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Home Articles Flashpoints Doomsday Clock - Closer to Midnight?

Doomsday Clock - Closer to Midnight?

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Arguably FAR more important than either the global financial/economic crisis or
even the India-Australia cricket test match, is an announcement that
will in all likelihood be confined to the inner pages of newspapers and
will probably be completely unnoticed by most people.

On the 9th and 10th of January, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists will hold a symposium
and announce whether or not and how far, its team of nobels and highly
distinguished policymakers – including a former chief of US Strategic
Command (STRATCOM) and a former UN Under-Secretary-General – will move
the hands of the 'Doomsday Clock'. (announcement at 1pm10Jan Washington
time details appended – only from the Bulletin.).

The position of the hands of the 'doomsday clock' are a rough measure of
how far the human species is from self-destruction, primarily as a
result of nuclear weapons use. (The Bulletin now increasingly takes on
board global warming, biowarfare, nanotech and other issues) As such,
while they are not to be taken literally, the clock hands are of –
literally – apocalyptic significance.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, under whose auspices the Doomsday clock hand is moved (or not, as the case may be) have given no hint of whether or which way the hands will be moved. The planet will be in suspense until 1pm 10Jan Washington time.

The Doomsday Clock hands now stand at six minutes to midnight, 'midnight'
being the complete destruction of civilization and most living things.

The closest the hands have come to midnight is 2 minutes, early in the Cold War. Prior to 10 Jan 2010 they were at 5 minutes to midnight.

There are a number of good arguments for moving the clock hands closer to
midnight, either to five minutes or arguably to four and a half minutes, to midnight.

--In spite of repeated resolutions passed by massive – indeed, overwhelming – majorities in the UN General Assembly and in spite of electoral
commitments to do so, the US and Russia have not even tried to negotiate to lower the operational readiness of the thousands of nuclear weapons
that each persists in maintaining of high alert. This means that, in a literal sense, the
apocalypse remains on the agenda. It remains entirely possible for a
combination of computer error and miscalculation to end civilisation and much else.

--Missile Defense now threatens to completely de-rail the entire US-Russia
nuclear disarmament agenda. In the most recent development, Russia has
warned that it will target NATO missile defense installations in eastern Europe. A strike, especially a nuclear strike, against NATO defense
installations would have incalculable consequences. Missile defence has
been characterised as a technology that can never work, deployed against a threat that does not exist, that -potentially- can destroy the possibility of global nuclear disarmament.

--The US now spends, in constant dollar terms (ie corrected for inflation) more than it has ever spent in history on nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons-related infrastructure. Russia,
China, France, and the UK are all engaged in force modernisation though
their expenditures are a tiny fraction of the US nuclear budget .

--There is growing talk about possible strikes by either Israel or the US against Iran, with a possible nuclear component.

--The North Korean nuclear issue remains unsettled, and there is talk of the DPRK conducting a 3rdnuclear test.

--There is a continuing possibility, recently somewhat mitigated by modest
confidence building measures, of an India-Pakistan nuclear exchange.
Pakistan has the worlds fastest growing nuclear arsenal. Deep concerns
have been expressed over the possibilty that terrorists could gain
access to a Pakistani weapon.

An India-Pakistan nuclear exchange, involving as little as 0.3% of global
nuclear arsenals, according to peer-reviwed climatic simulations, would
have catastrophic global climatic consequences, equivalent to the 'year
with no summer' of 1815.

A US-Russia nuclear exchange could still arguably, destroy what we call
'civilization', and return the world to temperatures not seen since the
last ice-age.

The nobels and retired missile force commanders of the Bulletin will
announce on Tuesday Washington time, whether they think the world is
safer, or less safe, than it was last time the clock hands were moved in Jan2010.

PND thinks the hands need to be moved just a fateful minute and a half closer to midnight.

Whatever the Bulletin picks, the world really should be watching an awful lot more closely than it probably will be.

John Hallam
People for Nuclear Disarmament Nuclear Flashpoints

For all particulars relating to the doomsday clock announcement itself
please contact the Bulletin of the Atomic scientists as per the details
reproduced below, cut and pasted from the Bulletin announcement:

Doomsday Clock announcement to follow international symposium in Washington, DC


4 JANUARY 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – NEWS ADVISORY – The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists(BAS) will
announce whether or not it is moving the minute hand of its famous
"Doomsday Clock" at 1 p.m. EST/1800 GMT on January 10, 2012 in
Washington, DC. The Doomsday Clock announcement will follow year-long
deliberations culminating in the 3rd Annual Doomsday Clock Symposium on
January 9, 2012.

The last time the Doomsday Clock minute hand moved was in January 2010,
when the Clock's minute hand was pushed back one minute from five to six minutes before midnight.
News event speakers will include:
    * Allison Macfarlane, chair, BAS Science and Security Board, member, Blue Ribbon Commission on American's Nuclear Future, and associate
professor, George Mason University;
    * 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;
    * Robert Socolow, member, Science and Security Board, professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering,
and co-principal investigator, Carbon Mitigation Initiative, Princeton
    * Jayantha Dhanapala, member, BAS Board of Sponsors, former United
Nations under-secretary-general for Disarmament Affairs (1998-2003), and ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United States (1995-7); and
    * Kennette Benedict, executive director, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

The January 10, 2012 Doomsday Clock
announcement at the Advancement of Science (AAAS) auditorium will follow an international symposium to be held on January 9, 2012 at the Jones
Day law firm, 51 Louisiana Ave NW, Washington, DC. The Science and
Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, with
participation from the Sponsors, will review the implications of recent
events and trends for the future of humanity with input from other
experts on nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, climate change, and

Questions to be addressed on January 9th will include: what is the future of
nuclear power after Fukushima?; how are nuclear weapons to be managed in a world of increasing economic, political, and environmental volatility?; what are the links among climate change,
resource scarcity, conflict, and nuclear weapons?; and what is required
for robust implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention?
Click here for the full program for the January 9th symposium.

TO PARTICIPATE IN PERSON: You can attend the Doomsday Clock news event on
January 10, 2012, 1 p.m. EST/1800 GMT at the American Association for
the Advancement of Science (AAAS) auditorium, 1200 New York Avenue,
Washington, DC. Attendance will be limited to credentialed members of
the news media. For security reasons, all attendees must RSVP in advance by contacting Patrick Mitchell, (703) 276-3266,
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Reporters in the US who are unable to attend the live news event in person can
listen to the proceedings over a live, phone-based, one-way phone feed
on January 10, 2012 at 1 p.m. EST/1800 GMT by dialing 1 (800) 860-2442.

Toll free lines are available for callers in the UK, France, Germany and Japan. Callers in the UK may use 080 823 890 64.
Callers in Germany may use 0800 664 7650.
Callers in France may use 0805 1022 07.
Callers in Japan may use 0066 33 1330 94.
Reporters from others countries may use 412-858-4600 to connect to the live news
event. Callers should ask to be connected to the "2012 BAS Doomsday
Clock" news event. No questions will be taken over the one-way phone
feed. A streaming audio recording of the news event will be available
later on January 10, 2012 at http://www.thebulletin.org.

Patrick Mitchell, (703) 276-3266, or 
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had helped develop the
first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project, the Bulletin of Atomic
Scientists subsequently created the Doomsday Clock in 1947 using  the
imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear
explosion (countdown to zero), to convey threats to humanity and the
planet. The decision to move the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock is
made by the Bulletin's Board of Directors in consultation with its Board of
Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates. The Clock has become a
universally recognized indicator of the world's vulnerability to
catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging
technologies in the life sciences.


3rd Annual Doomsday Clock Symposium, January 9, 2012
19 DECEMBER 2011
The Science and Security Board and the Governing Board of the Bulletin of
the Atomic Scientists, with participation from the Sponsors, will
consider the implications of recent events and trends for the future of
humanity at the annual Doomsday Clock Symposium.
    * What is the future of nuclear power after Fukushima?
    * How are nuclear weapons to be managed in a world of increasing economic, political, and environmental volatility?
    * What are the links among climate change, resource scarcity, conflict, and nuclear weapons?
    * What is required for robust implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention?

10:00-11:15 am Nuclear weapons and prospects for disarmament

As implementation of New START proceeds, what steps should be taken next to ensure continued reductions in nuclear arsenals?
What are the obstacles to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons?
Panelists: Amb. Thomas Pickering,* International Crisis Group
Ret. Gen. Eugene Habiger, University of Georgia
Janne Nolan, American Security Project
Moderator: Steven Miller, Harvard University

11:30-12:45 pm Civilian nuclear power after Fukushima
How can societies and communities meet energy needs with least risk to
health and safety and the greatest payoff for economic development?
How much risk are people willing to accept to their lives and communities for energy development?
How do we make decisions for the common good about energy technology development?  And who should be involved?
Are we locked into the current energy development path?  Are there
alternatives that involve less risk to safety, health, and community?
Panelists: Robert Rosner,* University of Chicago
Allison Macfarlane,* George Mason University
George Apostolokis, Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Moderator: Mark Hibbs, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
12:45-1:30 pm  Luncheon
Speaker: Stanford Ovshinsky, Ovshinsky Innovations LLC
Introduced by:  Thomas Rosenbaum,* University of Chicago
1:45-3:00 pm  Climate emergency and public policy
How should we be thinking about the trade-offs between current injury and
disruption from energy technologies-whether from fossil fuel, solar,
nuclear, wind or any other- and future injury and disruption from
climate change?
What was achieved at the UN conference at Durban in December 2011?
Panelists: James Hansen,* NASA
Susan Solomon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Moderator: Steve Cohen, Columbia University

3:15-4:30 pm  Biosecurity and government regulation
What was achieved at the Biological Weapons Convention meeting in December?
Are biological research facilities, adequately regulated to prevent releases of potentially harmful and novel biological agents?
Panelists: Kathleen Vogel, Cornell University
Marie Chevrier, Rutgers University, Camden
Moderator: Gerald Epstein, American Association for the Advancement of Science

4:30-5:00  Concluding remarks
Speaker: Robert Socolow,*  Princeton University
5:30 pm  Reception
Remarks: Lawrence Krauss, Arizona State University, Chair-Board of Sponsors
6:00-8:30 pm  Dinner
Featured Speaker: Elaine Scarry, Harvard University
Introduced by:Jayantha Dhanapala, Board of Sponsors
Moderator: Kennette Benedict, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Location:  Jones Day
51 Louisiana Ave NW | Washington, D.C.
(by Invitation Only)
*Science and Security Board Member
Program PDF of the 3rd Anual Doomsday Clock Symposium


Last Updated on Sunday, 08 February 2015 22:31