Citing a more “hopeful state of world affairs” in relation to the twin threats posed by nuclear weapons and climate change, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is moving the minute hand of its famous Doomsday Clock one minute away from midnight. It is now 6 minutes to midnight. The decision by the BAS Science and Security Board was made in consultation with the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, which includes 19 Nobel Laureates.
In a statement supporting the decision to move the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock, the BAS Board said: “It is 6 minutes to midnight. We are poised to bend the arc of history toward a world free of nuclear weapons. For the first time since atomic bombs were dropped in 1945, leaders of nuclear weapons states are cooperating to vastly reduce their arsenals and secure all nuclear bomb-making material. And for the first time ever, industrialized and developing countries alike are pledging to limit climate-changing gas emissions that could render our planet nearly uninhabitable. These unprecedented steps are signs of a growing political will to tackle the two gravest threats to civilization—the terror of nuclear weapons and runaway climate change.”
Created in 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Doomsday Clock has been adjusted only 18 times prior to today, most recently in January 2007 and February 2002. By moving the hand of the Clock away from midnight—the figurative end of civilization—the BAS Board of Directors is drawing attention to encouraging signs of progress. At the same time, the small increment of the change reflects both the threats that remain around the globe and the danger that governments may fail to deliver on pledged actions on reducing nuclear weapons and mitigating climate change.
The BAS statement explains: “By shifting the hand back from midnight by only one additional minute, we emphasize how much needs to be accomplished, while at the same time recognizing signs of collaboration among the United States, Russia, the European Union, India, China, Brazil, and others on nuclear security and on climate stabilization.”
The statement particularly cites the presidency of Barack Obama as a hopeful sign: “A key to the new era of cooperation is a change in the US government’s orientation toward international affairs brought about in part by the election of Obama. With a more pragmatic, problem-solving approach, not only has Obama initiated new arms reduction talks with Russia, he has started negotiations with Iran to close its nuclear enrichment program, and directed the US government to lead a global effort to secure loose fissile material in four years. He also presided over the UN Security Council last September where he supported a fissile material cutoff treaty and encouraged all countries to live up to their disarmament and nonproliferation obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty…” (BAS, Jan. 14)