Scientists set the Doomsday Clock to two minutes until midnight. Photo by Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Jan. 24 (UPI) -- The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced Thursday that the Doomsday Clock would remain at two minutes until midnight.
Humanity has never been closer to catastrophe, according to the scientists and policy makers responsible for setting the clock. Last year, scientists set the clock at two minutes until midnight due to rising tensions between Russia and the United States, North Korea and the United States and the threat posed by human-caused global warming.
The reasons for this year's dire setting are largely the same.
"Humanity faces two dire and simultaneous existential threats: nuclear weapons and climate change," Jerry Brown, former governor of California, and William Perry, former U.S. Secretary of Defense, wrote in an op-ed published on CNN. "Tragically, things did not improve on either front in the last 12 months."
Brown currently serves as executive chairman of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, while Perry serves as chairman of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Board of Sponsors.
The Doomsday Clock was first established during the Cold War to draw attention to the threat of nuclear annihilation. The last time the clock's hands were so close to midnight, it was 1953 and the Soviet Union had just tested a hydrogen bomb.
In addition to the threat of climate change and nuclear war, the president of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Rachel Bronson, cited the growing problem of "information warfare and a steady misrepresentation of fact."
According to Bronson, the "intentional corruption of the information ecosystem" is making it more difficult for citizens and their governments to engage in rational dialogue about the world's most pressing problems.
In a report issued alongside the Doomsday Clock update, scientists highlighted the threat of "nuclear modernization" -- an arms race with a new name. Scientists also pointed out that carbon emissions rose in 2017 and 2018. Meanwhile, global leaders failed to adequately address the threat of climate change.
"Even nations that have strongly supported the need to decarbonize are not doing enough," researchers wrote in the new report. "Preliminary estimates show that almost all countries contributed to the rise in emissions."
The justification for the Doomsday Clock's dire setting echoes the findings of several other reports, including two published late last year claiming neither private promises of emissions reductions nor current government plans to address climate change were sufficient to avoid the worst effects of global warming.