Scientist group moves ′Doomsday Clock′ to 2 minutes to midnight | News | DW | 25.01.2018
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Scientist group moves 'Doomsday Clock' to 2 minutes to midnight

The risk of global catastrophe is at its highest since the early Cold War. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists group cited nuclear tensions, continued global warming and disruptive new technologies.

Scientists from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the publication's "Doomsday Clock" forward by 30 seconds on Thursday, the closest the symbolic measure has been to midnight since the height of the Cold War.

The clock, which now stands at two minutes to twelve — the closest to midnight since 1953 — is a widely cited estimation for how likely the world is to a global catastrophe.

"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 said in its annual report explaining the change.

The Bulletin — led by a group of intellectuals that includes 15 Nobel laureates — has made the estimation every year since creating the clock in 1947. The dial moved to 2 minutes and 30 seconds to midnight in 2017 following the election of US President Donald Trump.

Read more: Nuclear buttons: How easy is the beginning of the end?

Nuclear risk

An increased risk of nuclear weapons being used in 2017 was the main reason for Thursday's decision.

The Bulletin cited growing tensions about North Korea's weapons program, arms control disputes between Russia and the US and the continuing nuclear arms race between Pakistan and India.

On the Korean Peninsula, the public spat between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump had made tensions worse, it said.

"Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions by both sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation."

Read more: Pope Francis bemoans 2017 as a year of war, lies and injustice

Climate dangers, technological abuse

The Bulletin also said a lack of progress on combating global warming and the "abuse" of new technologies had also motivated their decision.

"After plateauing for a few years, greenhouse gas emissions resumed their stubborn rise in 2017," it said. "The existential threat posed by climate change looms larger."

Meanwhile, sophisticated new technologies have allowed hackers to undermine political stability in many democratic countries. The report also cited the prospect of fully autonomous weapons. 

Read more: Global warming: 2017 was second-warmest, last three years are record hot

Hope?

The Bulletin said the world could become "safer and saner" if leaders reduced global tensions, stopped expanding nuclear weapon arsenals, reined in carbon emissions and took steps to control new technologies.

"The Doomsday Clock has ticked away from midnight in the past, and during the next year, the world can again move it further from apocalypse."

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