According to the Doomsday Clock, it’s still 2 minutes to midnight. That’s the same time as last year, and remains the closest it’s been since 1953 at the height of the Cold War.
Each year, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a non-profit group that sets the clock, decides whether the events of the previous year pushed humanity closer or farther from destruction.
The closer to midnight we are, the more danger we’re in. According to the group, the clock “conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making.”
“A new abnormal: It is still two minutes to midnight,” the Bulletin reported Thursday. “Humanity now faces two simultaneous existential threats, either of which would be cause for extreme concern and immediate attention.
“These major threats – nuclear weapons and climate change – were exacerbated this past year by the increased use of information warfare to undermine democracy around the world, amplifying risk from these and other threats and putting the future of civilization in extraordinary danger,”
Former California Governor Jerry Brown, executive chair of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said: “Humanity faces two dire and simultaneous existential threats: nuclear weapons and climate change. The longer world leaders and citizens thoughtlessly inhabit this abnormal reality, the more likely it is that we will experience the unthinkable.”
The farthest it’s been from midnight was in 1991 when the clock was 17 minutes to midnight, due to the end of the Cold War.
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The clock has been maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1947. The group was founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had helped develop the first nuclear weapons in the Manhattan Project.
The scientists created the clock in 1947 using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and a nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the Earth.
The decision is made by the board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, along with input from a board of sponsors that includes 14 Nobel Laureates.
Lawrence Krauss – the former Arizona State University physicist who for many years was a prominent spokesman for the Doomsday Clock – was not a part of the announcement this week. This is due to allegations of sexual harassment at Arizona State that surfaced in early 2018, after which Krauss resigned from his position as the chairman of the board of sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
The announcement was made in Washington, D.C., at the National Press Club.