'Doomsday Clock' ticks 30 seconds closer to midnight's apocalyptic destruction

26 January 2018, 01:48 | Isaac Mcdaniel

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists unveils this year's Doomsday Clock in Washington

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists unveils this year's Doomsday Clock in Washington

That sent a message that the Earth was closer to oblivion than any time since the early days of hydrogen bomb testing and 1984, when US-Soviet relations reached "their iciest point in decades".

"To call the world's nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger and its immediacy", she added.

"In its rush to dismantle rational climate and energy policy, the administration has ignored scientific fact and well-founded economic analyses", the group said, pointing to, among other things, the administration's decision to pull the USA out of the historic Paris climate change pact.

For the first time, the Doomsday Clock was influenced by statements from an incoming US President, Donald Trump, regarding the proliferation and the prospect of actually using nuclear weapons. The clock's reset also stems from concerns that weapons of mass destruction might be used "intentionally or because of miscalculation", according to the Bulletin's board of directors, which includes 15 Nobel laureates.

A year ago it moved from three minutes before midnight to two-and-a-half minutes.

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And as 2018 begins with the clock's hands 2 minutes from midnight, the urgency for addressing these issues is arguably greater than ever before.

The symbolic clock is now the closest it's been to midnight since 1953. The BAS also drew attention to "hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions" by both North Korea and the USA, which it said "increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation". The furthest the clock has been from midnight is 17 minutes in 1991.

This parade of nuclear-tinged crises has steadily worsened over the past year: North Korea and the United States appear to be on a collision course, fueled by schoolyard taunts, missile tests and threats of "fire and fury". They included the cessation of North Korea's missile tests, an agreement on the Iran nuclear deal and increased global efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Let's face it, folks - most of us who are alarmed at the lack of progress on global warming, nuclear brinksmanship between the USA and North Korea, and other events are already anxious.

Robert Rosner, professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Physics at the University of Chicago, singled out the Trump administration for its "inconsistency", which he said worsens nuclear risks and "constitutes a major challenge for deterrence... and global stability". Although the Doomsday Clock has been reset 23 times since its establishment in 1947, its hands haven't always moved forward. Pakistan and India's growing arsenals of nuclear weapons. Moving closer to midnight was a recognition of the danger but also a plea to move it back again - something that could be done by getting back to arms control and responding to the threat of climate change.

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