According to scientists from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Doomsday Clock for 2021 remains pointing at 100 seconds to midnight. This signifies that humanity is 100 seconds away from total disaster. In theory.
The nonprofit organization that decides the clock's times is headed by nuclear and climate experts, world leaders, and scientists who meet twice a year to discuss world events in order to choose where the hands of the clock should be placed.
Only the second time the Doomsday Clock points so close to midnight
Last year marked the first year the Doomsday Clock's hands were so close to midnight, the theoretical end of the world. The position resulted from the Bulletin team's decision based on high political tensions, and lack of communication between world leaders.
This year, the hands remain unchanged because of how the world messily responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, the erosion of humanity's faith in science and government institutions, acceleration in nuclear weapons programs, and the ever-growing issue of climate change.
“Today, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists leaves the Doomsday Clock unchanged. It is 100 seconds to midnight,” — @RachelBronson1, President & CEO, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists #DoomsdayClock https://t.co/Vn178C3EPM pic.twitter.com/cQtNgWRt3h— Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (@BulletinAtomic) January 27, 2021
It has to be noted that the clock is not a technological or scientific instrument — its hands are moved and its times are chosen by the Bulletin's members. It's more of a symbolic act, made to bring awareness to the calamities our world is facing.
In a way, it's a yearly stark reminder of what we humans have done over the past year(s), and to think about ways to address these challenges.
What happens when it strikes midnight?
The Doomsday Clock first saw the light of day in 1947, when its hands were poised at seven minutes to midnight. This time has since moved backwards and forwards over the past decades, and only in 1991 was the time placed at its furthest from midnight: 17 minutes.
It was originally created because of nuclear warfare worries, explained the Bulletin.
And if, or when, the clock strikes midnight, the world isn't going to blow up instantaneously. The point of the clock is not to create fear, as its creators explained, rather, it's to kick-start people into action, hopefully before the hands point to 12.