"New abnormal": Doomsday Clock still at 2 minutes to midnight

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

/ CBS News

The Doomsday Clock isn't moving this year. It's still at two minutes to midnight as the world experiences a dangerous, volatile and unsustainable "new abnormal," the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said Thursday.

"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," the non-profit organization said in a statement.

The Bulletin said two major existential threats — nuclear weapons and climate change — "were exacerbated this past year by the increased use of information warfare to undermine democracy around the world, amplifying risk from these and other threats and putting the future of civilization in extraordinary danger."

But it added, "there is no reason the Doomsday Clock cannot move away from catastrophe."

The clock was created in 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which evaluates scientific and technological advancements and works to sway public policy. Whether or not the clock's minute hand moves every year is decided by the organization's Science and Security Board alongside its Board of Sponsors — comprised of more than a dozen Nobel laureates, according to the organization.

The clock serves as a visual depiction of perceived threats facing Earth and mankind. It is used to communicate the severity of those threats based on the minute hand's proximity to midnight, which symbolizes an apocalypse.

The Bulletin notes that the first year the clock was set to the same time it's at today was in 1953 "after the Soviet Union exploded a thermonuclear device within a year of the first US hydrogen bomb test."

The furthest it's ever been from midnight was in 1991, at 17 minutes.

Former California Gov. Jerry Brown, left, and former Secretary of Defense William Perry unveil the Doomsday Clock during The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists news conference in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. Cliff Owen/AP

First published on January 24, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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