Now, despite the Arab Spring and other pro-democracy movements around the world, including in Russia, lowering clouds have rolled back in for these scientists. So much so that on Tuesday the BAS directors announced they were moving the minute hand of the clock back to the 2007 position – 11:55.
“Two years ago, it appeared that world leaders might address the truly global threats that we face,” the BAS directors said in a statement. “In many cases, that trend has not continued or been reversed.”
“Inaction on key issues including climate change, and rising international tensions motivate the movement of the clock,” the group said in its statement. “As we see it, the major challenge at the heart of humanity’s survival in the 21st century is how to meet energy needs for economic growth in developing and industrial countries without further damaging the climate, exposing people to loss of health and community, and without risking further spread of nuclear weapons.”
But in a year in which the Mayan calendar and other doomsday prophesies are getting more than their share of attention, how seriously, really should the public take this obviously subjective – and critics might argue meaningless – relic of the cold war?
“Is this ridiculous thing still around?” Darrin Cothran, a commenter on a Los Angeles Times web page noting the clock's shift moaned. “Time to tell these elderly gentlemen that it's time to retire.”
“They're just trying to stay relevant,” piped up an anonymous commentator on Slashdot. “We all forgot about them when the Cold War ended, and they crave attention again.”
Others, however, argue in favor of at least some type of global warning clock – as a simple indicator for society that unseen looming problems exist and need public attention.