By Dan Satherley
The Doomsday Clock, which represents just how close the world is to a global catastrophe, has been moved closer to midnight - and no, it's not because of an apocalyptic Mayan prophecy.
Yesterday the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which maintains the clock, shifted it from six to five minutes to midnight.
"Despite the promise of a new spirit of international cooperation, and reductions in tensions between the United States and Russia, the Science and Security Board believes that the path toward a world free of nuclear weapons is not at all clear, and leadership is failing," the publication said.
It is now back to where it was in 2007, following North Korea's nuclear weapons test.
"Failure to act on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by leaders in the United States, China, Iran, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel, and North Korea and on a treaty to cut off production of nuclear weapons material continues to leave the world at risk from continued development of nuclear weapons," the Bulletin wrote on its website.
Other reasons for pushing the clock closer to midnight include the Fukushima disaster and the lack of action on climate change.
"The global community may be near a point of no return in efforts to prevent catastrophe from changes in Earth's atmosphere," the group says.
"The International Energy Agency projects that, unless societies begin building alternatives to carbon-emitting energy technologies over the next five years, the world is doomed to a warmer climate, harsher weather, droughts, famine, water scarcity, rising sea levels, loss of island nations, and increasing ocean acidification.
"Since fossil-fuel burning power plants and infrastructure built in 2012-2020 will produce energy — and emissions — for 40 to 50 years, the actions taken in the next few years will set us on a path that will be impossible to redirect."
The Doomsday Clock was started in 1947 at seven minutes to midnight. The closest it ever came to midnight was in 1953 after the US (2 minutes) and the Soviet Union both tested nuclear weapons within months of one another.
The furthest it has been from midnight was in 1991, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the signing of the START treaty and the end of the Cold War (17 minutes).