The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which 60 years ago began keeping tabs on humanity’s temporal distance from self-annihilation with the concept of a “Doomsday Clock,” apparently found things sufficiently dire to nudge the minute hand forward two clicks, indicating that we are now “five minutes to midnight” — or Doomsday.
The clock had last been adjusted in 2002, when it was moved from 9 minutes off to 7 minutes. The current position is the closest the group has put the planet to Doomsday since 1953, when the Soviets and the United States were first playing with their newfangled thermonuclear weaponry, and things looked mighty bleak indeed.
From a statement released today by the Board of Directors of the Bulletin, and posted to its Web site:
We stand at the brink of a second nuclear age. Not since the first atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has the world faced such perilous choices. North Korea’s recent test of a nuclear weapon, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, a renewed U.S. emphasis on the military utility of nuclear weapons, the failure to adequately secure nuclear materials, and the continued presence of some 26,000 nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia are symptomatic of a larger failure to solve the problems posed by the most destructive technology on Earth.
As in past deliberations, we have examined other human-made threats to civilization. We have concluded that the dangers posed by climate change are nearly as dire as those posed by nuclear weapons. The effects may be less dramatic in the short term than the destruction that could be wrought by nuclear explosions, but over the next three to four decades climate change could cause drastic harm to the habitats upon which human societies depend for survival.
This deteriorating state of global affairs leads the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists — in consultation with a Board of Sponsors that includes 18 Nobel laureates — to move the minute hand of the “Doomsday Clock” from seven to five minutes to midnight.
Rather than bore you with more exposition, however, we figured we’d render a graphic for your viewing pleasure. So with no further ado, here’s a very rough sketch of how the experts interpreted our distance from the bitter end over the last 60 years, based on the timeline provided at the Bulletin’s Web site. Enjoy!