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Sierra Daily

Jan 10, 2012

‘Round Midnight

AtmospheToday the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists pushed its iconic Doomsday Clock, since 1947 a measure of the potential for global disaster, one minute closer to an apocalyptic midnight: 11:55. In 2010, the clock was moved from 11:55 to six minutes to midnight in response to the worldwide reduction of nuclear weapons and attempts to limit climate change. 

While the original clock focused on the risks of nuclear Armageddon, these days it more generally assesses threats to human civilization, including climate change.

The clock was at its most nail-biting (11:58) in 1953, reflecting the fact that the U.S. and the Soviet Union had tested thermonuclear devices within nine months of each other. In 1991, the clock gave us the most breathing room ever, when it was set to 11:43 after the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty by the two superpowers. 

Writes the Washington Post: “In moving the clock ahead on Tuesday, the BAS cited the failure of world leaders to achieve significant progress on the reduction of nuclear weapons and in developing a comprehensive response to climate change. Just two years ago, following global talks on climate change in Copenhagen and international pledges to reduce nuclear stockpiles, the BAS moved the clock backward by a minute. '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,' said Lawrence Krauss, co-chairman of the group’s board of sponsors.”

The silver lining department: According to the Post, “The group’s members say they were heartened by the Arab Spring, the Occupy movements and political protest in Russia.” Those developments, said Bulletin of Atomic Scientists executive director Kennette Benedict, “indicated that people are waking up, and want to have a say in their future.”

-- Reed McManus

Image: Nevada Department of Environmental Protection

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