Doomsday Clock Set at 3 Minutes to Midnight
January 31, 2015
Megan Gannon / LiveScience & Centre Delas & ICAN
Humanity's failure to reduce global nuclear arsenals as well as climate change prompted the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to advance their warning about our proximity to a potentially civilization-ending catastrophe.
(January 24, 2015) -- The world is "3 minutes" from doomsday.
That's the grim outlook from board members of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Frustrated with a lack of international action to address climate change and shrink nuclear arsenals, they decided today (Jan. 22) to push the minute hand of their iconic "Doomsday Clock" to 11:57 p.m.
It's the first time the clock hands have moved in three years; since 2012, the clock had been fixed at 5 minutes to symbolic doom, midnight. [End of the World? Top Doomsday Fears]
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists doesn't use the clock to make any real doomsday predictions. Rather, the clock is a visual metaphor to warn the public about how close the world is to a potentially civilization-ending catastrophe. Each year, the magazine's board analyzes threats to humanity's survival to decide where the Doomsday Clock's hands should be set.
Experts on the board said they felt a sense of urgency this year because of the world's ongoing addiction to fossil fuels, procrastination with enacting laws to cut greenhouse gas emissions and slow efforts to get rid of nuclear weapons.
"We are not saying it is too late to take action but the window for action is closing rapidly," Kennette Benedict, executive director of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said in a news conference this morning in Washington, D.C. "We move the clock hand today to inspire action."
For instance, if nothing is done to reduce the amount of heat-trapping gasses, such as carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere, Earth could be 5 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (3 to 8 degrees Celsius) warmer by the end of century, said Sivan Kartha, a senior scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute.
Some people might not feel alarmed when they see those numbers; they might normally experience that kind of temperature swing in the course of a single day, Kartha said. But, he said a temperature increase of that magnitude was enough to bring the world out of the last ice age, and it will be enough to "radically transform" the Earth's surface in the future.
Sharon Squassoni, another board member and director of the Proliferation Prevention Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said nuclear disarmament efforts have "ground to a halt" and many nations are expanding, not scaling back, their nuclear capabilities.
Russia is upgrading its nuclear program, India plans to expand its nuclear submarine fleet, and Pakistan has reportedly started operating a third plutonium reactor, Squassoni said.
She said the United States has good rhetoric on nuclear nonproliferation, but at the same time is in the midst of a $335 billion overhaul of its nuclear program. (That figure seems to come from a Congressional Budget Office report from December 2013.)
"The risk from nuclear weapons is not that someone is going to press the button, but the existence of these weapons costs a lot of time, effort and money to keep them secure," Squassoni said, adding that there have been troubling safety discrepancies reported in recent years at power plants.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 by scientists who created the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project and wanted to raise awareness about the dangers of nuclear technology. The Doomsday Clock first appeared on a cover of the magazine in 1947, with its hands set at 11:53 p.m.
The clock's hands shifted quite a bit over the following seven decades. They were closest to midnight in 1953, set at 11:58 p.m., after both the United States and the Soviet Union conducted their first tests of the hydrogen bomb.
The clock's hands were pushed all the way back to 11:43 p.m., 17 minutes to midnight, in December 1991, after the world's superpowers signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which at the time, seemed like a promising move toward nuclear disarmament.
Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
New Book Released:
"Risks and threats of nuclear arsenal.
Reasons for prohibition and elimination"
Centre Delas & ICAN
BARCELONA (January 27, 2015) -- The Delas Center for Peace studies and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), have jointly published a new Spanish-language book by Xavier Bohigas and Teresa de Fortuny. The book is titled: "Risks and Threats of Nuclear Arsenal. Reasons for Prohibition and Elimination."
On February 29, 2015, Jordi Foix, an expert on nuclear weapons, will join authors Xavier Bohigas and Teresa de Fortuny for an open debate on the need to continue to address the prohibition and elimination of nuclear arsenal.
This new publication claims that the current global nuclear arsenal is estimated at 17,000 bombs. Despite the danger that nuclear bombs continue to represent the population perceived as a real threat for which, fortunately, after the end of the Cold War, the threat of nuclear war has diminished.
But instead, the mere existence of nuclear weapons continues the possibility that, through an accident or by a human or technical error, a nuclear conflict could be triggered. The book also documents several near-nuclear conflicts that have occurred on several occasions but have remained hidden.
Copies of the book, in Spanish, can be purchased online by clicking HERE.
Delas Center for Peace Studies.
Roger de Llúria, 3er 1a
08037 Barcelona, Spain
Tel: 34 933176177