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Doomsday Clock Stays Close to Midnight, Experts Cite Lack of Progress on Existential Threats and Call on Leaders to Act

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Warning of a dangerous “new abnormal” where existential
risks posed by nuclear weapons and climate change are ignored or denied, the
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists on Thursday kept its Doomsday
Clock at two minutes to midnight
– the same setting as last year and
as close as the world has been to symbolic annihilation since the height of the
Cold War.

“We are almost like travelers on the Titanic, not seeing the
iceberg up ahead but enjoying the elegant dining and the music,” said former
California Governor Jerry Brown,
executive chair of the Bulletin and an NTI Board Member. “We’ve got to wake
people up.”

The Bulletin’s Doomsday Clock, which was first set in 1947,
serves as a metaphoric reminder of how close experts believe the world is to
destruction through the use or misuse of dangerous technologies. This year’s
setting remains the closest the clock has been to midnight since 1953 when the
United States and the former Soviet Union began testing nuclear weapons.

“Though unchanged from 2018, this setting should be taken
not as a sign of stability but as a stark warning to leaders and citizens
around the world,” said Rachel Bronson, the Bulletin’s president and CEO.

Experts at the Bulletin’s announcement explained the threats
behind the Doomsday Clock’s determination, and included a notable addition from
last year: the dangers posed by nuclear weapons and climate change are
exacerbated by an escalating information warfare that undermines democracies
and fact-based political discourse.

Herb Lin, a cybersecurity expert and member of the
Bulletin’s Science and Security Board, said the distortion of facts and
intentional corruption of information aggravates today’s dangers. Noting that
propaganda and lies date back to the biblical age, he said in the age of the
internet, cyber-enabled information warfare is far more dangerous.

On the nuclear front, although tensions with North Korea
have been defused over the past year, the Bulletin’s experts cited a host of
areas where risks are increasing or progress is stalled, and they urged global
leaders and elected officials to work to #RewindtheDoomsdayClock. Experts cited
relations between the US and Russia as a particular cause for concern, recommending
that US and Russian leaders: return to the negotiating table to resolve difference
over compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty; extend
the New START Treaty and seek further arms reduction; discuss lowering the
nuclear-alert status in both countries; limit nuclear modernization programs;
and begin talks on eliminating battlefield or tactical nuclear weapons.

With respect to North Korea’s nuclear program, former U.S.
Secretary of Defense William J.
Perry
, chair of the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors and an NTI Board
member emeritus, said the first summit meeting between President Trump and
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un produced “little or no substance” and he does
not expect North Korea to relinquish its nuclear weapons as a result of the
second summit next month. At the same time, he said talks between the leaders
have at least reduced the level of diplomatic hostility.

Despite the decision to keep the Doomsday Clock’s second
hand in place for another year, Brown said leaders should make no mistake:
“It’s late and getting later.” He vowed to dedicate his time over the next
several years to reducing nuclear risks because “we’re playing Russian roulette
with humanity and the danger is mounting.”

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