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Doomsday Clock ticks 20 seconds closer to world apocalypse

It's 100 seconds to midnight.

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Former California Governor Jerry Brown (left) helped announce the movement of the second hand on the Doomsday Clock. He was joined by former President of Ireland Mary Robinson and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Climate change. Nuclear war. Cyber-enabled information warfare. The world is flirting with apocalypse, warned the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists as it unveiled a pessimistic 2020 change to its Doomsday Clock, a symbol of how close the planet is to widespread disaster. The group made the announcement at a press conference in Washington, DC on Thursday.

Midnight on the clock represents doom. The clock had been set at two minutes to midnight for the last couple of years, but the Bulletin was concerned enough to knock 20 seconds of cushion off the clock for 2020. It is now set to 100 seconds to midnight.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which was founded by scientists who worked on early atomic weapons, created the Doomsday Clock in the late 1940s. "The clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world's vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and disruptive technologies in other domains," the organization said.

The clock metaphor is meant to be alarming and to attract attention to the group's message. The Bulletin issued a lengthy statement on Thursday explaining its reasoning for moving the minute hand forward. The group cited a retreat from arms control, an insufficient response to climate change and the emergence of destabilizing technologies as factors. 

It's not all doom and gloom. The Bulletin provides a call to action asking global powers to avoid an arms race and tackle climate change. The group also calls on US citizens to demand climate action from their government. 

"There is no reason the Doomsday Clock cannot move away from midnight. It has done so in the past when wise leaders acted, under pressure from informed and engaged citizens around the world," the Bulletin said.

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