“The politics of economic recovery have distracted world leaders from the long-term threats that face humanity, specifically the dangers presented by climate change and nuclear weapons, observed the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, as it announced today that the minute hand of its Doomsday Clock will remain at five minutes to midnight,” the group posted.
In a letter to Obama, the scientists say “In the U.S. elections the focus was ‘the economy, stupid,’ with barely a word about the severe long-term trends that threaten the population’s well-being to a far greater extent: climate change, the continuing menace of nuclear oblivion, and the vulnerabilities of the world’s energy sources.”
Remember these are atomic scientists, supposedly. They hit “climate change” first, and nuclear weapons second. The letter as a whole spends more time on climate change than nukes — and it fails to mention Iran at all.
“Human activities are now the dominant cause of global climate change,” the scientists warned. “Emissions of heat-trapping gases continued to climb in 2012, with atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide — the most important greenhouse gas affected by human activities — reaching levels higher than at any time in the past 800,000 years. 2012 was the hottest year on record for the contiguous United States.”
Let’s look at those claims. First, we can let them skate on the claim that human activities are the dominant cause of global climate change. That’s really a matter still being debated, but we’ll let it go for now. Was 2012 the hottest year on record? Yes, for the United States — but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the global average temperature ranked as the 10th-warmest.
What’s puzzling is that the atomic scientists sent this letter to the president of the United States. The U.S. has hit a 20-year low in emissions. Cleaner burning (and cheaper) natural gas is taking the place of coal in many power plants.
But not everywhere.
So we’re doing our bit; it’s really up to China (and India, for that matter) to start doing theirs.
The scientists mention other threats, such as “cyber attacks” and “digital espionage.”
But again, they’re atomic scientists. As columnist Walter Williams noted recently, even Isaac Newton was spectacularly wrong when it came to matters outside his specialty (physics).
The reality is the world is a safer and healthier place than it has ever been. The dramatics of a “Doomsday Clock” aside, there’s reason for optimism.