The threat of global catastrophe remains at its highest level since the Cold War, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. The group has warned of a "new abnormal" in regards to world security.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists unveiled its "Doomsday Clock" on Wednesday, with the symbolic countdown to the apocalypse reading 2 minutes to midnight — the same as last year.
The group of scientists, which includes 15 Nobel Prize laureates, cites global warming, the threat of nuclear war and the manipulation of facts as factors that have brought the planet "the closest it has ever been to apocalypse."
"Though unchanged from 2018, this setting should be taken not as a sign of stability but as a stark warning to leaders and citizens around the world," the group said. "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."
The Bulletin, founded by University of Chicago scientists in 1945, created the "Doomsday Clock" in 1947 and it has changed 20 times since then. The clock was moved to 2 minutes to midnight in 2018, the closest the symbolic measure had been since the height of the Cold War in 1953, over concerns of nuclear war with North Korea and "unpredictability" from United States President Donald Trump.
The group and its report gained notoriety in no small part thanks to the cult comic — and later movie — "Watchmen," in which it featured heavily.
The 'new abnormal'
In regards to the threat of nuclear war, the group described the world security situation as a "new abnormal," which Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the bulletin, described as "a state that features an unpredictable and shifting landscape of simmering disputes that multiply the chances for a major conflict to erupt."
"The new normal risks emboldening autocrats and lulling citizens around the world into a dangerous sense of anomie and political paralysis," Bronson said in a statement accompanying the report.
The Bulletin highlighted the US' withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and its announcement to abandon the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). It also said that the "urgent Nuclear Korean nuclear dilemma remains unresolved" despite the fact that the nation's leader, Kim Jong Un, held a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Trump.
Climate change and fake news
The group said global carbon dioxide emissions "resumed an upward climb in 2017 and 2018," adding that the international community "failed dismally" to halt the effects of climate change.
It characterized the 2015 Paris Climate Accord as "increasingly beleaguered" after the US "allied itself with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait" — which are all major oil-producing countries — at December's COP24 climate conference in Poland.
The Bulletin also highlighted fake news and misinformation as a threat to civilization, laying part of the blame on social media. It said "cyber-enabled information warfare" contributes to the threat of nuclear war and climate change while also "undermining modern civilization generally."
"In many forums, including particularly social media, nationalist leaders and their surrogates lied shamelessly, insisting that their lies were truth, and the truth 'fake news,'" the group said. "These intentional attempts to distort reality exaggerate social divisions, undermine trust in science, and diminish confidence in elections and democratic institutions."
dv/msh (AFP, dpa)