Destruction of world slightly less likely

Destruction of world slightly less likely

There’s not a whole lot to feel good about in the headlines today, but the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is feeling a bit more optimistic about the world, and has moved its famous Doomsday Clock one minute back to "six minutes to midnight." The clock is a measure of how close the BAS board thinks the world is to catastrophic destruction. Turns out they agree with the Norwegian Nobel Committee that Barack Obama has made the world a slightly (very slightly) less dangerous place:

Created in 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Doomsday Clock has been adjusted only 18 times prior to today, most recently in January 2007 and February 2002 after the events of 9/11.  By moving the hand of the Clock away from midnight — the figurative end of civilization — the BAS Board of Directors is drawing attention to encouraging signs of progress.  At the same time, the small increment of the change reflects both the threats that remain around the globe and the danger that governments may fail to deliver on pledged actions on reducing nuclear weapons and mitigating climate change.

The BAS statement explains: “This hopeful state of world affairs leads the boards of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists — which include 19 Nobel laureates — to move the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock back from five to six minutes to midnight.  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.”

The statement continues:  “A key to the new era of cooperation is a change in the U.S. government’s orientation toward international affairs brought about in part by the election of Obama.  With a more pragmatic, problem-solving approach, not only has Obama  initiated new arms reduction talks with Russia, he has started negotiations with Iran to close its nuclear enrichment program, and directed the U.S. government to lead a global effort to secure loose fissile material in four years.  He also presided over the U.N. Security Council last September where he supported a fissile material cutoff treaty and encouraged all countries to live up to their disarmament and nonproliferation obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty…”

See also: John Mueller’s "Think Again" from the new issue in which he argues that fears of nuclear weapons are overblown,  and my list of ways the world could end.