By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON, Jan 17 (Reuters) - The scientists who mind the Doomsday Clock on Wednesday moved it two minutes closer to midnight — symbolizing the annihilation of civilization — adding the perils of global warming for the first time to acute nuclear threats.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which created the Doomsday Clock in 1947 to warn the world of the dangers of nuclear weapons, advanced the clock to five minutes until midnight. It was the first adjustment of the clock since 2002.
"We stand at the brink of a second nuclear age," the group said in a statement.
They pointed to North Korea’s first test of a nuclear weapon last year, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, U.S. flirtation with "bunker buster" nuclear bombs, the continued presence of 26,000 nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia and inadequate security for nuclear materials.
But the scientists also said the destruction of human habitats wreaked by climate change brought on by human activities is a growing danger to humankind.
"Global warming poses a dire threat to human civilization that is second only to nuclear weapons," they said.
The announcement was made in news conferences held in London and Washington.
"We foresee great peril if governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change," famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking of the University of Cambridge, a member of the bulletin’s board of sponsors, told reporters in London.
In 2002, the bulletin’s scientists moved the clock two minutes forward in 2002, to seven minutes until midnight following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
The bulletin was founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had worked on developing the first nuclear bomb, and it is now overseen by some of the world’s most prominent scientists.
The bulletin created the clock in 1947, two years after the United States ushered in the nuclear age by dropping atomic bombs on two Japanese cities at the end of World War Two, to symbolize the urgent nuclear dangers confronting the world.