Doomsday Clock remains at three minutes to midnight

Iran nuclear deal and climate change action prompts scientists to keep it unchanged

 Lawrence Krauss, from Arizona State University, helps unveil the Doomsday Clock after the announcement that it would remain at three minutes to midnight, in Washington, DC, US. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

Lawrence Krauss, from Arizona State University, helps unveil the Doomsday Clock after the announcement that it would remain at three minutes to midnight, in Washington, DC, US. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

 

The Iran nuclear deal and movement on climate change have prompted the scientists who maintain the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic countdown to global catastrophe, to keep it unchanged at three minutes to midnight.

The Doomsday Clock, devised by the Chicago-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, is widely recognised as an indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe.

Positive developments in 2015 include the international accord that limited Iran’s nuclear programme, and the agreement between almost 200 countries in Paris on a process to tackle climate change, the Bulletin said in a statement.

The accords “are major diplomatic achievements, but they constitute only small bright spots in a darker world situation full of potential for catastrophe”, the Bulletin said.

The Doomsday Clock’s hands “are the closest they’ve been to catastrophe since the early days of above-ground hydrogen bomb testing” in the 1950s.

Areas of concern include heightened tensions between the US and Russia, continued conflict in Ukraine and Syria, and tensions over the South China Sea, the Bulletin said.

Russian and American nuclear weapons modernisation programmes and growing Chinese, Pakistani, Indian and North Korean atomic programmes are also said to be cause for concern.

Although the Paris agreement was a positive step, 2015 was the warmest year on record.

The voluntary pledges to limit greenhouse gas emissions are not enough to halt drastic climate change, the Bulletin said.

History

The Bulletin is a periodical founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project.

The Doomsday Clock was moved to three minutes to midnight last year from five minutes because of fears over a nuclear arms race and climate change.

The Bulletin’s science and security board makes the decision on the clock’s hands yearly in consultation with its board of sponsors, which includes 16 Nobel laureates.

Reuters