In 1945, scientists from the Manhattan Project founded a nonprofit organization called the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists after becoming concerned about the dangers of the first atomic weapons.
Two years later, they created a symbolic “Doomsday Clock” that “conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making.” This year, scientists from the organization — along with a board of sponsors including 15 Nobel Laureates — have moved the clock’s minute hand to two and a half minutes until midnight, making the symbolic countdown to the apocalypse the shortest it’s been since 1953. The minute hand was set to two minutes that year when the hydrogen bomb was first tested.
The clock was last set forward in 2015, when the countdown was shortened from five minutes to three. It remained the same last year.
Scientists from the organization have listed several reasons for this year’s change, which all seem to involve the U.S.
One reason is climate change and the denial surrounding it. According to the 2017 statement concerning the clock, “Human activity is the primary cause of climate change, and unless carbon dioxide emissions are dramatically reduced, global warming will threaten the future of humanity.”
“The political situation in the United States is of particular concern. The Trump transition team has put forward candidates for cabinet-level positions (especially at the Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Department) who foreshadow the possibility that the new administration will be openly hostile to progress toward even the most modest efforts to avert catastrophic climate disruption.”
Another reason is the threat of nuclear warfare: “The United States and Russia — which together possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons — remained at odds in a variety of theaters [in 2016], from Syria to Ukraine to the borders of NATO; both countries continued wide-ranging modernizations of their nuclear forces, and serious arms control negotiations were nowhere to be seen.”
They also believe that we are facing a threat from new cyber technology in the way of creating fake news and participating in large-scale hacking.
“Sophisticated hacking — whether by private groups or governmental
entities — has the potential to create grave and large impacts,
threatening financial activities and national electrical power grids and
plants (including nuclear power plants) and the personal freedoms that
are based on the privacy at the core of democracy.”
(via USA Today)