The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds forward Thursday, placing the iconic indicator at two minutes to midnight.
First introduced in 1947, the clock, intended to portray the current threat of global catastrophe, is now as close as it has ever been to the so-called hour of the apocalypse in its 70 year history.
The internationally recognized symbol was updated during a press conference in Washington, D.C., where Bulletin president Rachel Bronson informed reporters of the change.
“As of today, it is two minutes to midnight,” Bronson said.
— Andrew Kimmel (@andrewkimmel) January 25, 2018
In an op-ed for the Washington Post Thursday, Lawrence Krauss, chair of the Bulletin and director of the Origins Project, argued that global threats have now risen to levels not seen since the height of the Cold War.
“The Science and Security Board for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists assesses that the world is not only more dangerous now than it was a year ago; it is as threatening as it has been since World War II,” Krauss writes. “In fact, the Doomsday Clock is as close to midnight today as it was in 1953, when Cold War fears perhaps reached their highest levels.”
Reasons cited include escalating tensions over North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs as well as an absence in arms control negotiations between the U.S. and Russia.
“We believe that the perilous world security situation described here would, in itself, justify moving the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight,” Krauss adds.
The clock’s advance follows reports over the past several months of a potential U.S. “bloody-nose” strike against targets in North Korea. Experts warn that such an attack could quickly spiral into a nuclear exchange.
The clock similarly moved forward 30 seconds last year from two and a half minutes to midnight.
“We hope this resetting of the clock will be interpreted exactly as it is meant: an urgent warning of global danger,” Krauss says.
The decision whether to alter the clock is made each year by the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board alongside its Board of Sponsors, which includes 15 Nobel laureates. The Bulletin was officially founded in 1945 by Manhattan Project scientists.