'Doomsday Clock' ticks closer to midnight

Scientists and experts moved the minute hand on the “Doomsday Clock” closer to midnight Thursday, warning that the world appears to be closer to a doomsday scenario than it has at any point since the 1950s.

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The metaphorical clock was unveiled Thursday during a news conference with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the group that has debated changes and maintained the “Doomsday Clock” for more than 70 years. The clock uses midnight to symbolize the apocalypse and was originally created to gauge the threat posed by man-made technological advancement.

"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 World War II," the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said Thursday in a statement.

The minute hand on the “Doomsday Clock” was moved up 30 seconds from its last position, set in 2017, based predominantly on the rising threat posed by nuclear weapons as President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung Un traded barbed comments, Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin, said Thursday at a news conference.

“To call the world’s nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger and its immediacy,” Bronson said. “Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions by both sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation.”

Lawrence Krauss, chair of the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors and director of Arizona State University’s Origins Project, said the issue was only made worse by the current swell of public skepticism.

“This danger looms at a time when there’s been a loss of trust in political institutions, in the media, in science and in facts themselves – all which exacerbate the difficulty in dealing with the real problems the world faces, and which threaten to undermine the ability of governments to effectively deal with these problems.”

The time revealed Thursday is the closest to midnight that the Doomsday Clock has ever been, tied with the time set in 1953, after the U.S. and the Soviet Union tested their first thermonuclear weapons within months of one another.

The clock has been set as far away from midnight as 17 minutes in 1991, at the end of the Cold War.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists urged world leaders to address the ongoing threats of both nuclear weapons and climate change in order to pull the world away from a possible catastrophe.

“It is not yet midnight, and we have moved back from the brink in the past,” Krauss said.

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