WASHINGTON – Scientists moved the hands of the “Doomsday Clock” closer to midnight on Thursday to reflect what they see as growing threats to humanity’s survival.
“As of today, it is two minutes to midnight,” Rachel Bronson, president of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, said during the announcement at the National Press Club in Washington.
Among the dangers cited by the group are climate change and an increasing likelihood of nuclear conflict.
The Bulletin organization, now numbering 15 Nobel laureates among its directors, was founded by veterans of the Manhattan Project, which created the atomic bombs that the US dropped on Japan in 1945.
Created in 1947 to symbolize the menace posed by nuclear weapons, the Doomsday Clock was initially set at 11:53 and has oscillated between 11:43 and 11:58 over the last six decades.
The first time the hands were moved closer to midnight was in 1949, after the-then Soviet Union conducted its first test of an atomic weapon.
The scientists customarily move the hands in one-minute increment, but in 2017, following the election of Donald Trump as US president, the Doomsday Clock was advanced 30 seconds to 11:57:30.
“The world is not only more dangerous now than it was a year ago; it is as threatening as it has been since World War II,” Bulletin officials Lawrence M. Krauss and Robert Rosner wrote in an op-ed published Thursday by The Washington Post. “In fact, the Doomsday Clock is as close to midnight today as it was in 1953, when Cold War fears perhaps reached their highest levels.”