The Doomsday Clock is an internationally recognized design that conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making. First and foremost among these are nuclear weapons, but the dangers include climate-changing technologies, emerging... Read More
Lawrence M. KraussLynn EdenRobert RosnerAlexander GlaserEdward "Rocky" Kolb Leon LedermanRamamurti RajaramanM. V. RamanaElizabeth J. WilsonRichard C. J. SomervilleSivan KarthaJennifer SimsRod Ewing
A careful review of threats leads the Bulletin's Science and Security Board to conclude that the risk of civilization-threatening technological catastrophe remains high, and that the hands of the Doomsday Clock should therefore remain at five minutes to midnight.
Four years ago, President Barack Obama called preventing nuclear terrorism a top security priority. But even though he said in his State of the Union speech last week that Washington "would continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands," the United States is only marginally safer from that threat today than it was at the beginning of his first term.
We ran outside and saw gray clouds billowing over the ridge to our west. Smoke was already visible in the air around us. We knew in an instant that it was a wildfire, and the wind was blowing it straight toward us.
With temperatures topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit this month in Chicago, thoughts turn to global warming. Whether any particular extreme weather event could be a symptom of climate change is difficult to say. Even higher-than-normal regional temperature patterns may not be direct evidence of the planet's warming overall. Climate models cannot forecast changes in temperature or rainfall at local levels.
The past nine months have been trying for researchers who study the H5N1 avian influenza virus, the committees that have been discussing dual-use research in the life sciences, and the entities that fund and publish such research. The details have been reported in many venues and need only brief summary here: Two laboratories funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) embarked on studies to determine whether the H5N1 virus -- a bird flu virus that has caused a relatively small number of human deaths -- could be made to transmit between people.
A reflection on: Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement Lawrence Wittner 272 pages, $21.95
In 2011, people across the planet reached out to Japan in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami. Millions watched as one nation after another rose in mass revolutions across the Arab world. The Occupy movement blossomed, as citizens in cities around the globe expressed rage over the excesses of capitalism and corporate power. And Time magazine named "The Protester" its annual Person of the Year.
As negotiations with Iran over the future of its nuclear program inch toward a possible deal, another intractable Middle East problem with a nuclear dimension is likely to start getting more serious attention. It is the question of whether there is any chance that Israel, Iran, and their Arab neighbors will agree to discuss establishing a regional zone free of all nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and their delivery systems.
After a hiatus of 15 months, Iran and the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, called the P5+1, met in Istanbul to discuss Iran's nuclear program. Relations between Iran and the major powers have become so sour that, when the meetings ended, all sides viewed agreement to simply meet again next month in Baghdad as a major diplomatic triumph.
Almost no country in the world would refuse an invitation to join a collective declaration acknowledging nuclear terrorism as one of the most challenging threats to global security. However, defining a common view about how to advance practical measures that will prevent nuclear terrorism is not so easy. When it comes to nuclear security, it has always been difficult to go from statements to actions.
As I endeavored to write a positive take on the prospects for the upcoming Seventh Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) in December, the proverb "There's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip" kept coming to mind. In other words, a lot could still go wrong in December. Perhaps it's the history of the near-death experience of the Convention in the 2001-2002 Fifth Review Conference, or maybe it's the Convention's existence on the intersessional process (ISP) life-support system of 2003-2005 and 2007-2010.
In his famous address in Prague two years ago this month, President Barack Obama promised to "reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy," and committed to making concrete progress toward "a world without nuclear weapons." His critics derided this nuclear vision as a utopian fantasy, and claimed that US nuclear policy declarations were unlikely to have positive effects on other governments. But a careful analysis suggests otherwise.
Two years ago in Prague, President Barack Obama laid out his vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. Recognizing that this would not likely be achieved in his lifetime, he outlined practical steps by which the international community might strive for greater security in a world where nuclear weapons still exist. One of these steps was the four-year goal to secure all loose nuclear material -- almost immediately after his speech, concerns about nuclear terrorism and nuclear material security were prominent on the international agenda.
It goes without saying that the mid-term elections were a disaster for Democrats: Republicans took control of the House of Representatives -- winning over 60 seats -- and also picked up six Senate seats. The Senate will remain in Democratic hands, while the House will have new leadership and committee chairs.
These results will likely produce gridlock in Congress for the next two years on most domestic issues -- but national security issues might produce mixed results.