Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Global Warming Shifts Doomsday Clock

The famous "doomsday clock" is a concept timepiece that first appeared in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 60 years ago. Since then it has been an ongoing symbolic image that periodically changes to reflect new threats or treaties that influence the likelihood of nuclear holocaust.

This week, the clock was moved forward two minutes to stand at 5 minutes to midnight (aka "doomsday"). The move comes not because of new nuclear threats, but rather to reflect the risk of catastrophic global warming now faced by humankind. The announcement came during an unprecedented joint news conference at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, DC, and the Royal Society in London.


anthonynorth said...

This action certainly made the news, which is probably right, but was it nothing more than a publicity stunt?
If we accept this, then it wasn't really a scientific announcement. Consider Prof Hawking's comment today about global warming. It is given scientific credibility, but it isn't his field. People should understand he was only speaking as a layman.
I am, myself, environmentally minded, but the cause is not helped by stunts and symbol.

Autoverzekering said...

I totally agree with anthony

Anonymous said...

I agree with anthonynorth, but maybe the other purpose of this stunt is to scare people that the end will come someday. I think that some people of this century think that they're immortal, nothing will happen to them, but in reality, everyone, no matter how rich or poor, will die.

Odiyya said...

I find this interesting.

Of course it was a publicity stunt. but the problem with scienific announcements is only scientifically minded people care to read them. Unfortunatley, that is a vast minority of people.

Global warming needs political solutions. it needs an overwhelming majority of people to be on board and pushing gov'ts and corps to act.

If an evocative metaphor can do help a bit with that, I say "why not?"

Janis Mara said...

odiyya, I think that's a good point. Not everyone is as well-informed and on top of the situation as anthonynorth, and for those folks who are behind the curve, I think a gesture like this may help to drive home the importance of global warming and its scary implications.

Angel City's Devil said...

I love your blog! Also, I agree with anthonynorth's comment that the "doomsday clock" benefits the global cause. I have recently made a post in my blog regarding conservation and local (LA) environmental concerns. Please check it out...

ps. id love to link to your blog. I think you have a great resource for getting the word out on environmental activism.

CocoNL said...

As someone who called in and listened in live to the event, the clock was moved forward BOTH because of an increased concern regarding the threat of nuclear proliferation AS WELL AS the threat of accelerated cliamte change. The Board was also very clear that they had consulted experts in the field of climate change including NASA's Jim Hansen. Publicity stunt? depends how you define it - not exactly an organization that regularly goes about trying to attact attention a la Paris Hilton. Perhaps they realized that people needed to hear from a new source since so few seem to be willing to take action depsite the overwhelming evidence.

Personally I commend the Bulletin for taking such a strong & frank position. It would be much easier for them to have said nothing at all regarding this issue.

abra said...

So what. Big deal. If I am not mistaken, volcanos make more greenhouse gasses than humankind does even with all of our cars and everything. So what do you expect? Apparently this doomsday you speak of is just a breaking point in the cycle of the earth when we will not be able to hold on any longer. It was set in motion long ago. Long ago, how funny.. what an understatement. The bible says it. The earth says it is invetible. So move on and live because now you have the proof you demanded. The world is ending for us human. Extra extra.... that ain't news.

anthonynorth said...

We seem to think that the only answer to environmental awareness is stunt or political solution. None will be any use without an imperative, and knowledge of the dangers we face does not seem to be inspiring people to be eco-friendly enough.
This is so because there appears to be logical arguments that it may not be us who are doing the damage. As noted, a volcano produces more greenhouse gas that we do. The answer is to look at the evidence and see if there is a definite way to increase the argument for environmentalism.
I use a simple analogy. When a car is balanced on the edge of a cliff, it is a human finger that can upset the balance. Meaning, of course, that how much gas the planet or nature releases is immaterial. Our release is above nature, and separate to the system. So the damage it can do could well be disproportionate.

Peace said...

The all feared doomsday has arraived atlast.Was it a publicity stunt? I dont think so.May be it was for public awareness.To let world know the severity of global warming.

Odiyya said...

anthonynorth, this is a very odd comment, particularly from someone like yourself who is admittedly environmentally minded. As has been said weekly by anyone of any repute or scientific authority there is no debate about human activity causing global warming. The list of links off the home page here is a start if you want to read more on that. Perhaps more useful s this one -

My guess is that wherever you heard info to convince you that there is a debate on this issue, it came from a known, industry funded source. Who ever the individual was, try searching his background at source watch. I'm sure it will be an eye opener.

CocoNL said...

Abra - the earth will end eventually just as we will all die eventually but I still choose to look both ways before crossing the street to avoid being hit by a car and I still go to the doctor's when I get sick and take medicines to get better. Using the end of the earth as a rationalization for inaction is in my opinion immoral and unethical. Anyone with any religious beliefs would not want to aggravate and inflict severe suffering, which is what will happen when you mave climate refugees in the order of millions. Personally, I can't imagine any GOD condoning such selfish behavior.

To address your statement on volcanoes you state that because they emit greenhouse gases we shouldn't worry about the gaseswe are emitting.
No one has ever said we should have NO greenhouse gases. If it weren't for greenhouse gases the planet would not have initially been hospitable place for life to develope. If anything, your statement proves the point that we as humans, if we value our planet and the current lifeforms inhabiting it, we need to act now. The planet's system has evolved factoring in what is emitted by volcanoes - it is part of the natural carbon cycle. What is not part of that cycle, is the enormous quantity we humans are suddenly (the last 200 years) injecting into the atmosphere (and eventually affecting the oceans). This is what is causing stress on the system, not the natural variability of CO2 emitted by volcanoes, etc.

Antony - I think you were trying to say something similar with the car/cliff metaphore but Odiyya may have misunderstood your statement.

anthonynorth said...

Odiyya, perhaps the problem here is I'm writing from England. Several of the main newspapers here are full of the idea that global warming is a natural cycle.
The British Daily Mail, for instance, has some columnists who think the global warming issue is a conspiracy by left liberal scientists to close down industry.
One columnist goes so far as to argue that while parts of the Antarctic ice is melting, other parts are expanding to compensate. I guess you must have won the argument in the US. It isn't won in Britain.

Odiyya said...

I'd by no means say that the debate is wone anywhere in north america, and I for one can say that a great deal of my best information comes from your side of the ocean. The Guardian produces an excellent Environmental page online and the level of discourse in the British Parliament seems to do a far better job in seriously addressing the issue then most governments here.

If you have a couple articles from the British Daily Mail feel free to forward them. I did a search of their site, but other than some apparent opposition to green taxes i couldn't see anything that ran radically in opposition to global warming action.

The only other thing I can say is that this is the reason why I don't trust anything that journalist say. It comes down to who their source are, what the spin is, and what information they bring to back it up. "Global warming is a left wing conspiracy" is easy enough to say, but where is the evidence of this? Where is the objective scientific study that shows the earth is cooling? Invariably the answer to this is there isn't any evidence, and journalists do this intentionally by using short dismissals that leverage our bias or fear.

anthonynorth said...

Odiyya, The Guardian is thought of as the voice of the radical liberal over here. It is becoming a common phrase to excuse someone's actions as due to being 'a Guardian reader.'
Most of the other papers report the environmental issues, but many columnists are sceptical. I suggest, on the Mail, you search Melanie Phillips and Richard Littlejohn; excellent columnists, but stuck on global warming.
I don't accept the scientific community is sold on man-made global warming. Yes, most who don't accept it may be in the employ of industry, but this is irrelevant to the public perception.
This is what must be worked on, and I don't think - returning to my original post - that this can be done by stunts. It must be done by imperative; giving clear and no-nonsense argument. Not doom-mongering, but clear and rational. And the first stage in this approach is to look at the anti-brigade and rationally dismiss their claims in language that will get through to the public.

Odiyya said...

Thanks Anthonynorth. my comments are going to sound harsh but here is my honest take. your quote:

"I suggest, on the Mail, you search Melanie Phillips and Richard Littlejohn; excellent columnists, but stuck on global warming.
I don't accept the scientific community is sold on man-made global warming. Yes, most who don't accept it may be in the employ of industry, but this is irrelevant to the public perception."

there are a couple problems here. Melanie Phillips, who you say is an excellent columnist is in fact a liar and a hack. the only name she cites in opposition to global warming in this article (for example) is Richard Lindzen, and an industry clown who won't even back up his own ludicrous claims because they are so utterly laughable. Meanwhile Ms. Phillips fails to back up any other point with any evidence, let alone credible sources. I would not call that "excellence" in journalism. It's a hack spin job. We have the same type of yahoos in our media. It comes down to choice as to whether or not you accept their fictitious claims.

Meanwhile, you yourself say that you do not accept that the scientfic community is sold on man made global warming. Well you know what? That amounts to nothing more than your unsupported opinion, because the scientific community IS sold on it. That is a fact, backed up by the IPCC, the Royal Society, and thousands of other authentic scientists who I can go on naming if needed.

That is how informed thought, opinion and policy works. What you "think" is irrelevant, as is what you "say" unless its backed up by fact and evidence. That's also the reason why everything on this site is cited.

Ms. Phillips would be a lot more credible if she did the same.

anthonynorth said...

Odiyya, it sounds like you're trying to shoot the messenger. On many other issues Melanie Phillips is good. She's misguided on global warming, yes.
It seems to me that you miss the point. But never mind. The problem is not scientific acceptance any more. It is public awareness. And scientists are not going to get that message over because they seem too remote.
Similarly, politicians aren't because they are full of spin and in industry's hands. Their propositions to fight the problem are simply cosmetic.
Is this my opinion? Yes. Same as Hawking had an opinion that can't be backed up.
I passionately believe that global warming is a danger, and it is man-made. Yes, I think the evidence is over-whelming. But the PR has hardly begun. And that PR must begin by looking at the sceptic's evidence and opinions and taking them on. Simply insulting them by calling them a 'liar and a hack' is counter-productive in the end.

carolinablue said...

Science without the deliberate attempt to prove the accuracy of the scriptures are in complete agreement on their ddomsday clock. This global warming issue is spoken of very clearly in the scriptures. Look around us people! Look what's going on in the political area of the globe, as well as the enviornment. This is not stunt! This is prophesy!

Have A Great Global Warming Day!

Odiyya said...

at the end of the day i think we're primarily in agreement Anorth. The only thing i stress is when it comes to looking at the skeptics evidence we're chasing ghosts because they have none. The so called skeptics don't have any evidence, only a lot of money and resources to generate confusion, and yes, outright lies.

If you haven't checked it out previously recommended reading is "Don't think of an Elephant" from my link section. It outlines precisely how the conservative movement controls the debate on political issues, and applies very well to global warming. In a nutshell, so long as they are able to tip the debate to uncertainty, denial, or by painting a legitimate issue as a 'risk' to other key values they've already won the war, because everyone's eye is no longer on the issue itself.

Thats what journalists who deny global warming are in the business of doing, and the sooner we can stop humouring their unsupported opinions and take them out of the debate, the sooner we can start working on real solutions.

Odiyya said...

FYI - a good article on the issue of scientific "debate" (or lack thereof) is Mitchell Andersons column in this weeks Georgia Straight.

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