The hands of the Doomsday Clock ticked backward today – giving humanity an extra minute before proverbial midnight.
The symbolic clock, a fixture of the Cold War still ticking 60 years later, measures the threat of man-made catastrophe through nuclear war or global warming. Today's new reading represents progress by world leaders to curb weapons proliferation and cap climate change, said the group behind the Clock during its event today in New York City.
At 10 a.m. Thursday, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reset the Doomsday Clock to six minutes until midnight. The timepiece has changed 19 times since its creation in 1947. Only five of those were closer to midnight than today's reading – 1949 (Russia's first atomic weapons tests), 1953 (Cold War ramps up), 1981 (conflicts in Afghanistan, South Africa, and Poland), 1984 (Cold War escalates further), and 2007 (North Korea and Iran pursue nuclear weapons, global warming becomes evident).
But the Bulletin said today that the memory of mushroom clouds and warnings of greenhouse gases now come with silver linings.
"By shifting the hand back from midnight by only one additional minute, we emphasize how much needs to be accomplished, while at the same time recognizing signs of collaboration among the United States, Russia, the European Union, India, China, Brazil, and others on nuclear security and on climate stabilization," said the official announcement.
Much like the committee that awarded Barack Obama a Nobel Peace Prize last year, the Bulletin was hopeful about the new American president – even if his rhetoric has led to few real accomplishments.
"With a more pragmatic, problem-solving approach, not only has Obama initiated new arms reduction talks with Russia, he has started negotiations with Iran to close its nuclear enrichment program, and directed the U.S. government to lead a global effort to secure loose fissile material in four years," said today's statement.
Do you agree with the Bulletin's reading? Should the clock tick further forward or backward? Let us know in the comments or join us on Twitter.