A well-known group of scientists decided yesterday that Earth’s doomsday is now one minute closer due to global inaction on climate change and the ongoing threat of nuclear disaster. The decision was made by the Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Sciences (BAS) – a magazine that covers global security and public policy issues, which was founded in 1945 by the group of scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons. BAS’s Board of Directors and Board of Sponsors — a group that includes 18 Nobel Laureates — decided to move their doomsday clock (a symbolic gauge of nuclear danger) to five minutes to midnight from six minutes to midnight partially due to the disastrous consequences of theFukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, American and Russian disagreement on nuclear disarmament and the inability of World leaders to come to meaningful consensus at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban.

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The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was originally started as a publication but in 1947 the group decided to create the Doomsday Clock to illustrate their global security and public policy concerns. The clock itself only counts the minutes leading up to midnight, not the whole hour — meaning BAS has been very concerned for 65 years — and was first set in 1947 at 7 minutes to midnight. It got closest in 1953, at 2 minutes to midnight when concerns over the Soviet Union was testing nuclear devices and was furthest in 1991 at 17 minutes to midnight when superpowers around the world reached an agreement about nuclear disarmament. It has been creeping closer to midnight since 1991, although the group decided to push the clock back one minute in 2010 in hopes that the global push to find solutions for climate change and nuclear safety would be successful and the friendly relations between the US and the Soviet Union meant great things for nuclear disarmament. Now other countries with nuclear weapons are emerging as greater concerns, and global climate change is slowly advancing.

“Unfortunately, Einstein’s statement in 1946 that ‘everything has changed, save the way we think,’ remains true.  The provisional developments of 2 years ago have not been sustained, and it makes sense to move the clock closer to midnight, back to the value it had in 2007. Faced with clear and present dangers of nuclear proliferation and climate change, and the need to find sustainable and safe sources of energy, world leads are failing to change business as usual,” said Lawrence Krauss, co-chair, BAS Board of Sponsors, foundation professor,School of Earth and Space Exploration and Physics departments, associate director, Beyond Center, co-director, Cosmology Initiative, and director, New Origins Initiative, Arizona State University, said about the announcement. “Inaction on key issues including climate change, and rising international tensions motivate the movement of the clock.  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, exposing people to loss of health and community, and without risking further spread of nuclear weapons, and in fact setting the stage for global reductions,” Krauss continued.

Krauss’s thoughts were echoed by other BAS members from around the world. “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,” said Allison Macfarlane, chair, BAS Science and SEcurity Board Member, Blue Ribbon Commission on American’s Nuclear Future, and associate professor, George Mason University, said. ” 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,” she added.

It looks like Earth’s greatest scientific minds are looking back at 2011 and wondering if the mayan’s were right about 2012.

+ The Bulletin of Atomic Sciences

Via The BBC