Oh dear; while we were marveling at big TVs, tiny phones and all the other excess CES 2012 has to offer, scientists decided we were another step closer to doomsday. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists shifted their Doomsday Clock one minute closer to midnight this week, a symbolic warning that humanity is one step closer to global disaster. Pushing us to the precipice are “inadequate progress on nuclear weapons reduction and proliferation, and continuing inaction on climate change.”
It’s two years since the Doomsday Clock was updated, the last change being in January 2010 when we actually gained a minute. Then, the world looked like it was cooperating on reducing nuclear weapons and getting a grip on climate change, prompting a temporary bubble of enthusiasm and the sense that we might not all be going to hell in a handcart quite yet.
Sadly two years later and we’re back at five minutes to midnight. The fallout – political, industrial and literal – from the Fukushima plant disaster in Japan, along with increasing apathy about climate change and a rise in nuclear weapons testing have all contributed to the decision to plunge us sixty seconds closer to species annihilation.
“[The] failure to act on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by leaders in the United States, China, Iran, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel, and North Korea 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 over 19,000 nuclear weapons, enough power to destroy the world’s inhabitants several times over” Jayantha Dhanapala, former United Nations under-secretary-general for Disarmament Affairs (1998-2003)
The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947 by the board of directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago, originally as a symbol of the threat of nuclear war. Since that point, it has come to reflect the dwindling supplies of – and increasing reliance on – fossil fuels, the impact of climate change, and other scientific discoveries that could have a serious impact on human life. The original time was set at 11:53pm, or seven minutes to midnight, with the latest setting being 11:58pm in 1953, when the US and Russia each tested thermonuclear devices within the space of nine months.