'Doomsday Clock' unchanged at three minutes to midnight

The world is still three minutes from the apocalypse.

That was the announcement from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on Tuesday, at a news conference held simultaneously at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

Ticking time bomb.
Dick Patrick Studios | Getty Images

Global tension, the modernization of nuclear arsenals and threats from climate change have all left the bulletin's members convinced the world still faces too many grave threats to dial the minute hand back from its "Doomsday Clock."

The Doomsday Clock was created by former Manhattan Project scientists in 1947, originally to highlight the dangers of nuclear war. Over the decades, its scope has grown to encompass other threats.

Rachel Bronson, executive director and publisher of the bulletin, announced from Washington that "the clock remains at three minutes to midnight. It remains the closest it has been in 22 years."

A recent North Korean nuclear test is a reminder of the dangers of nuclear proliferation.

William J. Perry, who was secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, told an audience at Stanford that "the danger of a nuclear catastrophe today is in my opinion greater than it was during the Cold War." But, he added, our policies do not reflect this new danger.

Former Secretary of State George P. Schultz said the key to reducing these tensions is " working with Russia and China, and of course, Europe."

The United States currently plans upgrades to its own nuclear arsenal. "It is very hard to reduce your reliance on nuclear weapons when you plan to spend more that $350 billion modernizing them," said Sharon Squassoni, senior fellow and director of the Proliferation Prevention Program.

While recent climate talks in Paris were an impressive achievement, they still mark only a "tentative success," said Sivan Kartha, member of the bulletin's Science and Security Board and a senior scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute.