January 15, 2014
Killer Robots, Climate Change Keeps Doomsday Clock At 11:55 PM
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists said on Tuesday that its Doomsday Clock is remaining at five minutes until midnight.
The Doomsday Clock was invented by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which included some of the researchers that worked on the atomic bomb. In the 1940s a wife of one of the researchers illustrated a clock pointing to 11:53 p.m., helping to birth the idea of a Doomsday Clock. The clock is seen as a visual metaphor for the danger of a “civilization-threatening technological catastrophe.”
Every year, the board of scientists analyzes international threats, particularly nuclear arsenals and climate change, and determines where the minute hand on the Doomsday Clock should rest. The closer to midnight the minute hand gets, the closer to doomsday for the entire world.
The clock first moved from six to five minutes to midnight back in January 2012, and since then it has remained silently waiting at 11:55 p.m.
The board wrote in a report about this year’s decision to keep the clock at the five minute mark that the world made limited strides toward reducing the threat in 2013. Last year, there was an interim agreement between five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany and Iran on a “joint plan of action” for reaching a long-term solution to international concern about the Iranian nuclear program.
“Overall, however, in 2013 the international community dealt with the continuing, potentially civilization-ending threat of nuclear weapons in a business-as-usual manner, meaning that outsized nuclear arsenals remain in the United States and Russia, and the nuclear arsenals of some countries—notably India, Pakistan, and China—appear to be growing,” the board wrote.
The scientists said that although there have been positive developments in the renewable energy field over the last year, worldwide efforts to limit the carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change have stalled, “with emission-reduction programs being used as political footballs in several industrialized countries.”
“And beyond the nuclear and climate threats lies a spectrum of emerging dangers—from cyber weapons to killer robots—that are further challenging humanity’s ability to manage its most advanced technologies,” the scientists wrote.
The team said that after careful review, they determined that the risk of civilization-threatening technological catastrophe remains high, and that the hands of the Doomsday Clock should remain at five minutes to midnight.
“We implore the Secretary-General and the Security Council to spur worldwide action in the following areas to reduce the danger that human technology will be humanity’s undoing,” the scientists concluded in the report.