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World ‘nearer to self-destruction than ever’

The world is closer to a nuclear apocalypse than it was last year, according to the 2018 position of the symbolic Doomsday Clock.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists revealed the 2018 position as two minutes to midnight on Thursday.

Scientists made the call amid the growing tensions between the United States and North Korea, which have been engaged in a war of words over Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons programme.

The annual reading is intended to represent how close we are to destruction – midnight representing the end of the world as we know it.

It follows last year’s reading of two and a half minutes to midnight.

Scientists put the clock at two and a half minutes to midnight in 2017
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Scientists put the clock at two and a half minutes to midnight in 2017

The hypothetical countdown, which was introduced in 1947 and predicts the likelihood of a man-made global disaster, last reached two minutes to midnight in 1953 – when the US and the Soviet Union were testing hydrogen bombs.

The reading in more recent times has reflected the impact of climate change on the planet and the effects of new technology and science in the world.

The Doomsday Clock was was furthest away at 17 minutes to midnight in 1991.

Speaking at the announcement event, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss said: “The danger of nuclear conflagration is not the only reason the clock has been moved forward.

“This danger looms at a time when there’s been a loss of trust in political institutions, in the media, in science and in facts themselves – all of which exacerbate the difficulty of dealing with the real problems the world faces.”

Rachel Bronson, president and chief executive of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said “nuclear issues took centre stage once again” during this year’s deliberations.

She said missile testing in North Korea, an enhanced commitment to nuclear weapons in China, Pakistan and India, and Donald Trump’s “unpredictability” were considered while making a decision.

“Because of the extraordinary danger of the current moment, the Science and Security Board today moves the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to catastrophe,” she said.

“It is now two minutes to midnight ­­­­- the closest the clock has ever been to Doomsday, and as close as it was in 1953, at the height of the Cold War.”

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