The Doomsday Clock. The name alone rings alarm bells. The apocalyptic overtones are intentional. The clock is a symbol of just how close our planet is to disaster due to nuclear threats, climate change and information warfare. Each year, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists decides whether to nudge the clock closer to midnight (which represents doom).
Last year,, moving it from two minutes to midnight to a mere 100 seconds to midnight. After a disastrous 2020, will they set it closer to midnight, back it off, or leave it the same?
The Bulletin will livestream its 2021 announcement on Wednesday at 7 a.m. PT.
The nonprofit Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was founded in the 1940s by scientists alarmed by the development of atomic weapons. “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 organization said last year.
Speakers for the announcement include former California Gov. Jerry Brown, former president of Liberia and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Hidehiko Yuzaki, governor of Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan.
The clock has been mostly inching toward doom over the last decade, but it doesn’t move in only one direction. When it was first revealed, in 1947, it was set at seven minutes to midnight. At its most optimistic setting, in 1991, the clock showed 17 minutes to midnight.
If nothing else, the Doomsday Clock will confirm something we already know: This planet and its residents face a lot of challenges.