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Scientists keep 'Doomsday Clock' close to midnight

Scientists behind the 'Doomsday Clock' - a symbolic countdown to global destruction - say it'll remain unchanged at three minutes to midnight in 2016. The device was last moved a year ago.

The decision not to move the clock was "not good news," cosmologist Lawrence Krauss told reporters in Washington DC on Tuesday.

Krauss is a professor at Arizona State University and a senior member of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the US-based journal and advocacy group founded by the creators of the atomic bomb.

At the press conference, the scientist noted that nuclear arsenals were growing and that global warming was still a threat.

"The fight against climate change has barely begun, and it is unclear if the nations of the world are ready to make the many hard choices that will be necessary to stabilize the climate and avert possible environmental disasters," said Krauss.

Bright spots in a 'darker world'

USA Tunnel für Nukleartests in Nevada

Entrance to nuclear testing area in Nevada

Both Russia and America are

modernizing their nuclear arsenals,

according to a statement from the Bulletin. Other atomic threats include the standoff between Pakistan and India, as well the North Korean nuclear program.

However, terrorism, cyber attacks, and the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine were also reason for concern, the scientists claim.

The group also briefly mentioned positive developments in 2015, including the Iran nuclear agreement and the Paris climate conference.

Although the accords were "major diplomatic achievements," they constitute "only small bright spots in a darker world situation full of potential for catastrophe," the Bulletin said.

Dancing on the edge

The Bulletin's clock was first conceived in 1947, at the outset of the Cold War. To this day, it is published in the prestigious science journal as a metaphor for how close humanity is to destroying the planet.

A group of scientists and intellectuals, including 16 Nobel Prize winners, decides on moving the hands.

In 1947, the clock was displayed as showing seven minutes to midnight. It came closest to apocalypse in 1953, after both the US and Russia tested hydrogen bombs.

Conversely, the scientists were most optimistic in 1991, deciding at 17 minutes to global destruction at the end of the Cold War.

Most recently, the "Doomsday Clock" was set two minutes forward last year, the position it is set to retain through 2016.

"It remains the closest it has been over the past 20 years," said Bulletin executive director Rachel Bronson on Tuesday.

The last time the Bulletin set its clock to three minutes to midnight was

in 1984, at the peak

of the Cold War.

dj/jr (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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