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Doomsday Clock Remains at a Stalwart Five Minutes to Midnight

Jan 15, 2014 02:04 PM EST
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Humanity remains on the precipice of catastrophe, according to the Doomsday Clock, which has been kept at a stalwart five minutes to midnight - the same place it stood this time last year. 

Created in 1947, the clock was developed by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a group of researchers that included former members of the Manhattan Project. Each year, the bulletin's Science and Security Board announces the clock's status along with their reasoning. The closest the clock ever came to midnight - the symbol for humanity's doom - was in 1953, when the clock was moved to a precarious 11:58 p.m. due to the testing of the hydrogen bomb.

Officials noted that progress in 2013 included an interim agreement with Iran on a joint plan to allay concerns about the nation's nuclear program. A number of countries also decided to reduce their stockpiles of fissile material in addition to increasing security on their remaining nuclear stores this last year.

"Overall, however, in 2013 the international community dealt with the continuing, potentially civilization-ending threat of nuclear weapons in a business-as-usual manner, meaning that outsized nuclear arsenals remain in the United States and Russia, and the nuclear arsenals of some countries - notably India, Pakistan, and China - appear to be growing," the scientists wrote in a statement address to UN officials.

The group further singled out Israel, which it said "continues a policy of nuclear ambiguity," and North Korea, which conducted its first nuclear weapon test under Kim Jung-un in February.

Beyond nuclear warfare, the board cited climate change as a major threat to humanity's survival, accusing world leaders of a "climate of inaction."

"The science on climate change is clear, and many people around the world already are suffering from destructive storms, water and food insecurity, and extreme temperatures," the board wrote. "It is no longer possible to prevent all climate change, but you can limit further suffering - if you act now."

If things are to change, the scientists argued that the United States and Russia must be forced back to the negotiating table in order to reduce their nuclear arsenals. They also called on the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and China to join international talks that began in Oslo in March to increase understanding of the danger of nuclear exchanges between countries. Finally, the board warns that world leaders must come together to support clean energy as well as "create new rules and institutions to manage emerging technology."

"We can manage our technology, or become victims of it. The choice is ours, and the Clock is ticking."

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