Words vs. Deeds; moving back the Doomsday Clock

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has turned back the Doomsday Clock. The Bulletin‘s Board of Directors said

It is 6 minutes to midnight. We are poised to bend the arc of history toward a world free of nuclear weapons. For the first time since atomic bombs were dropped in 1945, leaders of nuclear weapons states are cooperating to vastly reduce their arsenals and secure all nuclear bomb-making material. And for the first time ever, industrialized and developing countries alike are pledging to limit climate-changing gas emissions that could render our planet nearly uninhabitable. These unprecedented steps are signs of a growing political will to tackle the two gravest threats to civilization–the terror of nuclear weapons and runaway climate change.

This burst of admittedly limited optimism reminds me of the Nobel Peace Prize award to Barack Obama. This committee, too, “attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.” Having committed the United States to an escalation in Afghanistan, Obama responded in his acceptance speech with a defense of war.

And the discrepancy between Obama’s words and deeds has repeatedly been so vast that we should surely be skeptical about the prospects for nuclear arms reduction against a military-industrial complex that resists even a “no-first-use” pledge. Accordingly, the Bulletin‘s Board warned that “the small increment of the change reflects both the threats that remain around the globe and the danger that governments may fail to deliver on pledged actions on reducing nuclear weapons and mitigating climate change.”

I cannot say I see the case for moving the clock back. The news on climate change seems to get worse every year. If anything, the clock should be advanced, particularly in light of the failure in Copenhagen which the Bulletin‘s Board seems to have studiously ignored.

It is possible to argue that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded hastily and out of optimism. The Bulletin‘s Board has no such excuse. I suddenly feel naïve; can it be that Obama is more representative of the elite than I imagined, that a significant fraction of the elite shares his preference for rhetoric over action?

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