Doomsday clock remains at 100 seconds until midnight

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists said on Thursday that their annual analysis of world conditions has kept the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds until midnight for the third year in a row. 

“Steady is not good news. In fact, it reflects the judgment of the board that we are stuck in a perilous moment, one that brings neither stability nor security,” Sharon Squassoni, co-chair of the Science and Security Board for the Bulletin and a professor at the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University, said at a press conference to announce the group’s conclusion about the clock.

The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947 after World War II to determine how close the world was to annihilation with nuclear weapons. After many years, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists began to consider other factors that could result in world annihilation, including climate change and other threats.

This year, the 75th anniversary of the clock, the group named a number of other threats, such as disinformation causing division, a pandemic with frequent outbreaks, and several countries continuing to pursue nuclear weapons, along with climate change, which conservative dispute.

“Inaction” blamed for threats

“The Doomsday Clock is not set by good intentions, but rather by evidence of action, or in this case inaction,” Scott D. Sagan, a Stanford University professor, told reporters. “Signs of nuclear arms races are clear.” 

The scientists cited nuclear ambitions by Iran and North Korea as well as competition between Russia, China and the U.S. as factors causing global tensions.

Disinformation about democracyclimate change, and the pandemic fueled people making poor decisions, they said. 

The resulting factors mean a world in which different and antagonistic political tribes each live in their own factual universes. This is not a world governed by reason or reality and is itself an existential threat to modern civilization as we have come to know it,” senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation Herb Lin said.

Wake up call

The president of the Bulletin, Rachel Bronson, offered a hopeful note.

“We continue to believe that human beings can manage the dangers posed by modern technology even in times of crisis. But if humanity is to avoid an existential catastrophe, one that would dwarf anything it has yet seen, national leaders must do a far better job of countering disinformation, heeding science and cooperating to diminish global risks,” she said. 

She also called the global pandemic a “wake up call,” which showed that global leaders were ill-prepared to deal with such a threat.

2020 was the first time the clock was set at 100 seconds to midnight, and this occurred even before the pandemic was recognized.

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