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Scientists Set Doomsday Clock to Two Minutes to Midnight

Members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, (L-R), Lawrence Krauss, Robert Rosner and Sharon Squassoni move the 'Doomsday Clock' hands to two minutes until midnight at a news conference in Washington, Jan. 25, 2018. (REUTERS/Leah Millis)
Scientists Set Doomsday Clock to Two Minutes to Midnight
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Atomic scientists say the world is closer to complete destruction than at any time since the Cold War. The reasons include a renewed nuclear arms race, man-made climate change and state-supported disinformation campaigns.

The scientists released the 2019 Doomsday Clock statement this week. They set the clock at two minutes to midnight – the same time as in 2018. They call the current international situation a “new abnormal.”

What is the Doomsday Clock?

The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947 by scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons for the United States. It is recognized as a sign of how close the world is to complete self-destruction. The clock was originally set at seven minutes to midnight.

Then, in 1953, the clock was set at two minutes to midnight. Scientists moved up the time in answer to the development of hydrogen bombs in the U.S. and the former Soviet Union.

Later, in 1991, the clock was set to 17 minutes to midnight to celebrate the signing of arms reduction between the two superpowers.

Commenting on this year’s setting, the scientists said threats from nuclear weapons had sharply increased. They noted the American withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and the U.S. plan to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, INF. The scientists also raised concerns about the unresolved nuclear situation in North Korea and programs of “nuclear modernization” in many nations, especially Russia.

On climate change, the scientists called attention to rising rates of greenhouse gases released in the past two years. The increase came as major oil-producing countries such the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait ignored scientific reports on the dangerous impact of greenhouse gases.

The scientists argued that threats to humanity – nuclear and climate change – worsened with disinformation from political leaders around the world. They said nationalist leaders and their supporters lied in many ways, but especially on social media. The leaders did not care they were lying, said the scientists, but insisted “that their lies were truth, and the truth ‘fake news.’”

To turn back the clock, the group called for several actions to make the world safer. Those include extending nuclear arms talks between the U.S. and Russia, adopting measures to prevent military events along the borders of NATO, demanding action to deal with climate change and discouraging the use of disinformation to decrease public trust.

I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.

Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

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Words in This Story

doomsday - n. the day the world ends or is destroyed

stark - adj. very obvious : very plain and easily seen

hydrogen bomb - n. a bomb that produces an extremely powerful and destructive explosion

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