LONDON (AP)—The world has nudged closer to a nuclear
apocalypse and environmental disaster, a trans-Atlantic group of prominent
scientists warned Wednesday, pushing the hand of its symbolic Doomsday
Clock two minutes closer to midnight.
It was the fourth time since the end of the Cold War that
the clock has ticked forward, this time from 11:53 to 11:55, amid fears over
what the scientists are describing as "a second nuclear age'' prompted largely
by atomic standoffs with Iran and North Korea.
But the organization added that the "dangers posed by
climate change are nearly as dire as those posed by nuclear weapons.''
of the Atomic Scientists, founded in 1945 as a newsletter distributed
among nuclear physicists concerned by the possibility of nuclear war, has
since grown into an organization focused more generally on manmade threats
to the survival of human civilization.
"As scientists, we understand the dangers of nuclear weapons
and their devastating effects, and we are learning how human activities and
technologies are affecting climate systems in ways that may forever change
life on Earth,'' said Stephen
Hawking, the renowned cosmologist and mathematician.
"As citizens of the world, we have a duty to alert the
public to the unnecessary risks that we live with every day, and to the perils
we foresee if governments and societies do not take action now to render
nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change.''
The bulletin's clock, which for 60 years has followed
the rise and fall of nuclear tensions, would now also measure climate change,
the bulletin's editor Mark Strauss told The Associated Press.
"There's a realization that we are changing our climate
for the worse,'' he said, "That would have catastrophic effects. Although
the threat is not as dire as that of nuclear weapons right now, in the long
term we are looking at a serious threat.''
The threat of nuclear war, however, remains by far the
organization's most pressing concern. "It's important to emphasize 50 of
today's nuclear weapons could kill 200 million people,'' he said.
The decisions to move the clock is made by the bulletin's
board, which is composed of prominent scientists and policy experts, in coordination
with the group's sponsors.
Since it was set to seven minutes to midnight in 1947,
the hand has been moved 18 times, including Wednesday's move.
It came closest to midnight—just two minutes away—in 1953,
following the successful test of a hydrogen bomb by the United States. It has been as far
away as 17 minutes, set there in 1991 following the demise of the Soviet