Doomsday Clock’s one minute closer to midnight‎

The symbolic clock face, maintained since 1947 by the board of directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago, counts down to nuclear armageddon.
The world tiptoed closer to the apocalypse on Tuesday as scientists moved the ‘Doomsday Clock’ one minute closer to the zero hour.
The symbolic clock now stands at five minutes to midnight, the scientists said, because of a collective failure to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, act on climate change, or find safe and sustainable sources of energy (as exemplified by the Fukushima nuclear disaster).
The rare bright points the scientists noted were the Arab spring and movement in Russia for greater democracy.
The clock, maintained by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, has been gauging our proximity to global disaster since 1947, using the potent image of a clock counting down the minutes to destruction. Until Tuesday afternoon, the clock had been set at six minutes to midnight.
“It is five minutes to midnight” – the scientists said. “Two years ago it appeared that world leaders might address the truly global threats we face. In many cases, that trend has not continued or been reversed.”
The Bulletin was founded by the scientists who helped build America’s atomic bomb, and the primary focus of their concerns remains the danger of a nuclear conflagration.
But a number of the scientists who took part in the deliberations said they were also dismayed by a growing trend to disregard science.
“A cross-cutting issue through the entire discussion is the worrisome trend to reject or diminish the significance of what science says is the characteristic of a problem” – said Robert Socolow of Princeton’s Environmental Institute. “There is a general judgement among us that we need the political leadership to affirm the primacy of science.”

Doomsday Clock's one minute closer to midnight
Doomsday Clock.

In a sign of pessimism about humanity’s future, scientists today set the hands of the infamous ‘Doomsday Clock’ forward one minute from two years ago.
“It is now five minutes to midnight” – Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) director Kennette Benedict announced today (January 10) at a press conference in Washington, D.C.
That represents a symbolic step closer to doomsday, a change from the clock’s previous mark of six minutes to midnight, set in January 2010.
The clock is a symbol of the threat of humanity’s imminent destruction from nuclear or biological weapons, climate change and other human-caused disasters. In making their deliberations about how to update the clock’s time, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists focused on the current state of nuclear arsenals around the globe, disastrous events such as the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, and biosecurity issues such as the creation of an airborne H5N1 flu strain.
The Doomsday Clock came into being in 1947 as a way for atomic scientists to warn the world of the dangers of nuclear weapons. That year, the Bulletin set the time at seven minutes to midnight, with midnight symbolizing humanity’s destruction. By 1949, it was at three minutes to midnight as the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union deteriorated. In 1953, after the first test of the hydrogen bomb, the doomsday clock ticked to two minutes until midnight.
The Bulletin (and the clock) were at their most optimistic in 1991, when the Cold War thawed and the United States and Russia began cutting their arsenals. That year, the Bulletin set the clock at 17 minutes to midnight.
From then until 2010, however, it was a gradual creep back toward destruction, as hopes of total nuclear disarmament vanished and threats of nuclear terrorism and climate change reared their heads. In 2010, the Bulletin found some hope in arms reduction treaties and international climate talks and nudged the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock back to six minutes from midnight from its previous post at five to midnight.
With today’s decision, the Bulletin repudiated that optimism. The panel considers a mix of long-term trends and immediate events in the decision-making process, said Benedict. Trends might include factors like improved solar energy technology to combat climate change, she said, while political events such as the recent United Nations climate meeting in Durban play a role as well. This year, the Fukushima nuclear disaster made a big impression.

“Inadequate progress on nuclear weapons reduction and proliferation, and continuing inaction on climate change” – prompted the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists today to push the hands of the Doomsday Clock one minute closer to midnight.
“It is five minutes to midnight” – said the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists group, announcing their decision at a news conference in Washington. “Two years ago, it appeared that world leaders might address the truly global threats that we face. In many cases, that trend has not continued or been reversed. For that reason, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is moving the clock hand one minute closer to midnight, back to its time in 2007.”
The last time the Doomsday Clock minute hand moved was in January 2010, when it was pushed back one minute from five to six minutes before midnight. The clock’s hands have been adjusted 20 times since its inception in 1947, when the clock was initially set to seven minutes to midnight.
The Doomsday Clock expresses how close this group of scientists belives humanity is to catastrophic destruction, symbolized by midnight on the clock. The group monitors the means humankind could use to obliterate itself. First and foremost, these include nuclear weapons, but they also encompass climate-changing technologies and new developments in the life sciences that could inflict irrevocable harm.
“Inaction on key issues including climate change, and rising international tensions motivate the movement of the clock” – said Lawrence Krauss, co-chair, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Board of Sponsors and a professor with the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Physics departments at Arizona State University.
“As we see it” – he told reporters, “the major challenge at the heart of humanity’s survival in the 21st century is how to meet energy needs for economic growth in developing and industrial countries without further damaging the climate, exposing people to loss of health and community, and without risking further spread of nuclear weapons, and in fact setting the stage for global reductions.”
“Even though climate change is happening and is getting more urgent as we speak” – warned Krauss, “no comprehensive global action is happening.”
“The global community may be near a point of no return in efforts to prevent catastrophe from changes in Earth’s atmosphere” – warned Allison Macfarlane, who chairs the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board and is a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on American’s Nuclear Future, and an associate professor with George Mason University.
“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” – said Macfarlane.

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