Daily Telegraph: The world is closer to apocalypse because of climate change and nuclear proliferation, Professor Stephen Hawking and other prominent scientists warned yesterday as the hand of a symbolic Doomsday Clock moved two minutes closer to midnight. The Daily Telegraph
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
The world is closer to apocalypse because of climate change and nuclear proliferation, Professor Stephen Hawking and other prominent scientists warned yesterday as the hand of a symbolic Doomsday Clock moved two minutes closer to midnight.
The clock, devised at the dawn of the nuclear age, made official what many now feel in their bones that mankind is heading for catastrophe.
“We foresee great peril if governments and societies do not take action now,” said Prof Hawking.
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. The move has been prompted by the failure to curb the atomic ambitions of Iran and North Korea, leading to a “second nuclear age”.
“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 Prof Hawking.
“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 render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change.” Lord Rees, the president of the Royal Society, said man faced the prospect of terrorists detonating a nuclear weapon in the heart of a city, “killing tens of thousands along with themselves and millions around the world would acclaim them as heroes”.
He added that 21st-century technology, “if optimally applied, could offer immense opportunities, for the developing and the developed world.
Prof Hawking described how the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 by scientists, including Albert Einstein and those who had worked on the bombs dropped on Japan and were deeply concerned about nuclear weapons, “the most destructive technology on Earth.”
“But it will present new threats more diverse and more intractable than nuclear weapons did”.
In 1947, the bulletin introduced its clock, kept in Chicago, to evoke both the imagery of apocalypse midnight and the contemporary idiom of a nuclear explosion the countdown to zero. Since it was set to 11.53 in 1947, the hand has been moved 18 times, and was as far as 17 minutes away after the demise of the Soviet Union. The closest it came to midnight 11.58 was in 1953, following the successful test of a hydrogen bomb by the United States.
“But for good luck, we would all be dead,” said Prof Hawking. “As we stand at the brink of a second nuclear age, and a period of unprecedented climate change, scientists have a special responsibility.”
The decision to move the clock is made by the bulletin’s board, which is composed of prominent scientists and policy experts, including 18 Nobel laureates, in coordination with sponsors.