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Scientists move 'Doomsday Clock' to latest time in history

By Don Jacobson
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Scientists move 'Doomsday Clock' to latest time in history
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Executive Chair Jerry Brown announces Thursday the "Doomsday Clock" was moved forward 20 seconds to its latest time in history. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 23 (UPI) -- The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists on Thursday moved up its "Doomsday Clock" to 100 seconds before midnight -- the closest it's ever come to symbolic world destruction in the gauge's 73-year history.

The group set the clock -- which symbolically reflects how close the world is to "midnight," or its destruction -- ahead by 20 seconds during the event Thursday, to 11:58 p.m., and 20 seconds. It had been at two minutes to midnight since 2018.

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The group's moving the clock reflects all relative events that occurred in 2019.

Before Thursday, two minutes to midnight had been the closest the clock has been to midnight -- having reached that point just twice since the clock was established. The first was 1953 during the Cold War and followed the first U.S. test of a thermonuclear weapon.

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Former California Gov. Jerry Brown, the group's executive chairman, former Irish President Mary Robinson and former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon unveiled the new position at Thursday's event.

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists President and CEO Rachel Bronson said the move reflected the opinion of the scientists that the world had entered "a two-minute warning" for its survival.

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"When the board kept the clock at two minutes to midnight in 2019, we argued then that the global situation was abnormal, and that this 'new abnormal' was simply too volatile and too dangerous to accept as a continuing state of world affairs," she said. "Today we feel no more optimistic."

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The decision was made by the group's science and security board following a year in which man-made threats to humanity, such as nuclear proliferation and climate change, were hastened by moves away from international cooperation, she said. The science board found that both nuclear and climate change situations worsened last year.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists first began the tradition in 1947 as a way to gauge the world's proximity to nuclear holocaust. In 2007 the group added climate change as a factor in the clock's setting.

"We have seen influential leaders denigrate and discard the most effective methods for addressing complex threats -- international agreements with strong verification regimes -- in favor of their own narrow interests and domestic political gain," Bronson said.

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The furthest the clock has ever been from midnight was set in 1991, at 11:43, or 17 minutes from "doomsday," after the United States signed the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the Soviet Union dissolved.

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