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It was only a 60-second adjustment, but it was the first upward tick of the famous Doomsday Clock since 1991. Since then, the minute hand had moved 12 minutes closer to midnight, reaching five minutes away in 2007.
Expressing careful optimism last week the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the symbolic minute hand one minute back to six minutes to midnight.
The gesture was based on a more “hopeful state of world affairs” in relation to threats posed by nuclear weapons and climate change.
In a statement accompanying the time-change ceremony, the publication’s board said, “It is 6 minutes to midnight. We are poised to bend the arc of history toward a world free of nuclear weapons. For the first time since atomic bombs were dropped in 1945, leaders of nuclear weapons states are cooperating to vastly reduce their arsenals and secure all nuclear bomb making material. And for the first time ever, industrialized and developing countries alike are pledging to limit climate change gas emissions that could render our planet nearly uninhabitable.”
The biggest move away from figurative doom, was a seven minute reduction in 1991 after the United States and the former Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The START treaty expired last month, but both the U.S. and Russia have agreed to renew and expand the treaty.
The clock jumped ahead five minutes, toward midnight in 1998, in view of nuclear weapons tests by both India and Pakistan.