A panel of scientists and scholars said Thursday they believe the world is as close as it has ever been to a so-called doomsday scenario.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which has been tracking the threat posed by nuclear weapons and other technologies since the 1940s, moved the second hand forward on their Doomsday Clock forward closer to its symbolic apocalyptic midnight.
“It is with considerable concern that we set the time of the 2018 doomsday clock and offer a plea to rewind the doomsday clock,” said Bulletin of Atomic Scientists President and CEO Rachel Bronson. “As of today, it is two minutes to midnight.”
According to the group’s report, the greatest threats to global security came from the nuclear realm.
“North Korea’s nuclear weapons program made remarkable progress in 2017, increasing risks to North Korea itself, other countries in the region, and the United States,” the report notes. “Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions by both sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation.”
Speaking at a news conference Thursday, members of the panel discussed some of the specific threats that led them to revise the clock’s setting. In particular, several panelists bemoaned what they see as a reluctance by policymakers to embrace scientific data.
“Divorcing public policy from empirical reality endangers us all,” said theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, adding, “what we need is evidence-based policy making, not policy-based evidence making.”
The administration of US President Donald Trump was repeatedly singled out by the group over policies they view as harmful. These include the decision last year to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, and the administration’s disparagement of the Iran nuclear deal.
The last time the clock was so close to midnight was in 1953, when the US and the Soviet Union were engaged in a nuclear arms race.
In 2017, the board moved the clock from three minutes to midnight, to two and a half minutes to midnight. The furthest the clock has been from midnight is 17 minutes in 1991.