Last year, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the minute hand on its “Doomsday Clock” one minute closer to midnight. This year, the group of scientists decided to keep the symbolic timepiece at 11:55, signaling that its members don’t believe things are getting any better when it comes to global annihilation.
The clock, which has been around since 1947, was created to symbolize the threat of nuclear power, but now also represents other man-made threats to humanity.
Back in 2010, the group was optimistic, as it elected to set the clock back by one minute. But this year the group says that the world has been consumed by economic threats, to the detriment of other pressing issues like nuclear proliferation and climate change. Members of the BAS wrote a letter to President Barack Obama citing those concerns, and asking him to “partner with other world leaders to forge the comprehensive global response that the climate threat demands, based on equity and cooperation across countries.” They wrote:
2012 was the hottest year on record in the contiguous United States, marked by devastating drought and brutal storms. These extreme events are exactly what climate models predict for an atmosphere laden with greenhouse gases. 2012 was a year of unrealized opportunity to reduce nuclear stockpiles, to lower the immediacy of destruction from weapons on alert, and to control the spread of fissile materials and keep nuclear terrorism at bay. 2012 was a year in which—one year after the partial meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station—the Japanese nation continued to be at the earliest stages of what will be a costly and long recovery.
The group also noted that Obama’s next term provides another opportunity to address these issues:
“We have as much hope for Obama’s second term in office as we did in 2010, when we moved back the hand of the Clock after his first year in office,” said Robert Socolow, chair of the Science and Security Board at BAS. “This is the year for U.S. leadership in slowing climate change and setting a path toward a world without nuclear weapons.”