Doomsday Clock Is Staying Very Close to Doom

'The world remains stuck in an extremely dangerous moment'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 21, 2022 8:26 AM CST
Doomsday Clock Is Staying at 100 Seconds to Midnight
The clock has been at 100 seconds to midnight since 2019.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The good news from this week's Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists meeting is that the Doomsday Clock hasn't moved any closer to midnight from last year. The bad news is the clock "remains the closest it has ever been to civilization-ending apocalypse because the world remains stuck in an extremely dangerous moment," the group said in a statement. In 2019, the clock, which represents that threat of an existential catastrophe for humanity, was moved forward to 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it has been in its 75-year-history. It has been stuck there since. This year, the bulletin cited threats including nuclear weapons, climate change, and biological threats, "all exacerbated by a corrupted information ecosphere that undermines rational decision making."

Rachel Bronson, the bulletin's president and CEO, said Thursday that its science and security board had "found the world to be no safer than it was last year at this time," the CBC reports. The clock "continues to hover dangerously, reminding us how much work is needed to ensure a safer and healthier planet," she said. "We must continue to push the hands of the clock away from midnight." The clock started at seven minutes to midnight in 1947. The furthest it has even been from midnight was 17 minutes in 1991. The group warned that the fact the time on the clock is unchanged doesn't mean that threats to humanity have stabilized. Board member Raymond Pierrehumbert, a professor of physics at Oxford, warned that the world saw a "staggering onslaught of climate disasters" in 2021.

In its statement, the group said that in the years before the pandemic, the US and "many other countries underinvested in defense against natural, accidental, and intentional biological threats" and "underestimated the impacts that a biological threat could have on the entire world." They warned that as bad as COVID has been, "what the world has experienced during this pandemic is nowhere close to a worst-case scenario" and countries need to address other potential threats, including antibiotic resistance. The bulletin said that to mark the clock's 75th anniversary, it has launched the #TurnBacktheClock challenge for people to share positive actions. (More Doomsday Clock stories.)

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