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In an apocalyptic warning, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight on Thursday. 

The clock is now set at 100 seconds to midnight, indicating that nuclear war and the devastating effects of climate change are bigger threats to civilization than they were the year before.

“We are now expressing how close the world is to catastrophe in seconds — not hours, or even minutes,” the Bulletin’s CEO and President Rachel Bronson said in a statement. “We have normalized a very dangerous world in terms of the risks of nuclear warfare and climate change.” 

The minute hand of the symbolic clock was last moved nearly two years ago to within two minutes of midnight, the doomsday hour. In 2019, the clock was kept at the two-minute setting due to the existential threats of cyberattacks, nuclear arms dealings, and climate change. Now, the clock is another 20 seconds closer to the fateful prediction.

The Bulletin, which created the clock during the Cold War in 1947, published an assessment along with the announcement of the time change, which paints a grim picture of the future of civilization.

In the statement, the scientists blame world leaders for pushing the world closer to doomsday, arguing that government unwillingness to take the threats of climate change and nuclear war seriously has left global civilization more vulnerable than ever before. 

“Over the last two years, 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,” the Bulletin said.

The group also claimed that the world is now closer to doomsday than it was during the Cold War. When the Soviet Union was on the verge of testing their hydrogen bomb in 1953, the Bulletin set the clock to within two minutes of midnight. 

After the collapse of the USSR, the minute hand was slowly moved back. The furthest the clock has been to midnight was in 1991 when the clock was set to 17 minutes to midnight.

In response to the Doomsday Clock’s latest shift, former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged leaders to take immediate action to combat climate change.

“We must see an immediate end to the investment in and exploration of fossil fuels. We must heed the demands of the young people on our streets and listen to the science. We cannot negotiate with nature,” he said, NBC reported. 

The Bulletin meets annually with their board of sponsors to assess existential threat levels and determine whether or not to readjust the clock.


Defend the Planet

Scientists Set Doomsday Clock to 100 Seconds to Midnight

By Erica SánchezPia Gralki  and  Catherine Caruso