The possibility of an apocalypse prompted by human activity has increased this year, scientists say

By Jason Duaine Hahn
January 23, 2020 06:13 PM
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Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists/Twitter

The Doomsday Clock has been set at 100 seconds to midnight, marking the closest point humanity has been to armageddon at any point in the clock’s history, according to scientists.

Citing potential nuclear war and the rising threat of climate change, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists — the nonprofit group that manages the symbolic clock, which was created in 1947 — moved the timepiece from two minutes to a minute and 40 seconds to midnight on Thursday.

“We are now expressing how close the world is to catastrophe in seconds — not hours, or even minutes,” Rachel Bronson, the Bulletin’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “We now face a true emergency — an absolutely unacceptable state of world affairs that has eliminated any margin for error or further delay.”

“We now face a true emergency – an absolutely unacceptable state of world affairs that has eliminated any margin for error or further delay,” she added.

The threat of nuclear war has increased due to U.S. rising tensions with Russia, Iran and North Korea, the group said. With various arms control treaties breaking apart over the last year, a renewed nuclear arms race could be at hand.

“Dangerous rivalry and hostility among the superpowers increases the likelihood of nuclear blunder,” former California Governor Jerry Brown said in the statement. “Climate change just compounds the crisis. If there’s ever a time to wake up, it’s now.”

A report published by the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration in Australia last year found that climate change presents an existential threat to human civilization that could cause global famine and drought if no major actions to curb greenhouse emissions are enacted as soon as possible.

If not, by 2050 — a mere 30 years from now — civilization as we know it could be upturned and brought to an end, researchers said.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists also identified another threat that could lead to the end of humanity: cyber-based disinformation. The group said governments have used disinformation to undermine domestic and international efforts to encourage peace.

“Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers — nuclear war and climate change — that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond,” the group said.

The Doomsday Clock has inched closer to midnight in three of the last four years. The clock was adjusted to three minutes to midnight in 2017, two and a half minutes in 2018, and was not adjusted in 2019.