Who says that nuclear scientists can’t tell time?
Yesterday, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the doomsday clock one minute further from midnight.
That movement signals that the world is in slightly better shape than a year ago, a little less likely to meet the doomsday of a nuclear holocaust or destruction of the planet by global warming.
The Bulletin issued a statement yesterday saying:
We are poised to bend the arc of history toward a world free of nuclear weapons. 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, industrialized and developing countries alike are pledging to limit climate-changing gas emissions that could render our planet nearly uninhabitable.
In fact, the movement of the Doomsday clock away from zero is appropriate in light of developments in 2009, and could have been moved even further if the decision were based solely on nuclear weapons issues.
Maybe two minutes more away from midnight.
The Copenhagen summit on global warming was widely seen as a baby step forward with governments unable to agree on mandatory limits for greenhouse gasses.
On the other hand, there has been significant progress on nuclear weapons issues in the past year, starting with President Obama’s seminal speech on nuclear issues at Prague last April.
After little official focus on Cold War-aftermath issues by the previous two Presidents, the U.S. government has now renewed a focus on the 23,000 nuclear weapons remaining across the globe and the danger that some of these weapons could get in the hands of terrorists.
The President followed the rhetoric with specific actions, including securing approval for his long-term goal of a world free of nuclear weapons by the U.N. Security Council, launching new negotiations with Russia on a nuclear reductions treaty, pledging vigorous action for ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, planning a Global Nuclear Security Summit in April 2010 and other steps.
Where to next?
We will know a lot more in six months if the steps produce successful conclusions and there is a productive Nuclear Non-Proliferation Review Conference later this year.