CHICAGO (CBS) — The world has inched a little closer to the end of civilization, according to scientists at the University of Chicago.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved the infamous “Doomsday Clock” up to 2 ½ minutes to midnight, citing greater and more urgent danger of “global catastrophe.”
The clock had not moved since January 2015, when the Bulletin moved it up from 5 minutes to midnight to 3 minutes to midnight.
The Bulletin noted the U.S. and Russia remain at odds on a range of issues — including the war in Syria and the Russian annexation of Crimea — and that both nations have upgraded their nuclear arsenals. The scientists also pointed out North Korea has continued testing nuclear weapons.
While the Bulletin said the outlook on climate change was “somewhat less dismal,” it noted the need for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions well beyond those laid out in the landmark Paris climate accord.
The group also pointed to a “rise in strident nationalism” and noted new President Donald Trump made “disturbing comments” about the use of nuclear weapons and questioned the scientific proof behind climate change while on the campaign trail.
The Bulletin also cited a new and growing threat of “fake news.”
“This year’s Clock deliberations felt more urgent than usual. On the big topics that concern the board, world leaders made too little progress in the face of continuing turbulence,” said Dr. Rachel Bronson, the bulletin’s executive director and publisher. “In addition to the existential threats posed by nuclear weapons and climate change, new global realities emerged, as trusted sources of information came under attack, fake news was on the rise, and words were used in cavalier and often reckless ways.”
Bronson noted Pakistan’s foreign minister issued a statement on Twitter in December, stating “Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear State too,” in response to an article that falsely reported Israel had threatened to destroy Pakistan if it sent troops to war-torn Syria. Israel later notified Pakistan the article in question was false.
“Today’s complex global environment is in need of deliberate and considered policy responses. It is ever more important that senior leaders across the globe calm rather than stoke tensions that could lead to war, either by accident or miscalculation,” Bronson wrote.
This year is the 70th anniversary of the Doomsday Clock, and every year – and at key moments in history – scientists have moved its minute hand closer to or further from midnight, to represent the seriousness of global safety.
“I hope the debate engendered by the 2017 setting of the Clock raises the level of conversation, promotes calls to action, and helps citizens around the world hold their leaders responsible for delivering a safer and healthier planet,” Bronson wrote.
The closest the Doomsday Clock has come to the apocalypse is two minutes to midnight in 1953, after the United States and Russia both tested hydrogen bombs.