Doomsday Clock is set at 2 minutes to midnight, closest since 1950s, closest to doomsday

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Robert Rosner, chairman of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, right, and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists member Lawrence Krauss, left, stand next to the Doomsday Clock after unveiling it during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018., announcing that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight. ( AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Doomsday Clock is a symbol which represents the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe. Maintained since 1947 by the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board, the clock represents an analogy for the threat of global nuclear war, and 0 o’clock signifies the doomsday. Due to worse and worse nuclear threats and climate change, recently, the clock was moved for 30 seconds, leaving only two minutes from midnight, a symbol of humankind’s demise.

Its original setting in 1947 was seven minutes to midnight; afterwards, the adjustment is determined by the Journal of the Atomic Scientist magazine with possibility of a nuclear war. It has been set backward and forward 22 times since then, the smallest-ever number of minutes to midnight being two (in 1953 and 2018) and the largest seventeen (in 1991).

As of January 2017, the clock is set at two and a half minutes to midnight, due to the new United States President Donald Trump’s comments over North Korea, Russia, and nuclear weapons. This is the first time that the Doomsday Clock was set for a single person, and this setting is the clock’s second-closest approach to midnight since its introduction.

From left, Thomas Pickering, co-chair of the International Crisis Group; David Titley, a nationally known expert in the field of climate, the Arctic, and national security and Lawrence Krauss, theoretical physicist, chair of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Board of Sponsors, participate in a news conference the at the National Press Club in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017, announcing that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist have moved the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock to two and a half minutes to midnight. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Doomsday Clock was advanced by 30 seconds on January 25 this year, to 2 minutes to midnight, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced in Washington, which is the clock was set to the smallest-ever number of minutes to midnight. The last time the clock was moved so close to midnight was in 1953, during the Cold War. At that time, the polarization of the U.S. and S.R. successively developed hydrogen bombs and nuclear weapons, which warmed up the tensions between them in Cold War. However, sometimes the clock failed to reflect the events in time. For instance, the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 which peaked tense relations between the U.S. and the S.R. in Cold War didn’t make the committee reset the clock.

“In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change, making the world security situation more dangerous than it was a year ago — and as dangerous as it has been since World War II,” the bulletin’s science and security board said in a statement. The so-called “world leader” in the statement, in particular, refers to U.S. president Trump, whose tensions with North Korea are rising. They also cited that ”in 2017, the United States backed away from its longstanding leadership role in the world, reducing its commitment to seek common ground and undermining the overall effort toward solving pressing global governance challenges.”

It was mentioned in the statement that the factors which have deteriorated the security situation in the international community include the cooling down of the U.S.-Russian relations, the tensions in the South China Sea, the build-up of nuclear arsenals in India and Pakistan, the U.S. refusal to acknowledge the position of climate change and the uncertainty over the Iran Nuclear Agreement.

The scientists also warned that the world fails to reduce the greenhouses gases, and the reductions are needed to prevent disastrous global warming. Climate change first factored into the setting of the clock in 2007. Because the scientists believed that climate change would encourage the applications of nuclear energy and may lead to the shortage of food and water, which triggers a war, thus indirectly increasing the chance of using nuclear weapons. Afterwards, climate change has been one of the factors of setting the clock every time.

Robert Rosner, chairman of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, moves the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. ( AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

In addition to moving the Doomsday Clock close to midnight, there are also chances to moving it away from midnight. The Journal of Atomic Scientist magazine may set the clock away from midnight in response to the international situation. For instance, the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 which made dramatic change in Eastern European politics, and the Cold War was also coming to an end. In 1990, the committee decided to move the clock for 4 minutes from the midnight, and the time shown on the clock become 23:50.

(photo by screenshot via Wikipedia)

Although in the statement, uncontrolled North Korea’s nuclear issue is one of the key factors driving the Doomsday Clock forward to midnight, according to East Asia Daily, the South Korean minister of unification Cho Myoung Gyon said the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which symbolizes the ice-breaking relations between South Korea and South Korea, is coming, if North Korea conducts arms tests at this time, it will be regarded by the international community as a vandalism and challenge to the Olympic spirit. It will also seem like throwing a wet blanket on the U.S. that has agreed to postpone the U.S.-South Korea military exercises toward North Korea. Kim Jong-un would not take any risks at this time to improve the possibilities of conflict.

North Korea women’s ice hockey team members look around the weight room at the Jincheon national training center in Jincheon, South Korea, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. Female hockey players from the rival Koreas were paired up with each other Thursday to form their first-ever Olympic squad during next month’s Pyeongchang Winter Games, as their countries press ahead with rare reconciliation steps following a period of nuclear tensions. (The South Korea Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism/Yonhap via AP)