Scientists: Humanity's Doomsday Clock Approaches Midnight

The symbolic doomsday clock moved to three minutes before midnight on Thursday because of the gathering dangers of climate change and nuclear proliferation, signaling the gravest threat to humanity since the throes of the cold war.


It was the closest the clock has come to midnight since 1984, when arms-control negotiations stalled and virtually all channels of communication between the US and the former Soviet Union closed down.

The move came as scientists sounded a warning about climate change for the second time in three years. The last move of the clock hands, from six minutes to five minutes to midnight, in 2012, was also because of climate change.

As the scientists noted last Thursday, 2014 was the hottest year in 130 years of systematic record keeping. Nine of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000.

But the scientists suggested that the greater danger lay in the failure of leaders to recognize and act on climate change.

“Stunning government failures have imperiled civilizations on a global scale,” Benedict said. “World leaders have failed to act on a scale or at a speed to protect humanity from catastrophe.”

The greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change have risen more since 2000 than in the three previous decades combined, Richard Somerville, a research professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said. Even so, he observed, negotiators had steadily lowered their ambitions for a global climate deal.

Meanwhile, the scientists said, global efforts to reduce nuclear arsenals have slowed since 2009, and all of the nuclear powers were expanding reactors and weapons programs.

But it was now moving closer to the apocalypse because of climate change. “We are not saying it is too late to take action, but the window to take action is closing rapidly,” Benedict said.

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