The symbolic countdown to humanitys end remained stuck at three minutes to the brink of the apocalypse for a second year in a row on Tuesday
The Doomsday Clock, the symbolic countdown to humanitys end, remained stuck on the brink of the apocalypse for a second year on Tuesday, because of the continued existential threats posed by nuclear war and climate change.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the group which created the clock in 1947, said it was keeping the clock hands set at three minutes to midnight the closest the clock has come to destruction since the throes of the cold war in 1984.
The clock ticks now at just three minutes to midnight because international leaders are failing to perform their most important duty, the scientists said.
The decision not to move the hands of the clock in 2016 is not good news, Lawrence Krauss, who chairs the Bulletins board of sponsors, said in announcing the new clock setting.
The scientists, reinforced by former US cabinet secretaries William Perry and George Shultz, based their dire symbolic forecast on challenges of a global scale such as nuclear war and climate change.
The scientists noted that the 11.57pm setting was one of the worst since the clocks inception. In 1991, when the threat of nuclear annihilation receded with the end of the cold war, the clock stood at 17 minutes to midnight.
Barack Obamas election was another occasion for the scientists to lower the danger setting, based on his campaign promise to abolish nuclear weapons.
With the Iranian nuclear agreement reached last year, the Obama administration made important progress in lowering tensions. But the Bulletin said US domestic political constraints had blocked Obama from doing more.
In addition, the scientists said such progress was undermined by high tensions between the US and Russia that are reminiscent of the cold war. The US, India, China and Russia were spending $350bn modernising their nuclear arsenals, and North Korea remained a nuclear risk.
In many ways, the world was a more dangerous place since the end of the cold war, said Shultz, who served as Ronald Reagans secretary of state in the 1980s during the height of the superpower rivalry between the US and former Soviet Union.
We have a world awash in change. There is nowhere you can look and say its a world of stable prosperity, Shultz said in a webcast from Stanford University. Its a terrible mess.
Regarding the other great global challenge, climate change, the scientists and political leaders noted that 2015 was the hottest year on record smashing through the previous record, set just one year before.
The Paris climate agreement though supported by more than 190 countries on its own was not enough to limit warming below 2C, the goal for preventing a climate catastrophe.
Leaders needed to focus on the big challenges of the age, said Jerry Brown, Californias governor.
Climate change is moving slowly but tipping points are around the corner and you dont know when you are going to reach one, he said.