DOOMSDAY CLOCK MOVES 1 MINUTE AWAY FROM MIDNIGHT
COMMENTARY ARCHIVES, 16 Jan 2010
Chicago, 14 Jan 2010 — Today the Doomsday clock was moved back by 1 minute to 11:54 p.m. in a press conference of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. In a move to align the environmental and anti-nuclear movements, speakers pointed out the need to tackle climate change as well as implement strategies for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
Today the Doomsday clock, the allegorical device launched by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in 1947 at the University of Chigaco, was moved back by 1 minute to 11:54 p.m.: 6 minutes away from a supposed nuclear war that midnight represents.
The clock has been adjusted 19 times throughout its history, reflecting the twists and turns of international tensions and nuclear proliferation throughout the last 63 years. In 1947 the clock was set to 7 minutes to midnight reflecting the end of the Second World War and the fact that the bomb had just been used twice in Japan and the emerging cold war. Its closest brush with midnight was in 1953 after both the United States and the former USSR tested thermonuclear devices within 9 months of one another, however as the clock is only updated periodically, the 13 day period of the Cuban missile crisis would have probably seen the clock much closer to midnight in 1962.
As new countries acquired the technology and as treaties were signed to release international tensions, the clock has oscillated between 2 minutes and 17 minutes to midnight, the latter reflecting the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in 1991.
The most recent movement before today’s announcement was a two minute change from 7 minutes to 5 minutes to midnight in 2007 reflecting North Korea’s nuclear test, Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions and the US’s continued stockpiling of 26,000 nuclear weapons among other factors.
In today’s announcement, broadcast live on the internet at 3pm GMT, Kennette Benedict, executive Director and publisher of BAS, calling on citizens to join in the efforts for nuclear disarmament said, “the emerging trends in international cooperation will provide a basis for a collaborative, problem solving for a safer world, but a handful of government officials no matter how bold their vision will not be able, on their own, to deal with the threats to civilisation that we now face.”
Lawrence Krause, Professor at Arizona State University listed as central to achieving nuclear disarmament; the need for new nuclear doctrines, the removal of nuclear weapons at “hair-trigger” status – enabling them to be used in 15 minutes, the need to remove nuclear material, the need to ratify the new US-Russia treaty, the need for new talks to reduce US and Russian missiles, the need for progress at the NPT and ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the need to eliminate the processing of nuclear waste plutonium production, the need to adopt and fulfil climate change agreements and the need for a vast increase in investment in alternative energy sources.
Stephen Schneider, Professor at Stanford University pointed out in his statement the link between climate change and international tensions, saying that “(global) warming is unequivocal” and that international tensions due to climatic reasons increase the likely of nuclear conflagration.
Jayantha Dhanapala, President of the Pugwash conferences on science and world affairs listed the social injustices caused by military spending: 1,464,000,000 US dollars spent on military spending last year, 41.5% by the US and equivalent to $217 per inhabitant of the planet per year; 1 in 6 human beings are suffering from hunger and every 6 seconds a child dies of malnutrition whereas 40-60,000,000 US$ would be enough to reach the UN Millennium Development Goals. Reinforcing the link between climate change and nuclear weapons, Dhanapala pointed out that were 0.03% of the global nuclear arsenal to be used it would be a catastrophe for climate change.
Pervez Hoodboy, Professor of Physics at Quaid-I-Azam University in Islamabad, Pakistan, pointing out that 1 minute would equate to 15 years if the 24:00 were equivalent to human history so far, said that these days an increasing number of governments don’t see nuclear weapons as a viable defence strategy, this is due to 3 factors according to Hoodboy: 1. Obama’s progress in chairing the UN Security Council meeting in 2009 and his negotiations with Russia and Iran show a change in US attitudes, 2. Populations around the world, especially in Europe, are highly sensitive to the nuclear dangers and are pushing their politicians, and surprisingly, credit was given to 3. Osama Bin Laden who showed the world that US nuclear missiles are useless as a deterrent for terrorism. Denouncing the arms race between India and Pakistan, he said that this was to the “detriment of the people”.
To finalise the announcement of the clock going back one minute, Krause pointed out that nuclear weapons states are now cooperating for the first time and that developed and developing nations are trying to tackle climate change.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was founded by Manhattan Project scientist, Eugene Rabinowitch, who previously expressed his social and ethical concerns about nuclear weapons in the Franck Report of June 1945 recommending the United States to not use the atomic bomb. Rabinowitch wrote that the Bulletin’s objective "was to awaken the public to full understanding of the horrendous reality of nuclear weapons and of their far-reaching implications for the future of mankind; to warn of the inevitability of other nations acquiring nuclear weapons within a few years, and of the futility of relying on America’s possession of the ‘secret’ of the bomb."
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