Silly atomic scientists

Those of us who were born before the cold war ended remember the . Run by the board of directors of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, it was a symbol of how close the world was to global thermonuclear war, and possible extinction.

In that context, it was a very useful thing. It started at seven minutes to midnight in 1947 as the cold war got underway. In 1963 and 1972 it got back to 12 minutes to midnight, while in 1953 it set a record of two minutes to midnight.

Radio NZ report:

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which created the clock in 1947 as a barometer of how close the world is to an apocalyptic end, says it is now five minutes to midnight.

The last time the clock was changed, in 2010, the scientists moved it back a minute on hopes of global nuclear cooperation and the election of United States president Barack Obama, AFP reports.

Moving it purely on the basis of whom got elected was a pretty stupid thing to do. But even stupider is saying it is now five minutes to midnight – closer to midnight than in 1988 before the Soviet empire crumbles.

Realistically there is now almost no tangible chance of global nuclear war. The clock should probably be set at 11.30 pm or even 11 pm. But I guess they needed to find a way to remain relevant, rather than just celebrate the end of the cold war.

However, the latest decision – based on global uncertainty over how to deal with the threats of nuclear weapons, climate change, and a growing tendency to reject science when it comes to major world concerns – pushes it back to where it was in 2007.

Climate change? Look I have no problems if a group of climate change scientists want to have their own climate doomsday clock, but to have the atomic scientists now using the doomsday clock to include climate change is just rather pathetic.

I recall seeing the movie The Day After in 1983. Polls at the time showed over 50% of people my age expected the world to end in our lifetimes. The threat of global nuclear war was very real. Today, it is absolutely a different atmosphere. Sure there are possibility of nuclear terrorism etc, but not the scenario where hundreds of cities are wiped out and a nuclear winter.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists should celebrate that the cold war is over, that the good guys won, and that global nuclear war is no longer a significant threat, and bury the doomsday clock in history.

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