Doomsday Clock Moves to Five Minutes to Midnight

NEWS, 16 Jan 2012

Science and Security Board, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists – TRANSCEND Media Service

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.

Nuclear Disarmament

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 and 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 approximately 19,500 nuclear weapons, enough power to destroy the Earth’s inhabitants several times over. The Nuclear Security Summit of 2010 shone a spotlight on securing all nuclear fissile material, but few actions have been taken. The result is that it is still possible for radical groups to acquire and use highly enriched uranium and plutonium to wreak havoc in nuclear attacks.

Obstacles to a world free of nuclear weapons remain. Among these are disagreements between the United States and Russia about the utility and purposes of missile defense, as well as insufficient transparency, planning, and cooperation among the nine nuclear weapons states to support a continuing drawdown. The resulting distrust leads nearly all nuclear weapons states to hedge their bets by modernizing their nuclear arsenals. While governments claim they are only ensuring the safety of their warheads through replacement of bomb components and launch systems, as the deliberate process of arms reduction proceeds, such developments appear to other states to be signs of substantial military build-ups.

The Science and Security Board also reviewed progress in meeting the challenges of nuclear weapons proliferation. Ambiguity about Iran’s nuclear power program continues to be the most prominent example of this unsolved problem – centrifuges can enrich uranium for both civilian power plants and military weapons. It remains to be seen how many additional countries will pursue nuclear power, but without solutions to the dual-use problem and without incentives sufficient to resist military applications, the world is playing with the explosive potential of a million suns and a fire that will not go out.

The potential for nuclear weapons use in regional conflicts in the Middle East, Northeast Asia, and particularly in South Asia is also alarming. Ongoing efforts to ease tensions, deal with extremism and terrorist acts, and reduce the role of nuclear weapons in international relations have had only halting success. Yet we believe that international diplomatic pressure as well as burgeoning citizen action will help political leaders to see the folly of continuing to rely on nuclear weapons for national security.

Nuclear Energy

In light of over 60 years of improving reactor designs and developing nuclear fission for safer power production, it is disheartening that the world has suffered another calamitous accident. Given this history, the Fukushima disaster raised significant questions that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board believe must be addressed. Safer nuclear reactor designs need to be developed and built, and more stringent oversight, training, and attention are needed to prevent future disasters. A major question to be addressed is: How can complex systems like nuclear power stations be made less susceptible to accidents and errors in judgment?

Climate Change

In fact, the global community may be near a point of no return in efforts to prevent catastrophe from changes in Earth’s atmosphere. The International Energy Agency projects that, unless societies begin building alternatives to carbon-emitting energy technologies over the next five years, the world is doomed to a warmer climate, harsher weather, droughts, famine, water scarcity, rising sea levels, loss of island nations, and increasing ocean acidification. Since fossil-fuel burning power plants and infrastructure built in 2012-2020 will produce energy – and emissions – for 40 to 50 years, the actions taken in the next few years will set us on a path that will be impossible to redirect. Even if policy leaders decide in the future to reduce reliance on carbon-emitting technologies, it will be too late.

Among the existing alternatives for producing base-load electricity with low carbon dioxide emissions is nuclear power. Russia, China, India, and South Korea will likely continue to construct plants, enrich fuel, and shape the global nuclear power industry.
Countries that had earlier signaled interest in building nuclear power capacity, such as Vietnam, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and others, are still intent on acquiring civilian nuclear reactors for electricity despite the Fukushima disaster. However, a number of countries have renounced nuclear power, including Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. In Japan, only eight of 54 power plants currently operate because prefecture governors, responding to people’s opposition to nuclear power, have not allowed reactors back online. In the United States, increased costs of additional safety measures may make nuclear power too expensive to be a realistic alternative to natural gas and other fossil fuels.

The hopeful news is that alternatives to burning coal, oil, and uranium for energy continue to show promise. Solar and photovoltaic technologies are seeing reductions in price, wind turbines are being adopted for commercial electricity, and energy conservation and efficiency are becoming accepted as sources for industrial production and residential use. Many of these developments are taking place at municipal and local levels in countries around the world. In Haiti, for example, a nonprofit group is distributing solar-powered light bulbs to the poor. In Germany, a smart electrical grid is shifting solar-generated power to cloudy regions and wind power to becalmed areas. And in California, government is placing caps on carbon emissions that industry will meet. While not perfect, these technologies and practices hold substantial promise.

Yet, we are very concerned that the pace of change may not be adequate and that the transformation that seems to be on its way will not take place in time to meet the hardships that large-scale disruption of the climate portends. 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, without exposing people to loss of health and community, and without risking further spread of nuclear weapons.

The challenges to rid the world of nuclear weapons, harness nuclear power, and meet the nearly inexorable climate disruptions from global warming are complex and interconnected. In the face of such complex problems, it is difficult to see where the capacity lies to address these challenges. The political processes in place seem wholly inadequate to meet the challenges to human existence that we confront.

As such, 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. For this reason, we ask other scientists and experts to join us in engaging ordinary citizens. Together, we can present the most significant questions to policymakers and industry leaders. Most important, we can demand answers and action. As the first atomic scientists of the Bulletin recognized in 1948, the burden of disseminating information about the social and economic “implications of nuclear energy and other new scientific developments rests with the intelligent citizens of the world; the intense and continuing cooperation of the scientists is assured.”

Few of the Bulletin‘s recommendations of 2010 have been taken up; they still require urgent attention if we are to avert catastrophe from nuclear weapons and global warming. At a minimum these include:

  • Ratification by the United States and China of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and progress on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty;
  • Implementing multinational management of the civilian nuclear energy fuel cycle with strict standards for safety, security, and nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, including eliminating reprocessing for plutonium separation;
  • Strengthening the International Atomic Energy Agency’s capacity to oversee nuclear materials, technology development, and its transfer;
  • Adopting and fulfilling climate change agreements to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through tax incentives, harmonized domestic regulation and practice;
  • Transforming the coal power sector of the world economy to retire older plants and to require in new plants the capture and storage of the CO2 they produce;
  • Vastly increasing public and private investments in alternatives to carbon emitting energy sources, such as solar and wind, and in technologies for energy storage, and sharing the results worldwide.

The Clock is ticking.

-Science and Security Board, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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5 Responses to “Doomsday Clock Moves to Five Minutes to Midnight”

  1. These Atomic Scientists are the height of hypocrisy. The announcement, after the Doomsday clock moved closer to Nuclear Apocalypse, shows the unlimited and unrepentant hipocrisy of scientists. They are the ones who “make it possible” for us idiots to push a button and destroy ourselves and our beautiful planet. Why do they do this? If instead of using their time, intelligence, studies and efforts towards destroying life, they dedicated themselves to prolong life, we would have a wonderful world, not only from an environmental point of view but also economic, with not one single person of the six billion we are, dying from starvation or lack of medical care.

    Furthermore, the political stance of scientists is also extremely hypocritical. They criticize Iran and North Korea, who have never attacked with nuclear bombs, but remain consciously oblivious to real history, United States of America’s destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, murdering hundreds of thousands.

    They hypocritically say “Despite the promise of a new spirit of international cooperation….” when it is they who made it possible for countries to become ferocious rivals.

    Even MORE HYPOCRISY when they utter “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….”

    They know VERY WELL “how to meet energy needs….” why don’t they meet those needs?????????because they accept money from corrupted Governments to MAKE SURE those “developing” countries never develop.

    Scientists hypocritically talk of “without further damaging the climate….” when it is they who destroy our climate and environment.

    “without exposing people to loss of health” these hypocrits say, when it is scientists who make it possible for people to be exposed and subjected to loss od health.

    “….and community,…..” here they used hypocritical, false, politicians’ vocabulary. What they want to say is:

    And the height of hypocrisy: “and without risking further spread of nuclear weapons.”, when they know very well is scientists and ONLY scientists, who “made” the spread of nuclear weapons exist.

    Apologies to all human and humane scientists who have given us cures to so many diseases or medical conditions, as well as to victims of accidents, etc, etc.


  2. satoshi says:

    Re: “A comment (in nine divided parts plus alpha) on the above comment that commented on the above article.”

    1. Some comments on the (TMS) article inspire the readers more than the article itself. Mr. Portugheis’ comments are such comments. For example, I am one of those who have been inspired by him and thus, I am now writing “this comment on his comment above.” (As you may know, the word “educate” had derived from the word “inspire” in the classical Greek.)

    2. After the Cold War Era, it seems to me that the world situation in general has become more dangerous than ever before. More precisely, “some people” have made the world situation more dangerous than ever. Although I have no nostalgia for the Cold War Era at all, it seems to me that the contemporary world is far more complicated and far more dangerous in various ways than those days of the Cold War Era. Who said that the world became safer after the Cold War Era? (This world was already ugly and horrible even some 2500 years ago. It is, thus, no wonder that Siddhartha Gautama abandoned the world at the age of 29. Some 500 years after Gautama, Jesus of Nazareth said that he was in this world but he was not of the world. He encouraged his disciples to be the same. Jesus also knew that the world was, at its best, nothing but futile. But the world today is not only horrible or futile but also far more dangerous than the world 2,000 or 2,500 years ago.) While common people are enjoying themselves with iPods, iPhones, iPads, 3D screen videos or the like, “some people” are working hard (yes, very hard) to make the world a more dangerous place for common people (but perhaps a better place for such “some people”). There is nothing wrong for anyone to enjoy like that. But remember this: a manipulator’s classical technique that still works in this 21st Century: “Diverse common people’s attention from your objective(s), meanwhile you can do whatever you want.” If the “decision in a democratic society” is made by the majority voting of common people, you should constantly be vigilant if someone or some people are using such manipulating technique against the mass. In many countries today, you can see the “de facto autocracy in disguise,” covered with “beautifully decorated democratic gift-wrapping paper.”

    3. But who and what are the “some people”? Ask Mr. Alberto Portugheis (who wrote the comment above), and he will tell you. I am happy to know that a man like Mr. Portugheis, internationally renowned peacemaker-pianist, is working hard (yes, very hard) in this dangerous world in order to make this world better for common people. Read his book, “Dear Ahed… — The Game of War and A Path to Peace —,” published by Opus Publications, 2008, (ISBN 978-0-9561536-0-9), and you will be surprised; “your eye(s) for peace” will be opened. The book is written in simple plain English so that even if you are a non-native speaker of English, if you have some basic knowledge of that language, you can read it without any difficulties. But his message and the information contained in the book are extraordinary. Analogy: While Prof. Galtung’s books teach the mechanism of a car and how to drive a car safely (peacefully), Mr. Portugheis’ book is a driving guide that provides peace-loving drivers with essential information (together with his amazing insight) on things behind peace and war. Mr. Portugheis’ book can be used for a broad range of purposes (and for a broad range of people, both for peace workers and for laypeople; from teenagers to one hundred-year-old senior citizens) of peace education. The book can also be used as a textbook (or one of essential reading materials) of a program of peace education. (The term “peace education” is used here in the broadest sense, referring not only to those academic programs at university education but also to programs of high school education, those peace programs aiming at citizens in general and more.)

    4. In his comment above, Mr. Portugheis uses the words “hypocrisy and its derivatives, including hypocritical, hypocritically, hypocrites” nine times. The body of his comment (except his signature “Alberto” at the end of his comment) contains 373 words. This means that the words “hypocrisy and its derivatives” are used approximately every 41 or 42 words in his comment. These “hypocrisy and its derivatives” are the key words to understand his comment above. Let me summarize his comment above like this: “A glance at the argument in the above article seems to be reasonable. But the problem is, Mr. Portugheis claims, that scientists are actually doing the opposite things to what they argue in the above article, because they accept money from corrupted governments. This is what he means ‘hypocritical.’ These opposite things, he argues, have brought about wars, environmental destruction and other immense tragedies and serious sufferings to people(s) in the world.” Let me cite from his book a few of his words, as an example, relating to his argument in his comment above: “The New England Complex Systems Institute is located in Cambridge, Mass. The whole Boston area, with MIT at the lead, is home to scientists dedicated to create wars in the world. A majority of military contracts, from the US Armed Forces, CIA and FBI, go to scientists in Mass. Not only weapons either, but new materials for uniforms that soldiers will wear in the future, when fighting wars in hot countries or in space, are being developed in Massachusetts, USA.” (Cited from “Dear Ahed…” p. 78.) Please note that those quoted words are not the only discussion in his book, relating to Mr. Portugheis’ argument in his comment above. He discusses relevant issues that he mentioned in his comment above, in many different chapters and sections in his book.

    5. Some advice to those who read Mr. Portugheis’ comments on the TMS website: When Mr. Portugheis posts a comment on the TMS website, read it carefully and think why he says so. You will then be able to learn a lot from his comment, because his comment contains not only his opinion but also valuable information that supports his viewpoint; even when sometimes such information is cryptically mentioned, you can still understand it clearly and your mind will click like this: “Aha! Now I can see it!” Furthermore, if you read his book, your understanding about his comments (on the TMS website) will drastically improve and you will appreciate his comments much more.

    6. Having said that above, however, I never say that you should agree with Mr. Portugheis. You have no obligation to agree with him. Why do you agree with him if you have your own viewpoint? (Perhaps, in most cases, you would agree with him partially or sometimes; you would disagree with him partially or sometimes. That is normal. That is enough.) But I say, regardless of what, as follows: Respect him because you can learn a significant amount of invaluable things from him; at the same time, apply your critical thinking carefully to his argument(s) in terms of peace, peace especially for common people, and/or for socially weak people. (But do not expect any sophisticated rhetoric in his argument. His argument is straightforward and its expressions are simple. His arguments, as far as I know, are no-frills arguments.) Examine his arguments one by one. I am sure that you will be struck by his incredible insight(s) somewhere along the way.

    7. Some people have changed the world. “Isaac Newton” changed the world of science. So, did “Albert Einstein.” “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart” changed the world of music. So, did the “Beatles” and the “Rolling Stones.” Both “Bill Gates” and “Steve Jobs” changed the world of computers. Without “Johan Galtung,” it is highly probable that “peace studies” did not exist in the 20th Century (probably even now in the early part of the 21st Century). Without “Alberto Portugheis,” it is highly probable that more people in the world were still “sleeping (or drunken),” even in this very dangerous contemporary situation that seems somewhat like the calm (actually, however, not calm at all) before the storm.

    8. “The message of Alberto Portugheis is not comfortable. It requires a total change of perspective. Kant wrote ‘Dare to know. That is the motto of Enlightenment’. It is daring to know that has put Alberto Portugheis’ life at risk – uncomfortable knowledge is the fuel with which he campaigns to educate and to promote a world without war.
    “Alberto Portugheis was nominated for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize.” (Cited from his book, “Dear Ahed…” p. 406.) Mr. Portugheis’ words as quoted above remind me of Dag Hammarskjold’s words that he wrote in his spiritual diary “Markings” (discovered and published after his death) as follows: “Weep, if you can. Weep. But do not complain. The Way chose you. You must be thankful.” It seems to me that Mr. Portugheis has been practicing Hammarskjold’s words as such, whether or not he knows Hammarskjold’s words. (To Mr. Portugheis: Please take care of your life. While whistle-blowers are highly respected, they tend to be easily targeted in many cases. Hammarskjold was a whistle-blower for peace. There are still many peace-loving people in the world, who need a person like you, Mr. Portugheis. As mentioned above, they do not necessarily agree with you 100% but they are surely peace-loving people, most of whom are socially weak common people. What is your mission in this life? You know that. Once again, please take care of yourself. Thank you, Mr. Portugheis, for your dedication to peace!)

    9. The clock is ticking? Whose clock is ticking? Who allowed the clock to tick? For what? For whom? Why? Is the clock really ticking? Are you sure? The world is as it is. Some people want a “world of war and other kinds of violence,” while some other people want to make a “world of peace.” Meanwhile, the rest of them are sleeping. What would you do with this world and with all those people? As mentioned above, Siddhartha Gautama abandoned this world to concentrate on his spiritual peace. Jesus of Nazareth declared that he was in this world but he was not of this world. The world, as also mentioned, is far much uglier and far more dangerous today than it was in the Cold War Era whether or not you are aware of it. Nonetheless, it is also true that there is still a little amount of unspoiled beauty in it. Read Mr. Portugheis’ book. Check his comment(s), if any, on this TMS website every week. Examine his argument(s) critically. Then think it over all by yourself and decide what you would like to do (or not to do) with this world and in this world. It is, above all, about your life, this life of yours. And think about lives of other people as well when you think about your life if you love peace and if you have love for others.

    Alpha: For more information about his book, visit:

  3. satoshi says:

    In my comment above, I said, “Apply your critical thinking to Mr. Portugheis’s discussion.” I believe that Mr. Alberto Portugheis will understand what I meant to say.

    At the end of his life, Buddha said to his disciples, “Do not blindly follow my teaching. Test my teaching in your everyday life if it works. If it does not work then, drop it.” Mr. Prortughies says that he is a Buddhist.

  4. satoshi says:

    PS. Correction. In the last line of my previous comment, Mr. Portugheis’ name was misspelled. I sincerely apologize for it.

  5. Hello Satoshi,

    I was touched by your long and detailed response to my piece on the “Hipocrisy of Atomic Scientists”. Thank you very much. I would now like to comment on your own ideas and perspectives. You sensibly quote the words Dag Hammarskjold wrote in his spiritual diary. “Weep, if you can. Weep. But do not complain. The Way chose you. You must be thankful”.

    I know those words and agree with them. However, “why” did Hammarskjold write them down in his Diary, instead of uttering them very publicly during his lifetime and in particular during his years with the United Nations? Because during those years he had to “obey” UN’s (United Necrologists) instructions of not to enlighten the world.

    Same with former USA President Jimmy Carter. During his years in the White House – 1977 t0 1981 – he didn’t pay so much attention to “advancing Human Rights and Alleviating Suffering”. To create The Carter Centre he waited until 1982, when he had no more obligations towards the titans of Banking, the oil and military industry, many of them members of the Bilderberg Group and high ranking Freemasons, who “control” USA foreign policy.

    Thank you Satoshi for your concern about my life. I have had threats from CIA and for from religious fanatics who think that my Buddhists ideas make me more or less the Devil incarnated.

    Coming back to your ideas the way you put it “Some people want a world of war and other kinds of violence, while some other people want to make a world of peace” could be misleading. It gives the impression the world is divided more or less 50-50 between the first and second categories, but this is not so.

    First of all, “other kind of violence”, – not war – like attacking your neighbour, a fellow passenger on a train, hitting, torturing, maiming, kidnapping, killing to rob someone, arson, breaking a shop window, etc, is all violence considered illegal and punished by law.

    However, violence where you carry out similar activities but in the name of your Government and wearing a military uniform, your crime is no longer a crime and the more people you kill, the better chances you have of becoming a hero and famous. You can also become rich (if you’ve not been killed in action too soon). But, coming to your point, having talked to people of some 100 countries and having asked them all “do you like wars? Would you like a war?” the answer has invariably been a rotund NO !!!!!

    To me, 99% of the world does not want, does not like war, but there controllers of the world, not more than a 1% of humanity, need wars – even if they personally also don’t like them – in order not to lose their control. I even talked with weapon manufacturers, politicians, Generals and Commanders, all saying the same thing “I don’t like wars”.

    Now, how come, if nobody likes wars, we have to endure them ad infinitum?? Very simple: the “War Machine” must be kept going, for the benefit of those who make a living out of war. People the world over, against their will, must kill and/or be killed, so that manufacturers of bullets, bombs, landmines, air-fighters, warships, etc, can sell – and keep selling – their products. So, through school education, the media and theistic religions, populations are brainwashed into thinking “my country is better than yours” and “my religion is better than yours”.

    You say that “Siddhartha Gautama abandoned this world to concentrate on his spiritual peace”, but Gautama only abandoned “this world” like all of us, when he died. His contribution to Humanity is that, whilst in this world, he “opened his eyes, ears and mind to the reality of the Universe. You mention Jesus of Nazareth and what he declared, but nobody knows what Jesus say or didn’t say, because he didn’t leave anything in writing and because the founders of Christianity (some 80 years after Jesus passing) couldn’t know what Jesus said or didn’t say.

    You claim “The world is far much uglier and far more dangerous today than it was in the Cold War Era”. Have you followed the wars in Vietnam, Biafra (Nigeria), Cambodia, Angola (27 year long Civil War), and the Armed conflicts of Ghana, Grenada, Cuba, Israel, Lebanon, to mention just a few of the MANY horrible and ugly dangers lived by us during the Cold War.

    As to your statement that “…..there is still a little amount of unspoiled beauty in it.”, it sounds to me as if you don’t travel enough. I wish I could afford offering a ticket round the world. There is plenty of unspoiled beauty.

    What you say in your last sentence is VERY wise: “Then think it all over all by yourself and decide what you’d like to do (or not to do) with this world and in this world.” And this is of paramount importance: “It is, above all, about your life, this life of yours. And think about the lives of other people as well when you think about your life if you love peace and if you have love for others.” This is PURE Buddhism.

    Thank you again, Satoshi.