As of today, January 17, 2007, The Doomsday Clock will show that we’re all two minutes closer to our doom, in the opinion of its maintainers.
The Doomsday Clock has been reset today for the first time in five years. It will now read five minutes til twelve, rather than the seven minutes til twelve it has been reading since 2002.
The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clock maintained by a non-profit organization, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, at the University of Chicago. It was first established in 1947. It uses midnight as a symbol of nuclear distruction. The closer the minute hand moves to twelve, the nearer the members of the Bulletin feel we are to blowing ourselves up.
This advance towards doom reflects what these scientists see as worsening nuclear and climate threats. Of particular concern are the stockpiles of nuclear weapons around the world, kept on high alert status in the United States and elswhere. More than 31,000 nuclear weapons are maintained by the eight known nulcear powers, 95 percent of them in the United States and Russia. Iraq, China, and North Korea are seeking nuclear power and are a growing and vital threat.
“Despite a campaign promise to re-think nuclear policy, the Bush administration has taken no significant steps to alter nuclear targeting policies or reduce the alert status of U.S. nuclear forces,” said George A. Lopez, Chairman of the Bulletin’s Board of Directors,.. “Meanwhile, domestic weapons laboratories continue working to refine existing warheads and design new weapons, with an emphasis on the ability to destroy deeply buried targets.”
The United States and Russia also keep tons of fissile materials on hand, including hundreds of tons of plutonium and uranium.
This is the third time since the end of the Cold War in 1991 that the hands of the clock have been moved forward. it has been reset seventeen times since its inception.
The closest the clock has ever been to midnight was in 1953, when Soviet testing of nuclear weapons brought the minute hand to two minutes to midnight.
Speaking from London at the announcement, Stephen Hawking, BAS Sponsor, professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge, and a fellow of the Royal Society, said: “As scientists, we understand the dangers of nuclear weapons and their devastating effects, and we are learning how human activities and technologies are affecting climate systems in ways that may forever change life on Earth. 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.”