Renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking has stated that climate change stands alongside the use of nuclear weapons as one of the greatest threats posed to the future of the world. Speaking at the Royal Society in London in 2007, Professor Hawking said that we stand on the precipice of a second nuclear age and a period of exceptional climate change, both of which could destroy the planet as we know it. In his remarks, Hawking stated:
“As we stand at the brink of a second nuclear age and a period of unprecedented climate change, scientists have a special responsibility, once again, to inform the public and to advise leaders about the perils that humanity faces…As scientists, we understand the dangers of nuclear weapons and their devastating effects, and we are learning how human activities and technologies are affecting climate systems in ways that may forever change life on Earth…
Lord Rees of Ludlow, president of the Royal Society, speaking at the same meeting, said humankind’s collective impacts on the biosphere, climate and oceans were unprecedented. These environmentally-driven threats ‘threats without enemies’ should loom as large in the political perspective as did the East-West political divide during the Cold War era.
The board of directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said the threat of nuclear apocalypse was now almost matched by the environmental threats posed by climate change:
“As in past deliberations, we have examined other human-made threats to civilisation. We have concluded the dangers posed by climate change are nearly as dire as those posed by nuclear weapons. The effects may be less dramatic in the short term than the destruction that could be wrought by nuclear explosions, but over the next three to four decades climate change could cause drastic harm.”
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists: How Skepticism Became Denial (subscription required to read full article)