Symbolic Doomsday Clock moved forward to two minutes to midnight

The clock is a metaphor for how close mankind is to destroying the Earth

(Photo: ABC)
(Photo: ABC)

With growing concerns about a possible nuclear war and other global threats, the symbolic Doomsday Clock has been pushed forward by 30 seconds, to just two minutes before midnight.

Scientists moved the clock forward due to nuclear weapons and climate change worries, and put much of the blame on the Trump administration.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) said it had acted because the world was becoming "more dangerous".

The clock was created by the journal in 1947, and is a metaphor for how close mankind is to destroying the Earth.

The only other time the clock was set so close to catastrophe in its 71-year history was in 1953, after the US and the Soviet Union detonated their first thermonuclear bombs.

In the immediate aftermath of the cold war, the clock was set back to 17 minutes to midnight, but optimism about humanity’s future has steadily eroded since then.

Last year, the clock was also moved forward by 30 seconds.

Announcing the decision on Thursday, the BAS said it “wasn’t easy” and said it was not based on a single factor.  They said they were deeply disturbed by the rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, the increasing emphasis on nuclear weapons by major powers, the absence of arms control negotiations around the world, and the wavering political will to combat climate change.

“To call the world’s nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger and its immediacy,” said Rachel Bronson, the bulletin’s president and CEO, told journalists in Washington.

The team singled out a series of nuclear tests by North Korea. The BAS also referred to a new US nuclear strategy that was expected to call for more funding to expand the role of the country's nuclear arsenal.

The scientists singled out the Trump administration as a major facto behind the increased risks to the planet, pointing out the president’s volatility as expressed through his tweets and statements. As well as the inconsistency of the administration’s foreign policy, and its apparent disdain for science, reflected in its high-level appointments, which have included climate change deniers.

Rising tension between Russia and the West was also a contributing factor.

The symbolic device was created by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947. It was founded at the University of Chicago in 1945 by a group of scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons.

Today, the group includes physicists and environmental scientists from around the world, who decide whether to adjust the clock in consultation with the group's Board of Sponsors.

The BAS says: "The answers to this seeming anomaly are that the Doomsday Clock captures trends and takes into account the capacity of leaders and societies to respond to crises with reasoned actions to prevent nuclear holocaust.