Scientists are set to reveal whether we are any closer to our impending doom, with the symbolic Doomsday Clock due for an update later today.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists will gather at the National Press Club in Washington DC at 10am (3pm UK time), where they will announce the latest assessment of the experts on its science and security board.
Pundits may well be expecting the clock to tick ever closer to midnight for the first time since 2018, with the new year having already brought heightened tensions in the Middle East, a deadly viral outbreak in China, more devastating wildfires in Australia, and further warnings about the threat of climate change.
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According to the clock, humanity moved closer to disaster in 2017 and 2018, mostly due to the threat of nuclear war between the US and North Korea.
It stabilised last year at a merciful two minutes to midnight, but only because the scientists behind the clock said the threats we face had become “normalised”.
“Humanity now faces two simultaneous existential threats, either of which would be cause for extreme concern and immediate attention,” said their 2019 statement.
“These major 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 civilisation in extraordinary danger.”
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While the scientists did offer some hope that the Doomsday Clock could move away from catastrophe, they said it was reliant on world leaders channelling their “wise” predecessors who “acted under pressure from informed and engaged citizens around the world”.
Twelve months on and it seems unlikely that they would have been encouraged, with US President Donald Trump having used his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week to dismiss those calling for more action on climate change as “perennial prophets of doom” and “heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers”.
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Earlier this month, Mr Trump traded hostile rhetoric and missile strikes with Iran over his decision to assassinate a top military commander in the country.
With both sides on high alert, a Ukrainian passenger jet was accidentally shot down by the Iranian military, threatening further deterioration in relations between Tehran and the West.
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Two minutes to midnight is the closest to apocalypse the clock had been since 1953, when the US and Soviet Union started testing hydrogen bombs during the Cold War.
The safest we have been was in 1991, when the clock stood at 17 minutes to midnight to mark the end of the long-running conflict.
If it does tick closer to midnight on Thursday, we will be closer to our collective demise than any time since the clock launched following the end of the Second World War.
Source : Sky News