Doomsday Clock: Is it a Sign of Hope for Mitigating Climate and Other Catastrophes?

| 1/14/2010 1:30:31 PM

Tags: climate change, global warming, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, question to readers,

Maintained since 1947 by the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago, the symbolic "Doomsday Clock" represents the analogy that the human race is at a time that is a "few minutes to midnight," where midnight represents destruction by nuclear war. In recent years, the analogy of midnight has also included catastrophic destruction as a result of climate change. The minute hand on the clock has been moved, backward and forward, only 19 times since the clock's creation. On Jan. 14, the Bulletin, which includes more than a dozen Nobel Laureates, moved the minute hand back one minute, from five to six minutes before midnight.

In their statement regarding the move, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said that "By shifting the hand back from midnight by only one additional minute, we emphasize how much needs to be accomplished, while at the same time recognizing signs of collaboration among the United States, Russia, the European Union, India, China, Brazil, and others on nuclear security and on climate stabilization."

Changing the time on the Doomsday Clock always garners media coverage, but perhaps more so following December's Copenhagen climate talks, which have generally been declared disappointing, at the least. Despite the offical results of Copenhagen, if media coverage is any indication, environmental awareness and responsibility are on the rise. Grist reports, for example, the hopeful news that Developing Nations Continue to Lead Post-Copenhagen.

The decision to move the hand back a minute is a hopeful one, and it indicates that there is much work to be done. Do you think, in the analogy of the clock, that the Bulletin's decision is accurate? Do you agree, or do you think we're in better or worse shape than the one-minute move indicates? Post your comments below.


You can read more about the Doomsday Clock and this year's time change in these articles:

fran tracy
3/26/2010 6:53:24 PM

The whold climate change thing is a big hoax to make a few people like Al Gore rich. All the infromation that has come out about the placement of thermomitors or weather stations where jet exhaust, outlets from airconditioneers and other heat sources proves the data is false. The very emails and data has been proven to be ignoring all data that does not support climate change and only using the data that might support it. The other thing, the thermomiters that were used many years ago were not accurate anyway. GOD IS IN CONTROL AND PEOPLE CAN NOT CHANGE THE CLIMATE. THE TEMPERATURES HAVE BEEN GOING THROUGH CYCLES ALL ALONG. FRAN

1/19/2010 10:39:54 AM

Can we, yes. Will we, NO! With ongoing population expansion and the desire for everybody to have "the good life" the necessary action won't be taken until it is too late. In this we will join such past cultures as the Mayans and Easter Islanders who destroyed the ecosystem around them rather than give up their lifestyle until there was catastrophic environmental collapse. Unfortunately for us this one will be global instead of regional.

1/19/2010 7:45:27 AM

Yes, global warming is is global cooling. Just how much of it is anthropogenic? I don't think there is a definite answer. With all the scientific evidence and recent events regarding Climategate, just how can anybody take the subject serious? Rather than focus on the facts presented and the agreements/denials by the masses, why not continue the effort to reduce anthropogenic pollution, continue the restoration of damaged habitats and be the stewards of our planet. The hype of "doomsday" is just that-Hype. Work towards a better world, reduce the materialism, elevate the awareness of clean energy, good health and good lifestyle and just enjoy life. Continue the effort for clean, renewable energy and be thankful for every day we are able to exist comfortably on our planet.

george works
1/18/2010 1:12:09 PM

I don't share the view that we are acting to avert a climate disaster. I'm an engineer and I follow the climate science closely. If we stopped all use of fossil fuels today, the earth would still continue to warm for centuries because the half-life of CO2 in the atmosphere is about 200 years. Of course, I don't expect us to stop using fossil fuels. Fossil fuels powered the industrial revolution, and the green revolution in agriculture, and made us rich beyond the dreams of pre-industrial people. They let our population explode exponentially to over 6.5 billion people. Many of us would freeze or starve without fossil fuels. And we shouldn't fool ourselves that we can replace our energy infrastructure in a decade. It took generations to build it and it will take generations to replace it. Assuming that we could afford that. So I expect us to continue business more-or-less as usual until nature makes that impossible. Then we will do what we must. I hope I'm old enough not to experience that.

1/18/2010 1:01:10 PM

I struggled over participating in this inane discussion since it's become obvious that the deniers have allied against science and common sense and have inserted their fear of change and conspiracy messages into every opportunity presented to them. Are these the same people arguing for Armageddon in other venues? It is these people that give me no hope and it is because of them that needed change can't happen. The clock should have been moved ahead one minute. Having said that I will now heed the last message of the great cartoonist, Wiley. A seeker upon asking the oracle on the mount about the secret of contentment is told to avoid arguing with idiots, i.e stay off the internet and don't run for Congress. Duly noted!

1/18/2010 11:33:08 AM

Over all I really enjoy the down homeyness of MEN. I am just so sorry that they have to embrace the humanistic philosophy. Those of us in the Faith community want to preserve the earth and improve it over all but our methods do not exclude those of the total green community. It takes more faith to believe most of the "facts" that the save the earth people wish for all of us to believe than it really does for anyone to trust that a God can create and sustain this earth in the way He see fit. The evidence from the Bible says that this earth will be around for at least another 1000 years. So why don't we all just calmly preserve what we can of this planet, don't abuse it any more and just wait and see what really happens?

1/18/2010 11:11:24 AM

I yield to no one in accepting the evidence that Wall Street and the Big 4 Banks have conspired and continue to, and that even before the corrupt Supreme Court fast-tracks 'reform' allowing the megaCorpses to finance Federal elections directly, elections (and the citizenry mind, such as it is) are in thrall to BigBiz, yet... the evidence from many other areas shows that, yes, humans did make it to our Moon, yes, Sept. 11 likely was not done by the CIA et al (though they're quite capable of that and worse), and yes, human-produced climate change is a fact. The evidence was there when Hansen published his 1983 paper, which I recently re-read. That doesn't mean I think the 1-minute pullback from doomsday is well-founded, as evidenced by comments so far. Human intelligence may have diminished since the Upper Paleolithic (no, Earth is not 6000 yrs old), or may be too subject to propaganda to work correctly-- whatever the cause, I see further dithering about energy, CO2, melting ice (that's most of Earth's fresh water, chuckleheads), drowning islands and peoples, and other trivia. Fear not: US military have already forecast what will be done to kill starving hordes in the future you still think false. It hasn't been 11:48 for a long go back to sleep.

julie casey
1/18/2010 9:42:43 AM

The problem with scientific research is that it changes and reverses itself many times. Take the case of eggs: twenty years ago science said eggs were bad for you, now they're good for you. Ten years ago, any amount of sun exposure was bad for you, now, faced with epidemic vitamin D deficiencies, some sun exposure is recommended. And, as I mentioned before, in the 1980's scientists claimed we were heading into an ice age. How is this possible if the earth has been warming for two hundred years? Were the scientists wrong then or are they now? The truth is that scientists can only report facts, not foresee the future. And sometimes the facts are not so clear or they are misinterpreted, for whatever reason. People are starting to catch on that science does not always have the answers. I am a strong supporter of science, especially since my husband is a scientist, but I am a realist also and I know what is behind a lot of the "science" going on in the world today. What better way to get people to reduce their reliance on foreign oil than to scare them into believing the world is facing horrible catastrophes? Believe if you want to, but I don't think the entire body of evidence supports any of the catastrophic claims of global warming. Only time will tell.

frank kling
1/18/2010 9:05:43 AM

To those global warming denialists, I am reminded of a statement made by Albert Einstein in which he noted that it's human nature to deny the reality of unpleasant and inconvenient facts. If I am asked to believe the deniers or The National Academies of Science, I'll stick with the latter.

julie casey
1/18/2010 8:39:11 AM

Each generation has it's global "crises" to make us worry and change our lifestyle. In the past three decades, we've had to worry about the depletion of the ozone, a coming ice age, an AIDS epidemic that was supposed to wipe out half the world's population by now, bird flu, H1N1, and hundreds more, all of which come to no more than a bleep in history. I believe the same will be said of global warming in a decade or two when all the prophesied catastrophes do not materialize. The research behind all these things is funded by organizations and governments with agendas for social change, not groups interested in pure science. Scientists must tweak their findings or find a way to report them so that they reflect what the financiers of the research want to show. I firmly believe that we should take better care of our resources and find alternatives for powering our lives, but we should do it for the right reasons, not because someone is trying to sell us half-truths in order to scare us into doing something.

1/18/2010 8:35:30 AM

Follow the money! Those pushing "global warming..a.k. climate change" stand to make millions or more on it. Think of just one aspect. Light bulbs. Congress passed a law saying that incandescent bulbs must be phased out even though ingenuity has already created longer lasting, cheaper operating bulbs. Why? Check out who has the most invested in the florescent bulb industry. Or look at our natural resources. We have more coal than any country and we have developed the means to make it burn clean, but our legislators have tried to ban the use of our coal in favor of China's. We are the most generous people in the world, but our legislators want us to feel guilty and be more like smaller countries. Hmmmm. They don't seem to notice that everyone wants to move here and live the good life. This year, re-elect no one.

1/18/2010 8:17:07 AM

The entire global warming argument is one giant financial hoax!

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