Five minutes to midnight

It is estimated that the United States will spend $700 billion or more over the next decade on nuclear weapons and related programs. Russia continues to modernize its own nuclear arsenal, China, India, Israel, and Pakistan are expanding theirs, and Iran may be on the verge of joining the nuclear club. There is little prospect that the major greenhouse gas producers, Canada included, will take meaningful action to address global climate change in the immediate future. And the chances of addressing these problems could decline even further if the Republicans take back the White House in the U.S. presidential election later this year. Several of the would-be GOP candidates are opposed to further reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and many still don’t accept the reality of human-caused global warming.

Faced with these trends, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved their famous Doomsday Clock one minute closer to midnight (representing the end of life as we know it) on Tuesday:

It is five minutes to midnight. 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.

Lawrence Krauss, co-chair of the journal’s Board of Sponsors, explained the decision:

Unfortunately, Einstein’s statement in 1946 that “everything has changed, save the way we think,” remains true. The provisional developments of 2 years ago have not been sustained, and it makes sense to move the clock closer to midnight, back to the value it had in 2007. Faced with clear and present dangers of nuclear proliferation and climate change, and the need to find sustainable and safe sources of energy, world leaders are failing to change business as usual. Inaction on key issues including climate change, and rising international tensions motivate the movement of the clock. 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.

Photo by kojotomoto

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