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Good: Nuclear Doomsday Clock Turned Back; Bad: Board Didn’t Factor In Iran

Stupid: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists thinks we are now further from annihilation because of ... progress on "climate stabilization."

by
William M. Briggs

Bio

January 24, 2010 - 12:00 am

Tock-tick.

The hands of the Doomsday Clock have been sent back one minute. The alarm is now set to go boom! in six, and not five, minutes. Time enough for one more beer.

It used to be 300 short seconds until The End, but the good people of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) have looked out upon the world and, lo, they have found it less quarrelsome. They see “encouraging progress” in both “key threat areas”: nuclear weapons … and climate change?

Yes, climate change.

The BAS has three boards: A majority of scientists (like top physicists Steven Weinberg, Stephen Hawking, and Freeman Dyson) sit on the external Board of Sponsors; the Science and Security Board, which also has a good share of whitecoats; and the Governing Board — which has at most one scientist (Seth Grae, who runs a company to dispose plutonium). The other Governing Board members are similar in makeup to Jay Harris, the publisher of the far-left Mother Jones.

Here are some members of the Science and Security Board whose backgrounds are not in nuclear weapons or diplomacy (there are 19 members in all):

  • James Hansen: He was once seen in an English courtroom advocating vandals be set free because they committed their crimes in the name of the environment. He amusingly called coal transports “death trains.” In Germany.
  • Stephen Schneider: This man has taken a keen interest in climate change. Thirty years ago he was sure mankind was ushering in the next ice age. Now he is certain we are causing devastating global warming.
  • Robert Socolow: He heads up Princeton’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative. They’re always seeking donations, if you can spare them.
  • Lawrence Krauss: An involved guy, he often writes for New Scientist magazine. (Incidentally, at its founding, the “New” was one of the more popular euphemisms for “communist.”) Krauss strikes me as someone who wants to be where the action is.
  • Tony Haymet: He is the co-founder and current vice chair of CleanTECH San Diego, a business organization devoted to solving the climate change “problem.”

I have contacted the BAS (and their PR firm) but I have been unable to discover who decides how the clock is set back (or forward). Is there a vote among board members? If so, which board? Are clock-changing proposals presented to the sponsors prepared by the Governing or Science Board? I don’t know the answers.

In any case, the Doomsday Clock has gone back in time. The BAS says that 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 world’s leading nations “on nuclear security and on climate stabilization.”

The BAS is proud of our current president, calling him “more pragmatic.”

They gush that he uses a “problem-solving approach” to solving problems.

The word more is revealing. It is taken for granted that the reader knows who was less pragmatic. Yet you-know-who’s name is never mentioned.

It is true that the Obama administration has put out feelers to the Russian plutocracy, and that discussions about how to reduce aged stockpiles of nuclear weapons have been held. But even progressives agree that Copenhagen was no more than Mr. Obama playing hide-n-seek with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

And even with Mr. Obama’s heroic efforts, the BAS still admitted: “We can no longer prevent global warming — it is upon us. … Without vigorous and immediate follow-up to the Copenhagen conference and well-conceived action we are all threatened by accelerating and irreversible changes to our planet.” To fix the devastating global warming we see all around us (shut up; of course you see it), the BAS wants to “to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through tax incentives, harmonized domestic regulation and practice.”

Can governments harmonize?

Never mind. Because we haven’t come to the weirdest portion of BAS’s announcement: the strange, empty silence about Iran. “We may be at a turning point, where major powers no longer see the value of nuclear weapons for war-fighting or even for deterrence.” They don’t?

Iranian President Mahmoud “Nyah-Nyah-Nyah” Ahmadinejad’s definition of the word “value” is different. He is busy clearing the streets of Tehran with bullets while beavering away on weapons work in Natanz. And Iran has just spurned — great word — another deal that would have helped them avoid further sanctions.

According to the New York Times, Iran would have been forced to ship its stock of low-enriched uranium “below the quantity needed for the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.” To this polite request from its betters, Iran said: “Nah.”

They want to keep their radioactive clay, which will be squeezed into the shape of a bomb or two. And won’t that be fun. But these events do not worry the atomic scientists, who are more interested in scolding the “coal power sector of the world economy.”

The BAS has outlived their usefulness. It is time for them to take their hands off the clock.

William M. Briggs is a statistical consultant in New York and San Francisco. He is an American Meteorological Society member and serves on their Probability & Statistics Committee. His specialty is on the philosophy of evidence, forecast evaluation, and marketing.
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