15 Jan 2010

Doomsday Clock moved 1 minute back

9:11 pm on 15 January 2010

International scientists have nudged back the hands of the Doomsday Clock, the symbol of how close humans are to global catastrophe.

The clock has been a barometer of nuclear danger for the past 55 years.

It now stands at six minutes to midnight - a minute further away from disaster than in 2007, when George W Bush was the president of the United States, the BBC reports.

The concept timepiece was devised by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The group said it decided to move the clock back because of a more "hopeful state of world affairs".

The clock was first featured by the magazine in 1947, shortly after the US dropped its A-bombs on Japan.

The clock had been adjusted 18 times before today since its initial start at seven minutes to midnight.

Bulletin co-chair Laurence Krauss says they are more optimistic because of a growing political will to tackle nuclear proliferation and climate change.

"For the first time since atomic bombs were dropped in 1945, leaders of nuclear weapons states are cooperating to vastly reduce their arsenals and secure all nuclear bomb-making material.

"And for the first time ever, industrialised and developing countries alike are pledging to limit climate-changing gas emissions that could render our planet nearly uninhabitable."

Most recently, in January 2007, the clock moved to five minutes to midnight, when climate change was added to the prospect of nuclear annihilation as the greatest threats to humankind.

The concerns then included Iran's nuclear ambitions and the inability to halt the international trafficking of nuclear materials such as highly enriched uranium and plutonium.