Friday, 19 January 2007

5 minutes to midnight

"In these dangerous times, scientists have a responsibility to speak truth to power especially if it might provoke actions to reduce threats from the preventable technological dangers currently facing humanity. To do anything else would be negligent." Lawrence M. Krauss

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS) has since 1947 been keeping a countdown to doomsday, when civilization will be decimated by some disaster, whether it be nuclear war or climate change. The hands were moved two days ago for only the 17th time since it's inception. The reasons cited for this update, which moves the clock 2 minutes from 7 minutes to 5 minutes to midnight, include the lack of adequate security on existing weapons-grade nuclear material, the proliferation of combat ready missiles worldwide including those recently acquired by countries such as N. Korea and Pakistan, and, finally, the growing climate crisis.
This is not exactly a feel-good magazine.
With so many nuclear weapons and so many itchy fingers controlling them, it's not hard to conceive of a situation where climate change becomes directly responsible for a nuclear "exchange"; as crops start to fail and people start to starve, it will be almost irresistible for affected nations to look towards the countries who have been fuelling this crisis for reparations or, worse, for vengeance.
Things aren't all bad; the clock moved back in 1991, and it could happen again.
As Steven Hawkings says in the article: "As citizens of the world, we have a duty to alert the public to the unnecessary risks that we live with every day, and to the perils we foresee if governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change." Let's hope it's taken seriously.

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