The Doomsday Clock was advanced one minute on Tuesday, resonating the concerns of a group of scientists who believe that time is running out for nuclear disarmament—and ultimately the world.
The Science and Security Board, a select group of scientists and engineers, moved the hand of the Doomsday clock from 6 minutes to midnight to the 5 minute mark, the 21st position of the Doomsday clock since its inception in 1947
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists explained their reasons for the 1 minute shift in a recent statement to the media:
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.
The decision to change the clock was made on January 9th at an international symposium held at a Washington D.C. law firm. It was at this meeting in which the experts discussed the nuclear landscape of the world today, presenting several questions that helped shape the decision to move the minute hand 60 seconds closer to world destruction.
Here are some of the questions from the 2012 symposium:
- What is the future of nuclear power after Fukushima?
- How are nuclear weapons to be managed in a world of increasing economic, political, and environmental volatility?
- What are the links among climate change, resource scarcity, conflict, and nuclear weapons?
- What is required for robust implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention?
Upon answering of these questions, it was determined that the disagreements between the United States and Russia largely contributed to the shift in the Doomsday clock.
Here is a statement made by Jayantha Dhanapala of the BAS Board of Sponsors, regarding the tensions between the United States and Russia:
Despite the promise of a new spirit of international cooperation, and reductions in tensions between the United States and Russia, the Science and Security Board believes that the path toward a world free of nuclear weapons is not at all clear, and leadership is failing. The ratification in December 2010 of the New START treaty between Russia and the United States reversed the previous drift in US-Russia nuclear relations. However, failure to act on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by leaders in the United States, China, Iran, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel, and North Korea on a treaty to cut off production of nuclear weapons material continues to leave the world at risk from continued development of nuclear weapons. The world still has over 19,000 nuclear weapons, enough power to destroy the world’s inhabitants several times over.
The release also states that there are other issues that helped guide the change in the clock including; climate change, failure to find efficient sources of energy and the failure to act on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (by several nations including United States, China, Iran, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel, and North Korea).
Kennette Benedict, the executive director of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, commended the work of protestors worldwide. He made the following statement in the Jan. 10th press release:
The Science and Security Board is heartened by the Arab Spring, the Occupy movements, political protests in Russia, and by the actions of ordinary citizens in Japan as they call for fair treatment and attention to their needs. Whether meeting the challenges of nuclear power, or mitigating the suffering from human-caused global warming, or preventing catastrophic nuclear conflict in a volatile world, the power of people is essential.
So what does this all mean?
Upon looking at the history of the world, and the BAS, it doesn’t really mean much.
The clock reached the 2-minutes-to-midnight mark in 1953 and the 3-minutes-to-midnight mark in 1949 and 1984. It was then set back to 17-minutes-to-midnight in 1991 when the Cold War officially ended.
The clock has moved six times since 1991, and with more than 19,500 active nuclear warheads worldwide, what difference could one minute make?