Why do we pay so little attention anymore to the threat of a nuclear holocaust?

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The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists SAYS the nuclear doomsday clock now stands at five minutes to midnight:

In 2013, the world made limited strides toward reducing the threat posed by nuclear weapons, most notable among them an interim agreement between the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (or P5 + 1) and Iran on a “joint plan of action” for reaching a long-term solution to international concern about the Iranian nuclear program. Also, in the last year a significant number of countries have taken steps to reduce their stocks of weapons-grade fissile material and to tighten security on the nuclear stores that remain.

Overall, however, in 2013 the international community dealt with the continuing, potentially civilization-ending threat of nuclear weapons in a business-as-usual manner, meaning that outsized nuclear arsenals remain in the United States and Russia, and the nuclear arsenals of some countries—notably India, Pakistan, and China—appear to be growing. The interim Iranian deal notwithstanding, the international community has not come to grips with an unfortunate reality: The spread of civilian nuclear power around the world—which continues apace, despite the disaster at Fukushima—also spreads the potential for new nuclear weapons states.

Meanwhile, even though there have been positive developments in the renewable energy field over the last year, worldwide efforts to limit the carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change have largely stalled, with emission-reduction programs being used as political footballs in several industrialized countries. And beyond the nuclear and climate threats lies a spectrum of emerging dangers—from cyber weapons to killer robots—that are further challenging humanity’s ability to manage its most advanced technologies.

A careful review of these threats leads us 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. We implore the Secretary-General and the Security Council to spur worldwide action…to reduce the danger that human technology will be humanity’s undoing.


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