Daily BulletinDaily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by Ian Lowe, Emeritus Professor, School of Science, Griffith University

It made headlines recently when the Doomsday Clock was shifted from three minutes to midnight to a new setting of two and a half minutes to midnight.

That is the nearest the clock has been to midnight for more than fifty years. The body responsible for the clock said

the probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon.

It should be an urgent warning to world leaders.

The idea of a Doomsday Clock was conceived by the editorial staff of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which was founded by many of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project.

When that publication graduated from being an internal newsletter among the nuclear science community to being a formal magazine in 1947, the clock appeared on the cover. The magazine’s founders said the clock symbolised

the urgency of the nuclear dangers that [we] – and the broader scientific community – are trying to convey to the public and political leaders around the world.

The clock was set at seven minutes to midnight. Two years later, with the news that a nuclear weapon had been tested by the USSR, the communist state centred on modern Russia, the clock was moved to 11.57.

In 1953, the USA first tested the hydrogen bomb, a fusion weapon much more powerful than the fission bombs that had destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The USSR followed a few months later and the clock was advanced to 11.58 with a warning there was a real chance that

from Moscow to Chicago, atomic explosions will strike midnight for Western civilization.

Then there was a period of modest progress. It gradually became apparent that the new weapons were so powerful that only a deranged leader would consider using them against a similarly armed enemy, given the inevitability of catastrophic retaliation.

In 1963, after they had been continuously testing more and more deadly weapons, the USA and the USSR signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty, which prohibited atmospheric testing. The clock was moved back to 11.48.

It was a false dawn. The two super-powers simply shifted their testing of new weapons to underground facilities, while other countries such as Britain, France and China developed their own nuclear arsenals.

image The Doomsday Clock was created in response to the development of nuclear weapons. Wikimedia

The clock gradually moved closer and closer to midnight until the mid-1980s when it stood at 11.57. Then Mikhail Gorbachev assumed the leadership of the USSR and began a series of negotiations to ease tensions and reduce the risk of nuclear war.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 effectively marked the end of the so-called Cold War between communism and capitalism. The subsequent collapse of the USSR led to large reductions in the nuclear arsenals, and by 1991 the clock had moved back to 11.43.

Once again, there were optimistic hopes of an era of peace and an end to the threat of nuclear weapons. It was not to be. The political system in the US made it almost impossible to scale back arms production.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, negotiated in the 1970s, aimed to prevent the spread of weapons beyond the five nations that had already acquired them. But those countries did not implement their promise to disarm, so inevitably other nations decided that they would be more secure if they had nuclear weapons: India, Pakistan and Israel. The clock moved forward again year by year, reaching 11.53 by 2002.

Since then, the managers of the Doomsday Clock have added new threats to the original fear of nuclear war. In 2007, they said “climate change also presents a dire challenge to humanity” and advanced the clock to 11.55.

More recent annual reports have warned that

international leaders are failing to perform their most important duty – ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization.

The change should be welcomed. Even if nuclear weapons did not exist, climate change and the accelerating loss of biodiversity are serious threats. Damage to ecosystems is already taking place; climate change is causing loss of life and property, as well as affecting natural systems.

At the same time, the nations with nuclear weapons are still testing new devices and more sophisticated delivery systems. The number of weapons has dropped from its peak of over 60,000 to about 10,000. But that is still enough firepower to wipe out civilisation several times over.

And there are new players, including North Korea and perhaps Iran. As the 2017 report said,

It is two and a half minutes to midnight, the Clock is ticking, global danger looms. Wise public officials should act immediately, guiding humanity away from the brink. If they do not, wise citizens must step forward and lead the way.

This really is a call to arms and deserves more attention from our media.

Authors: Ian Lowe, Emeritus Professor, School of Science, Griffith University

Read more http://theconversation.com/what-is-the-doomsday-clock-and-why-should-we-keep-track-of-the-time-71990

BUY BEST JAGUAR CAR 

arrow_forward

Easy Ways To Attain Office Cleaning Jobs In London

arrow_forward

How to Find the Right New Pool Builders

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

$1.8 billion boost for local government

The Federal Liberal and Nationals Government will deliver a $1.8 billion boost for road and community projects through local governments across Australia.   The package of support will help lo...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison press conference

PRIME MINISTER: This is a tough day for Australia, a very tough day. Almost 600,000 jobs have been lost, every one of them devastating for those Australians, for their families, for their commun...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

BOOST FOR BUSHFIRE RECOVERY

Local economic recovery plans will help towns and regions hit by bushfires get back on their feet as part of a new $650 million package of support from the Morrison Government.   As part of th...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

An Increasing Demand Of Corporate Function Venues In Melbourne

With an increasing culture of corporate function venues Melbourne, there is a rising competition among professionals. In order to appreciate and honour hardworking employees, corporate owners gi...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to effortlessly promote your business

You've worked hard to build your business from the ground up, and as any successful entrepreneur will tell you brand promotion is everything. Not only do high-quality promotions build a sense of...

News Company - avatar News Company

Hotdesking might not be ‘dead’ after all

According to Christian Pistauer, Workplace Strategy director of Meta5 Group in Australia, COVID will dramatically change the commercial real estate sector in Australia for many years to come. ”...

Tess Sanders Lazarus - avatar Tess Sanders Lazarus



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion