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Doomsday clock moves closer to midnight-----------Matthew Gross
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to midnight last month, making it 11:55.
The theoretical clock is a reflection of the world's vulnerability to nuclear and other threats, with midnight being the figurative end of civilization.
The BAS Board focused on two factors in their decision to move the clock: an estimated 27,000 nuclear weapons in existence, 2000 of which are ready to launch within minutes and the destruction of human habitats due to climate change.
Gary Klass, an associate professor of politics and government, said even with the BAS' decision to move the clock, he does not think we are that close to the end of civilization.
"We might be closer than we were to a nuclear weapon going off, but we're a lot farther away from a doomsday nuclear attack," Klass said.
Klass said one of the reasons nuclear weapons are such a threat these days is because unstable countries have gotten a hold of them.
"Countries like Germany, England, Russia and China have had nuclear weapons, but for the most part those are all politically stable countries. Now they're getting in the hands of a few lunatics in North Korea and Iran."
"The Pakistan-based network that provided nuclear technologies to Libya, North Korea and Iran is an example of the new challenges confronting the international community," the BAS Board wrote in a statement released in conjunction with moving the clock.
While the focus is on nuclear weapons, the BAS also addressed the issue of climate change in the statement.
"Global warming poses a dire threat to human civilization that is second only to nuclear weapons," the BAS Board wrote.
"Through flooding and desertification, climate change threatens the habitats and agricultural resources that societies depend upon for survival."
Even with civilization five minutes from destruction, Klass said simply negotiating with countries like North Korea and Iran could be a solution to the threat of nuclear war. The BAS Board also offered this suggestion in their statement.
Jay Ansher, a general education lab coordinator for the physics department, said that while he is just speculating, one of the reasons for the recent surge in the availability of nuclear weapons is simply a matter of information being more readily accessible.
"With the tech we have today, people have access to the information and can learn about these kinds of things," Ansher said.
"That info might not be as protected as it would have been 30 years ago." Ansher said that if a nuclear war were to break out, civilization might come to an end, but the Earth would survive.
"It'll be just fine, it just won't be how we'd like it to be," Ansher said. "As a planet, the Earth has survived four and a half billion years. When we talk about doomsday clocks and that sort of thing, we're speaking more in terms of human civilization. [The Earth] is very adaptable, it's gone through plenty of big, major changes in the past."
Ansher explained the effects of nuclear fallout.
"If a bomb detonates, we're talking the size of a city region that will be affected. In a high enough concentration, the debris and dust can block out a lot of sunlight and the earth would cool down a few degrees. It's essentially the opposite of what people are worried about with global warming."
However, Ansher said humans might be able to adapt in a post-fallout climate. "We're fairly resourceful," Ansher said. "We wouldn't be necessarily extinct, we may find a way to adapt and adjust."