The spectre of a nuclear war 60 years ago was what created the "doomsday clock," the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists'(BAS) cold war chronometer. The closer the clock to midnight, the closer the world was creeping toward disaster. These days, the superpower polarisation of the world may be gone, but the threat of nuclear conflict remains. And added to that, a new doomsday force is moving the clock hands: global warming.
The 'Doomsday Clock' is now at 5 minutes to midnight. (Image: Bulletin of Atomic Scientists)
Over the six decades of existence, the clock has swung backwards
andforwards between 17 minutes to midnight and as close as 2
Witheach new nuclear threat, it ticked closer to twelve. With
each new armsreduction treaty or weapons ban, it moved back from
the brink. Now boththe resurgent threat of nuclear weapons and
climate change have movedthe hands of the clock two minutes closer:
to only 5 minutes away frommidnight, the figurative end of the
world as we know it.
Withthe end of the cold war, the clock was at an historic 17
minutes awayfrom midnight in 1991. But since then is has moved
steadily closer tomidnight with new nuclear threats and now with
the addition of climatechange.
New nuclear threats are sending the clock back towardsthe dark
days of the nuclear standoff between the US and USSR. Theseinclude
nuclear test which made North Korea an official member of the
nuclear weapons club and the incorporation of nuclear weapons into
strategic military planning for a possible US strike against
"Asscientists, we understand the dangers of nuclear weapons and
theirdevastating effects, and we are learning how human activities
andtechnologies are affecting climate systems in ways that may
foreverchange life on Earth.
As citizens of the world, we have a duty to alertthe public to
the unnecessary risks that we live with every day, and tothe perils
we foresee if governments and societies do not take actionnow to
render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further
Hawking, a BAS sponsor, professor of mathematics at the University
of Cambridge, and a fellow of The Royal Society.
Addedto the increase in nuclear tensions is the acknowledgment
that climatechange now represents a new threat that must be faced
with the samedetermination as ending the possibility of nuclear
"TheDoomsday Clock can go backwards as well as forwards and a
massiveuptake of renewable energy sources along with energy
efficiency andconservation would help us tackle both the climate
threat and thethreat of spreading dangerous nuclear technology
around the world",said Steve Sawyer, Greenpeace climate
To reduce thethreat of nuclear war requires all governments of
the world to listento their citizens who overwhelmingly reject the
use of nuclear weapons.As the world warms and severe weather
becomes more frequent across manyparts of the world, the solutions
to climate change are within thereach of everyone.
Einstein said that with the splitting ofthe atom everything
changed except the way we think: the challenge nowis to change the
way we act.
The 12 steps you can take to stop climate change.