Runaway climate change and the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons have pushed the world closer towards irreversible catastrophe, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced Thursday, as the group pushed the symbolic Doomsday Clock forward to three minutes before midnight.
The two factors "pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity," the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which came to its assessment with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates, said in a statement.
"World leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe. These failures of political leadership endanger every person on Earth," it added.
The last time the Doomsday Clock moved forward was in 2012, when it went from six minutes to five minutes before midnight as a result of world leaders failing to address "truly global threats."
The Clock, a symbol which "conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making," last stood at three minutes to midnight, an image for apocalypse, in 1984 in the midst of the Cold War.
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Addressing the how climate change has factored into the new status, Sivan Kartha, a member of the Science and Security Board at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and senior scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute, stated: "Emission rates have risen since 2000 by more than in the previous three decades combined. Investments have continued to pour into fossil fuel infrastructure at a rate that exceeds $1 trillion per year, with additional hundreds of billions of dollars in continued fossil fuel subsidies. We can and must turn this around."
Richard Somerville, also a member of the Science and Security Board, said that people worldwide must demand their leaders take immediate climate action."This threat looms over all of humanity. We all need to respond now, while there is still time," he stated.
The Bulletin's Sharon Squassoni, also a director and senior fellow at the Proliferation Prevention Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that the failure of nuclear disarmament and "sweeping nuclear weapons modernization programs" have wiped out the cautious optimism that emerged at the end of the Cold War.
Because of a very high probably of global catastrophe, the Bulletin urges that action be taken to keep global warming from rising above the 2-degree target, deal with nuclear waste storage, rein in spending on nuclear weapons modernization programs, and recommit to disarmament.
As Robert Dodge, a physician who serves on the board of Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, writes: "The time for action is now, before it is too late. It’s 3 minutes till midnight."