The Doomsday clock has been moved one minute closer to midnight due to the failure of world leaders to address the global threat posed by nuclear weapons and climate change, it has been announced. The clock, which has been maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1947, now reads five minutes to midnight as "leadership is failing" over nuclear issues.
In a statement accompanying the move, the group said: "Two years ago, it appeared that world leaders might address the truly global threats that we face. In many cases, that trend has not continued or has been reversed. For that reason, we are moving the clock hand one minute closer to midnight, back to its time in 2007." The clock was at its closest to midnight in 1953, when it was set at two minutes to midnight as the United States and Soviet Union tested their thermonuclear weapons. The most optimistic reading was 17 minutes to midnight, following the end of the Cold War.
Among other concerns, the group expressed fears that the fissile material used in the world's 19,500 nuclear weapons could potentially be obtained by terrorist groups. "The Nuclear Security Summit of 2010 shone a spotlight on securing all nuclear fissile material, but few actions have been taken," the statement read. "The result is that it is still possible for radical groups to acquire and use highly enriched uranium and plutonium to wreak havoc in nuclear attacks."
The nine countries with nuclear weapons were criticised for committing to modernising their nuclear arsenals, encouraging states such as Iran to pursue the technology. "While governments claim they are only ensuring the safety of their warheads through replacement of bomb components and launch systems as the deliberate process of arms reduction proceeds, such developments appear to other states to be signs of substantial military build-ups," the group insisted. "Ambiguity about Iran's nuclear power program continues to be the most prominent example of this unsolved problem — centrifuges can enrich uranium for both civilian power plants and military weapons. It remains to be seen how many additional countries will pursue nuclear power, but without solutions to the dual-use problem and without incentives sufficient to resist military applications the world is playing with the explosive potential of a million suns and a fire that will not go out."
The group also highlighted the Arab Spring as a cause for optimism, as well as protests in Russia. "We believe that international diplomatic pressure as well as burgeoning citizen action will help political leaders to see the folly of continuing to rely on nuclear weapons for national security," the group added. This article first appeared on PublicServiceEurope.com's sister website defencemanagement.com Doomsday clock moves closer to midnight