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‘Doomsday Clock’ scientists to Obama: Only five more minutes until the end of the world

The infamous “Doomsday Clock” is still at five minutes to midnight, according to a statement released by the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. In an open letter to President Barack Obama, the group of scientists addressed their growing concern over climate change, nuclear and biological terrorism and various other threats to mankind. Although the clock remains at five minutes before midnight, the Board members congratulated the president on his efforts to gain ratification of New START and to improve the nuclear security regime. The group of scientists also praised the president for his support for wind and other renewable energy sources.

According to LiveScience, the Doomsday Clock is a symbol of the danger that nuclear or biological weapons pose to mankind. When deciding how to update the clock’s time in 2013, the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists examined numerous factors, including extreme weather events and the current state of nuclear tensions around the globe.

“2012 was a year in which the problems of the world pressed forward, but too many of its citizens stood back. In the US elections the focus was ‘the economy, stupid,’ with barely a word about the severe long-term trends that threaten the population’s well-being to a far greater extent: climate change, the continuing menace of nuclear oblivion, and the vulnerabilities of the world’s energy sources,” wrote the group of scientists in an open letter to the president.

Given these “severe long-term trends,” the Board made the decision to keep the minute hand at five minutes to midnight.

“The stasis of 2012 convinces us, the Science and Security Board, to keep the hands of the Doomsday Clock in place,” added the scientists.

“We have as much hope for Obama’s second term in office as we did in 2010, when we moved back the hand of the Clock after his first year in office,” said Robert Socolow, Chair of the Science and Security Board, in a statement. “This is the year for U.S. leadership in slowing climate change and setting a path toward a world without nuclear weapons.”

LiveScience notes that the Science and Security Board set the Doomsday Clock at 17 minutes to midnight in 1991. However, the clock’s minute hand gradually moved forward toward five minutes to midnight between 1991 and 2010. Although arms reduction treaties and international climate talks moved the minute hand of the Clock back to six minutes to midnight in 2010, the clock was pushed forward again to five minutes to midnight by 2012.

According to the editor of the open letter to President Obama, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who helped create the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project. The group created the Doomsday Clock in 1947 to communicate threats to mankind and Earth. The decision to move the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock is the responsibility of the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board in consultation with its Board of Sponsors. The editor notes that the Clock has become a universally recognized symbol of the world’s vulnerability to a variety of threats, including nuclear weapons and climate change.