataclysmic midnight hour was 17 minutes in 1991 after the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty was revived and then-President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev both announced reductions in the nuclear arsenals of their respective countries.

In 2019, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists decided not to adjust the minute hand citing what they described as “the new abnormal,” a moment in history "in which fact is becoming indistinguishable from fiction, undermining our very abilities to develop and apply solutions to the big problems of our time."

Bronson said on Thursday that conditions have grown worse and that the world has entered into "a period when danger is high and the margin for error is low.

"To move the clock closer to midnight moves us into a period that requires newfound vigilance and focus from leaders and citizens alike as if every second matters," Bronson said. "The moment demands attention and new creative responses."

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