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The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has just reset their doomsday clock to five minutes to midnight, to better reflect a world on the brink of self-annihilation. (Here I have to give a shout out: “Thanks, George Dubya Bush!”) .  Or to quote Country Joe McDonald …Yippee, we’re all gonna die!

North Korea’s recent test of a nuclear weapon, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, a renewed U.S. emphasis on the military utility of nuclear weapons, the failure to adequately secure nuclear materials, and the continued presence of some 26,000 nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia are symptomatic of a larger failure to solve the problems posed by the most destructive technology on Earth. […]

This deteriorating state of global affairs leads the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists--in consultation with a Board of Sponsors that includes 18 Nobel laureates--to move the minute hand of the “Doomsday Clock” from seven to five minutes to midnight.

More past the doomsday flip, if there’s time…

I’ll let the scientists speak for themselves…

We stand at the brink of a second nuclear age. Not since the first atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has the world faced such perilous choices. North Korea’s recent test of a nuclear weapon, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, a renewed U.S. emphasis on the military utility of nuclear weapons, the failure to adequately secure nuclear materials, and the continued presence of some 26,000 nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia are symptomatic of a larger failure to solve the problems posed by the most destructive technology on Earth. [...]

Nuclear weapons present the most grave challenge to humanity, enabling genocide with the press of a button. In 1945, scientists warned the world about the nearly unimaginable destructive power of the atomic bombs they had created. As Eugene Rabinowitch, one of the cofounders of the  Bulletin, wrote, “The  Bulletin’s Clock is not a gauge to register the ups and downs of the international power struggle; it is intended to reflect basic changes in the level of continuous danger in which mankind lives in the nuclear age, and will continue living, until society adjusts its basic attitudes and institutions.” As inheritors and trustees of the Clock, we seek to warn the world that this level of danger has escalated precipitously.

The second nuclear era, unlike the dawn of the first nuclear age in 1945, is characterized by a world of porous national borders, rapid communications that facilitate the spread of technical knowledge, and expanded commerce in potentially dangerous dual-use technologies and materials. The Pakistan-based network that provided nuclear technologies to Libya, North Korea, and Iran is an example of the new challenges confronting the international community.

The current period of globalization coincides with an erosion of the global agreements and norms that have constrained the spread of nuclear weapons since 1970 when the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) came into force. [...]

Iran, which is a signatory state of the NPT, has violated its IAEA obligations and obstructed efforts to determine the extent of its activities. North Korea, which withdrew from the NPT in 2003, followed through on its declared intention to test a nuclear weapon three years later. Although this test prompted stern global condemnation, the international community essentially acquiesced. The dominant concern was that North Korea might sell its nuclear weapons abroad. In effect, the message from the international community was “don’t proliferate” rather than “don’t become a nuclear power.” In this regard, the North Korean test was doubly dangerous and sets an unfortunate example for other would-be nuclear powers.

The five NPT-recognized nuclear weapon states have failed in their obligation to make serious strides toward disarmament--most notably, the United States and Russia, which still possess 26,000 of the 27,000 nuclear warheads in the world. By far the greatest potential for calamity lies in the readiness of forces in the United States and Russia to fight an all-out nuclear war. Whether by accident or by unauthorized launch, these two countries are able to initiate major strikes in a matter of minutes. Each warhead has the potential destructive force of 8 to 40 times that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945. In that relatively small nuclear explosion, 100,000 people were killed and a city destroyed; 50 of today’s nuclear weapons could kill 200 million people.

Notably, the atomic scientists acknowledge that it's just as likely that global warming could kill us off as nukes.

Global warming poses a dire threat to human civilization that is second only to nuclear weapons. The most authoritative scientific group on these issues, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has concluded, “Most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” Carbon dioxide, principally from fossil fuel burning, has been accumulating in the atmosphere, where it acts like a blanket keeping Earth warm and heating up its surface, ocean, and atmosphere. As a result, current levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are higher than at any time during the last 650,000 years.

Observations of changes in the atmosphere, on land, in the oceans, in glaciers, and in polar ice cores have led to worldwide scientific consensus about the causes of climate change. The most distinguished scientific bodies in the United States, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Meteorological Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have come to conclusions similar to those of the IPCC.

Disruptions in climate already appear to be happening faster in some regions than earlier predicted. In some areas warming has interrupted normal patterns, allowing insects to spread into new habitats, carrying diseases and destroying flora and fauna in zones that have no evolutionary protection. Through flooding or desertification, climate change threatens the habitats and agricultural resources that societies depend upon for survival. Coral reefs will disappear, forest fires will be more intense and more frequent, and heat waves and storms more damaging. In coming years, coastal cities will bear the brunt of sea-level rise, as we have already witnessed in New Orleans, compelling major shifts in human settlement patterns. As such, climate change is also likely to contribute to mass migrations and even to wars over arable land, water, and other natural resources.

Anyway, I don’t have much more to say here. I’m just worried about my kids and their future. I have two little girls.

Originally posted to redglare on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 08:20 AM PST.

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