The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced reecently its latest Doomsday Clock. In so doing they moved the symbolic minute hand ahead to three minutes to midnight. The clock represents the count down to zero in minutes to nuclear apocolypse - midnight. This significant move of TWO minutes is the 18th time since it inception in 1947 that the time has been changed. The last time the clock was at 3 minutes to midnight was 1983, when "U.S. Soviet relations were at their iciest," according to the Bulletin and we had two nuclear near misses that we know of.  

In moving the hand to 3 minutes to midnight, Kennette Benedict the executive director of the Bulletin identified in her comments, "Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity. And world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from the potential catastrophe. These failures of leadership endanger every person on Earth."..."the probability of global catastrophe is very high"..."the choice is ours and the clock is ticking"..."we feel the need to warn the world"... " the decision was based on a very strong feeling of urgency". She spoke of the dangers of both nuclear weapons and climate change saying, "they are both very difficult and we are ignoring them" and emphasized "this is about doomsday, this is about the end of civilization as we know it." 

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The Clock has ranged from 2 minutes to midnight at the heght of the Cold War to 17 minutes to midnight with the hopes that followed the end of the Cold War. The decision to move the minute hand is made by the Bulletin's Board of Directors in consultation with it's Board of Sponsors, which include 17 Nobel Laureates. 

Nuclear weapons and climate change represent a clear and present danger. Retired Marine Corps General Anthony C. Zinni, former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East has stated, "We will pay for climate change one way or another. We will reduce greenhouse gas emisions today, and we'll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or, we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives.There will be a human toll." 

We know what needs to be done and how to do it yet no one in a leadership role has shown the political courage to take the necessary steps. Nuclear weapons and climate change are not Democrat or Republican, Red or Blue issues. They are survival issues and those of us who truly care about the future we leave to our children and the planet must take action. 

What is clear is that the time to ban nuclear weapons is now. Thursday's announcement by the Bulletin further corroborates the dangers confirmed by recent climate science. These studies identify the much greater dangers posed by even a small regional nuclear war using just 100 Hiroshima size bombs out of the 16,300 weapons in todays global stockpiles. The ensuing dramatic changes and famine that would follow threaten the lives of 2 billion on the planet with effects that would last beyond 10 years. There is no escaping the global impact of such a small regional war.  

As physicians we recognize there is no adequate medical or public health response to an attack on one of our cities by even the smallest nuclear device. We kid ourselves into a false sense of security that we can prepare and plan for the outcome of a bomb detonation. Every aspect and facet of our society would be overwhelmed by a nuclear attack. Ultimately the resultant dead at ground zero would be the lucky ones.  

Probability theorists have long calculated the dismal odds that the chance for nuclear event either by plan or design are not in our favor.  Recent documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act detail over 1000 mishaps that have happened in our nuclear arsenals. Time is not on our side and the fact that we have not experienced a nuclear catastrophe is more a result of luck than mastery and control over these immoral weapons of terror. 

There is so much that can and must be done. Congress will soon begin budget debates that include proposals to increase nuclear weapons spending for stockpile modernization by $355 Billion over the next decade and up to a trillion dollars in the next 30 years. Expenditures for weapons that can never be used at a time when the economic needs and opportunities for our country are so great.  

There is a growing awareness around the world of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and a corresponding desire to rid the world of these weapons. This movement resulted in 158 nations representing 4/5 of the nations of the world participating in last months Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons conference in Vienna. Forty four nations and the pope advocated for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. And in Oct., 2014, at the U.N. 155 nations called for the elimination of nuclear weapons.  

The people are making their voices heard and demanding a change of course from the status quo. It is only a matter of time before those who are unaware or choose to ignore the consequences of nuclear weapons and climate change will see and feel the effects themselves. At that point the time may be too late.  

In last week's State of the Union addres, President Obama emphasized that we are one people with a common destiny. He said this both in reference to our nation and our world. The threat of nuclear weapons and climate change unites us even as it threatens our very existence. This reality can also be remembered in the words of Martin Luther King when he said, "We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly." 

The time for action is now, before it is too late. What will you do? It's 3 minutes to midnight.  

Dodge is a family physician practicing full time in Ventura, California. He serves on the boards of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles (www.psr-la.org) and National  (www.psr.org).  He also serves on the board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org) and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions (www.c-p-r.net).