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Doomsday Clock advances to two minutes to midnight

Doomsday Clock change
Doomsday Clock change 01:59

The destruction of the world is closer than it's been since 1953, a panel of atomic scientists concluded, moving the Doomsday Clock up 30 seconds from last year, to two minutes to midnight. The clock ticked forward because of "the failure of President Trump and other world leaders to deal with looming threats of nuclear war and climate change," physicist Lawrence Krauss and Robert Rosner, the chair of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, wrote Thursday in a Washington Post opinion piece.

The CEO of the Bulletin told reporters in Washington, "We considered at length the lack of predictability in how the United States is thinking about the use and future us of its own nuclear weapons, an unpredictability that is embodied in statements and tweets by the president of the United States." The president has tweeted insults about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the past several months and has also threatened the regime.

The scientists worry about the progress North Korea has made with its nuclear weapons program and criticized the failure to freeze it. CIA Director Mike Pompeo said this week that the North is "several months away" from the ability to put the U.S. "at risk," though he doesn't believe an attack is imminent. 

That the U.S. and Russia are engaged in nuclear arms control talks and both are upgrading their arsenals has, in the view of the scientists, increased global risk. Other factors they cited included South China Sea tensions, the growing nuclear arsenals of Pakistan and India and uncertainty over U.S. support for the Iran nuclear deal.

Nuclear annihilation isn't the only threat bringing the world closer to its end, according to the scientists. They argue that Mr. Trump's decision to "turn a blind eye" to climate change in the face of more extreme weather has heightened global peril.

The world could end in any number of ways -- perhaps a meteor, a pandemic, a super volcano -- but the Doomsday Clock only moves on human action. That second hand edges closer or farther from midnight based on its assessment of global risk, based on threats brought about by human action.  The last time the clock was set to two minutes to midnight was 1953, when the U.S. and Soviet Union had each tested their first hydrogen bombs. 

The Bulletin deemed world safest from annihilation in 1991 -- with 17 minutes to spare -- after the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty at the end of the Cold War.

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