Amid the COVID-19 pandemic set to kill well over two million people around the globe, an international countdown of what leading science and security experts say represents a threat to human existence remains stuck at about a two-minute warning.
Scientists say the mishandling of the grave global health crisis is a "wake-up call" that governments, institutions, and a misled public remain unprepared to handle the even greater threats posed by nuclear war and climate change.
Given this and the lack of progress in 2020 in dealing with nuclear and climate perils, the Doomsday Clock remains as close to midnight as it has ever been – just 100 seconds to midnight.
The Doomsday Clock decision is made by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' Science and Security Board in consultation with the Bulletin's Board of Sponsors, which includes 13 Nobel Laureates. In January 2020, the Doomsday Clock moved to 100 seconds to midnight, closer to midnight than ever in its history.
In December 2020, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists marked its 75th anniversary. Founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein and University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the Doomsday Clock two years later, using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet.
Over time, the Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world's vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and disruptive technologies in other domains.
"The pandemic serves as a historic wake-up call, a vivid illustration that national governments and the international organizations are unprepared to manage complex and dangerous challenges," says Dr. Rachel Bronson, president, and CEO, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.