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Tick-tock, Donald Trump comments reset the 'Doomsday Clock'

A group of US scientists have moved up the hands of the symbolic "Doomsday Clock" by 30 seconds due to comments made the new US president. The group called for climate change action as well as reducing nuclear dangers.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists unveiled its updated "Doomsday Clock" on Thursday - and it doesn't look good. The symbolic countdown to man-made global destruction now stands at two and a half minutes to midnight - the closest it has been since 1953.

The clock - which serves as a visual metaphor for how close humans are to destroying the world with technology - has moved up for the first time by 30 seconds due, in large part, to the comments by the new US President Donald Trump.

"He has made ill-considered comments about expanding the US nuclear arsenal. He has shown a troubling propensity to discount or outright reject expert advice related to international security, including the conclusions of intelligence experts," the group's statement read.

But who watches the "Doomsday Clock?" The decision whether or not to move the clock's hands is led by a group of scientists and intellectuals that includes 15 Nobel laureates.

The group also called out Trump's "disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change." Trump has made contradictory statements about climate change, at times saying it is a China-perpetuated hoax and other times saying he would keep an open mind to it.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration mandated that any studies or data from scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) undergo review by political appointees before being released to the public. His administration also instructed the agency's employees to limit how they communicate to the public.

USA Trump unterzeichnet das Dekret zum Grenzzaun mit Mexiko (Getty Images/AFP/N. Kamm)

Trump said the US must "expand its nuclear capability" in response to Russia possibly increasing its nuclear stockpile

Closest to midnight in 63 years

Social media users who ostensibly support Trump called the move a joke and targeted attack against the new US president. However, the clock was moved up from five to three minutes to midnight in 2015 while former President Barack Obama was in office.

The group's statement also called on US and Russian leaders to reduce their nuclear arms stocks and reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

The "Doomsday Clock" was created 70 years ago by atomic scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project that developed the first atomic weapons. The minute hand has changed 19 times since then from the two minutes to midnight from 1953 up to 17 minutes before midnight in 1991 at the end of the Cold War.

"Wise public officials should act immediately, guiding humanity away from the brink. If they do not, wise citizens must step forward and lead the way."

rs/msh   (AFP, dpa)