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A symbolic clock set up by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago in 1947 has been set one minute closer to the hour of nuclear Armageddon. The scientists say that the failure to halt climate change, develop sustainable energy sources and prevent nuclear proliferation leaves the world at five to midnight.

A statement by the Bulletin said that “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 been reversed…world leaders are failing to change business as usual.”

Tick tock goes the clock

The clock has been closer to midnight in the past, reaching two minutes to the ‘zero hour’ in 1953 after the US tested its first hydrogen bomb.  However at the end of the Cold War the clock was wound back to 17 minutes to midnight.

But the west has blown its peace dividend on the highest levels of military spending since the Cold War. US-Israeli brinkmanship with Iran, cheered on by the west, has put the threat of nuclear war back on the agenda.

“Inaction on key issues including climate change, and rising international tensions motivate the movement of the clock,” said Laurence Krauss at Arizona State University.

Jayantha Dhanapala, former United Nations under-secretary-general for Disarmament Affairs, added that, “failure to act on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by leaders in the United States, China, Iran, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel, and North Korea on a treaty to cut off production of nuclear weapons material continues to leave the world at risk,” he said. “The world still has over 19,000 nuclear weapons, enough power to destroy the world's inhabitants several times over.”

Darkest before dawn?

But the Bulletin scientists (central to developing the devastating nuclear bomb) suggest that the Arab Spring, and a growing global pro-democracy movement offer light on the horizon.

"The Science and Security Board is heartened by the Arab Spring, the Occupy movements, political protests in Russia, and by the actions of ordinary citizens in Japan,” said Kennette Benedict, executive director of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

“Whether meeting the challenges of nuclear power, or mitigating the suffering from human-caused global warming, or preventing catastrophic nuclear conflict in a volatile world, the power of people is essential,” she said. “Together, we can present the most significant questions to policymakers and industry leaders. Most importantly, we can demand answers and action."

Dan Poulton

Dan Poulton

Dan is a writer, broadcaster and campaigner.  His most recent documentary was The New Scramble For Africa and his documentaries have appeared regularly on the Islam Channel. He is an organiser for Counterfire and a regular contributor to Counterfire site.

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