January 11, 2012
Doomsday Clock Moved One Minute Closer To Midnight
Scientists moved the "Doomsday Clock" on Tuesday one minute closer to midnight, citing continuing threats from nuclear proliferation, climate change, and the lack of safe, sustainable energy sources.
The clock was moved from six to five minutes to midnight in a sign that pessimism about humanity´s future has risen since the clock was last changed in 2010.
"Inaction on key issues including climate change, and rising international tensions motivate the movement of the clock," said Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) co-chairman Lawrence Krauss in a statement released on Tuesday.
"As we see it, 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."
The BAS was established in 1945 by scientists working on the infamous Manhattan Project that created the atomic bomb.
The clock, which was initially at seven minutes to midnight, has struck a chord with the public over the decades, becoming what the BAS calls a “universally recognized indicator of the world's vulnerability to catastrophe.”
The clock's hands have moved quite a bit over the years. In 1953, the hands were moved up to two minutes before midnight due to efforts by the U.S. to obtain a hydrogen bomb. In 1999, the clock´s hands were set back to 17 minutes before midnight to reflect the end of the Cold War.
Since then, the clock's hands have been in a consistent march toward midnight.
In 2007, the BAS moved the hands to five minutes before midnight based on the perils of nuclear weapons.
The hands were later moved back to six minutes before midnight in January 2010, when humanity´s prospects appeared to be improving.
"Two years ago, it appeared that world leaders might address the truly global threats that we face," the BAS said in a statement.
However, "in many cases, that trend has not continued or been reversed."
If global leaders do not make progress on finding 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," the BAS said.
"We're trying to weight whether that was a wake-up call, whether it will make people take a closer look at this new and very powerful technology, or whether people will go on with business as usual," said BAS director Kennette Benedict in an interview on Monday with LiveScience ahead of the announcement to move the clock ahead one minute.
Other factors that figured into the decision were a growing interest in nuclear power from nations such as Turkey, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates, Benedict said.
Experts estimate the world has roughly 19,500 deployed nuclear weapons, enough to destroy the world's inhabitants several times over.
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