Scientists behind 'Doomsday Clock' say grave threat remains

STANFORD, Calif. -- Rising tension between Russia and the U.S., North Korea's recent nuclear test and a lack of aggressive steps to address climate change are putting the world under grave threat, scientists behind a "Doomsday Clock" that measures the likelihood of a global cataclysm said Tuesday.

See Full Article

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that the minute hand on the metaphorical clock remained at three minutes-to-midnight. The clock reflects how vulnerable the world is to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change and new technologies, with midnight symbolizing apocalypse.

"Unless we change the way we think, humanity remains in serious danger," said Lawrence Krauss, chair of the bulletin's Board of Sponsors.

Krauss said the Iran nuclear agreement and Paris climate accord were good news. But the good news was offset by nuclear threats, including tension between nuclear-armed states India and Pakistan, and uncertainty that the Paris accord will lead to concrete action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The scientists behind the bulletin adjusted the clock from five minutes-to-midnight to three minutes-to-midnight last year. They cited climate change, modernization of nuclear weapons and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals as "extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity." The clock was previously at three minutes-to-midnight in 1984, when the bulletin said talks between the U.S. and Russia virtually stopped.

From a climate change perspective, if midnight on the clock represents the disappearance of humanity, three minutes-to-midnight is overly dire, said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University who is not affiliated with the bulletin.

On the other hand, Oppenheimer said if midnight means humans have emitted so much greenhouse gas that dangerous climate change is inevitable, then three minutes is a "fair analysis."

"I think the jury is out as to whether the Paris agreement will make a significant difference," he said. "The key is whether countries over the next couple of years are able to agree on some important details that were left out."

Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine examining social and scientific controversies, said in an email that the Doomsday clock is "an exercise in pessimism and PR with little connection to the reality of moral progress made in the past half century." Shermer cited reductions in the number of nuclear weapons since the 1980s and the absence of war between Europe's great powers since World War II.

California Gov. Jerry Brown joined former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and former U.S. Secretary of Defence William Perry for a discussion at Stanford University after the unveiling of the clock.

Perry raised concerns about rhetoric from Russia about the use of nuclear weapons and said the threat of nuclear disaster was greater today than during the Cold War. Shultz said the U.S. needs to engage Russia and China. Brown warned about "tipping points" in the fight against climate change.

"And around a tipping point, we may not be able to come back to a stable planet or one we'll find very comfortable to live in," he said.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons. The clock was created two years later.

The decision to move or leave the clock alone is made by the bulletin's science and security board, which includes physicists and environmental scientists from around the world, in consultation with the bulletin's Board of Sponsors, which includes more than a dozen Nobel laureates.

The closest the clock has come to midnight was two minutes away in 1953, when the Soviet Union tested a hydrogen bomb that followed a U.S. hydrogen bomb test.


Associated Press writer Kristin J. Bender in San Francisco contributed to this story. This story has been corrected to show the year the clock was last at three minutes-to-midnight.


Latest Canada & World News

  • World's last male northern white rhino dies

    World News CBC News
    The world's last male northern white rhino has died, the Kenyan conservancy taking care of it said, leaving only two females of its subspecies alive in the world although scientists still hopes they can save it from extinction. Source
  • Cambodia jails Briton for producing pornography in case that saw 2 Canadians deported

    World News CBC News
    A Cambodian court on Tuesday suspended 10 months of a one-year jail term it handed to a British man found guilty of producing pornography in connection with a party in the town of Siem Reap, home to the ruins of Angkor Wat. Source
  • Northern Brazil overwhelmed by desperate, hungry Venezuelans

    World News CTV News
    PACARAIMA, Brazil -- Hungry and destitute, tens of thousands of victims of Venezuela's unrelenting political and economic crisis are trying their luck in Brazil -- a country where they do not speak the language, conditions are often poor and there are few border towns to receive them. Source
  • Men wanted in connection with attack on autistic man in Ont. may be from B.C.: police

    Canada News CTV News
    MISSISSAUGA, Ont. -- Police in the Toronto area say three unidentified men wanted in connection with a "vicious assault" on a 29-year-old autistic man may be from British Columbia. Peel regional police say since releasing video showing the assault, investigators have received numerous tips that have led them to ask for help in B.C. Source
  • Human remains found near Whistler, B.C., linked to missing Australian woman

    Canada News CTV News
    WHISTLER, B.C. -- RCMP say human remains linked to a missing Australian woman have been found near the resort town of Whistler, B.C. Police say in a news release that Alison Raspa was reported missing last November. Source
  • 14 protesters arrested at Trans Mountain work site in Burnaby, B.C.

    Canada News CTV News
    BURNABY, B.C. -- RCMP say more than a dozen people protesting the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline have been arrested at a construction site in Burnaby, B.C. A B.C. Supreme Court judge granted the company an injunction last week restricting protesters from entering within five metres of two terminal work sites. Source
  • RCMP in Alberta allege dad left baby in cold car while he went to bar

    Canada News CTV News
    CALMAR, Alta. -- A father in Alberta has been charged after police allege he left a baby in a cold vehicle while he went to a nearby bar. RCMP say they received a complaint about a possible impaired driver in Calmar, southwest of Edmonton, on Friday. Source
  • 13 Japanese cult members face execution for 1995 Tokyo subway gas attack

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO -- Thirteen Japanese cult members may be sent to the gallows any day now for a deadly 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and other crimes. But when is uncertain. Such is the secrecy that surrounds Japan's death penalty system. Source
  • NDP MPs ask Canada's watchdog to make sure Facebook is safeguarding Canadians' private data

    Canada News CBC News
    Three federal NDP MPs are asking Canada's privacy watchdog to investigate Facebook amid concerns the social media giant is not properly securing the private data of Canadians. On Monday NDP MPs Charlie Angus, Matthew Dubé and Brian Masse wrote to Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien in the wake of media reports alleging massive privacy breaches at Facebook. Source
  • Canada's arms deal with Saudi Arabia includes 'heavy assault' vehicles

    World News CBC News
    Canada's multi-billion dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia includes a substantial number of "heavy assault" armoured vehicles and a maintenance deal that would see the Ontario-based manufacturer embed teams at multiple locations throughout the kingdom. CBC News has obtained documents that — for the first time — lay out the major elements of the original agreement signed in early 2014 and approved by the previous Conservative government. Source