On Thursday, the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock, which indicates how close the world’s leading scientists think we are from destroying the planet, was moved forward to two and a half minutes to midnight, amid increasing concerns over nuclear weapons and climate change.
Midnight on the clock represents doomsday.
The Bulletin’s science and security board decided to advance the clock “in part based on the words of a single person: Donald Trump, the new President of the United States,” it said in a news release on Thursday.
The board called Trump’s comments about expanding the US nuclear arsenal and his disbelief in climate change “disturbing” and said his “statements and his actions as President-elect have broken with historical precedent in unsettling ways.”
In January 2014, Trump said in a tweet, “Global warming is an expensive hoax!” and in November 2012, Trump claimed in a tweet that the “concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”
During his election campaign Trump promised to back out of the Paris accord.
The closer the minute hand is to midnight, the higher the chance of a global cataclysm, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the group that sets the time on the symbolic clock.
The clock’s minute hand is assessed each year, and the clock’s time “conveys how close we are to destroying our civilisation with dangerous technologies of our own making,” the Bulletin said on its website.
Apart from Trump, the Bulletin said it also considered factors such as “strident nationalism worldwide … a darkening global security landscape that is coloured by increasingly sophisticated technology and a growing disregard for scientific expertise.”
In 2016, the scientists announced the clock remained at three minutes to midnight because of climate change and “extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity” by the modernisation of nuclear weapon arsenals.
In 2015, the clock was moved to three minutes to midnight, from its place at five minutes to midnight in 2014.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons under the Manhattan Project.
The scientists created the Doomsday Clock two years later as an expression of concern about the use of those weapons.
The decision to move the clock’s time is made by the group’s science and security board, in consultation with its board of sponsors, which includes 15 Nobel laureates.
Recently Trump had signed executive orders reviving the construction of two controversial oil pipelines – Keystone XL and Dakota Access – dismantling former President Obama’s environmental and climate record and garnering big criticism from scientists and climate activists alike.