Doomsday Clock one minute closer to doom

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 10, 2012 

WASHINGTON — The world needs a wakeup call, says the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

By inching the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock — which symbolizes how close the world is to catastrophe — one minute closer to midnight (or world elimination) Tuesday, board members of the science organization said they hope political leaders will heed this call to action.

The time now is five minutes to midnight, and the need to craft policies and educate the public on the dangers of nuclear proliferation, global climate change and the hunt for sustainable, safe sources of energy has heightened, the scientists said at a news conference in Washington.

"Unfortunately, Einstein's statement in 1946 that 'everything has changed, save the way we think,' remains true," Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Arizona State University, said in a statement.

The world has backtracked since 2010, when the hand of the Doomsday Clock, at the University of Chicago, was literally — and metaphorically — wound back from five minutes to six minutes to midnight.

In December 1945, scientists who helped develop the first atomic bomb took a step back and stood in awe at the powerful weapon they had created.

"(They) were frightened to death and wanted governance of the weapons," Robert Socolow, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University, said in an interview.

That fear was channeled, and the Doomsday Clock was born.

Every year, leaders of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists — which works to share information on nuclear weapons, global climate change and new technologies — deliberate on whether to shift the clock's minute hand.

"We are auditors of the state of the world and these critical issues that describe the future of mankind," Socolow said.

And with 19,500 nuclear weapons deployed around the globe, the state of the world is in critical condition, board members said.

In their presentation Tuesday, board members warned that an all-out nuclear war could potentially blow up the world several times over. They said prominent leaders of nuclear power-seeking countries — such as in the United States, China, Iran, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel and North Korea — have failed to act on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to ban all nuclear explosions.

The group's members said they found hope, though, in last year's grassroots efforts such as the Arab Spring in the Middle East, the Occupy movement in the United States and political protests in Russia.

"Together we can present the most significant questions to policymakers and industry leaders," said Kennette Benedict, the board's executive director and former director of International Peace and Security at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. "Most importantly, we can demand answers and action."

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The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

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