The hands of the Doomsday Clock will remain at five minutes to midnight for the year 2013, a group of atomic scientists announced Monday
Used to symbolize humanity's proximity to total destruction from nuclear or biological weapons, climate change, and other human-caused disasters, the Doomsday Clock has been maintained since 1947 by the board of directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago. The closer they set the clock to midnight each year, the closer they estimate the world is to global disaster.
In deliberations as to what the clock's position should be, scientists took into consideration the current state of nuclear arsenals around the globe, the slow and costly recovery from events like the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, and extreme weather events that suggest global warming.
The threat was highest in 1953 when the time was set at two minutes to midnight after the first test of the hydrogen bomb. The scientists were most optimistic in 1991 when they set the clock 17 minutes early after the U.S. and Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The hands had been gradually inching closer to midnight since then, but were pushed back to six minutes in 2010 after President Barack Obama's first year in office.
This year the board of directors penned an open letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to work with other world leaders to act on climate change.
"2012 was the hottest year on record in the contiguous United States, marked by devastating drought and brutal storms," the letter reads. "These extreme events are exactly what climate models predict for an atmosphere laden with greenhouse gases."
The president was praised, though, for his support for wind and other renewable energy sources.
"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," Robert Socolow, chair of the board that determines the clock's position, said 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."
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