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Entries in Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (1)

Tuesday
Jan102012

Doomsday is Now One Minute Closer

David Goldman/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- As the iconic '80s band R.E.M once sang, “It’s the end of the world as we know it....”  Or is it?

The Doomsday clock, which represents a symbolic end of the world through a countdown to midnight, was moved one minute closer to midnight Tuesday.  The decision to move the hand back to where it was in 2007 was made because of what the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said in a statements was “inadequate progress on nuclear weapons reduction and proliferation, and continuing inaction on climate change.”

The last time the clock’s hand was moved was 2010, when it was moved back from five minutes to six minutes to midnight.

Lawrence Krauss, co-chair of the BAS Board of Sponsors and professor at Arizona State University, said “it makes sense to move the clock closer to midnight” as the developments seen two years ago were not sustained.

“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,” Krauss added.

Energy and climate was one issue close to the heart of the decision to move the hand.

“The global community may be near a point of no return in efforts to prevent catastrophe from changes in Earth’s atmosphere,” Allison Macfarlane, BAS chair said. “The actions taken in the next few years will set us on a path that will be impossible to redirect.”

Macfarlane cited International Energy Agency projections saying that societies need to start building alternatives to carbon-emitting energies in the next five years, otherwise “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 other main issue cited by the BAS was the differences and disagreements recently seen between Russia and the United States, as well as failure to act on a Test Ban Treaty by leaders of nuclear states that would have cut off production of nuclear weapons materials.

“A world free of nuclear weapons is not at all clear, and leadership is failing,” said Jayantha Dhanapala, BAS Board of sponsors and former United Nations under-secretary for Disarmament Affairs. “The world still has approximately 19,500 deployed nuclear weapons, enough power to destroy the world’s inhabitants several times over.”

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Board of Directors, along with consultation by its Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates, makes the decisions to move the clocks hand. The clock was created in 1947 by the board.

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