Doomsday Clock will stay at 100 seconds away from 'midnight' apocalypse

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists warns the world remains in danger in 2021.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read
Enlarge Image

Robert Rosner and Suzet McKinney, members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' science and security board, reveal the 2021 setting of the Doomsday Clock: 100 seconds to midnight.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists/Thomas Gaulkin

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 dangerous technologies. On Wednesday, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists revealed that it's keeping the clock at the same time it set in 2020.

Last year, the Bulletin gave the clock a pessimistic push, moving it from two minutes to midnight to a mere 100 seconds to midnight. After a disastrous 2020, the clock remains at that position.

The Bulletin livestreamed its 2021 announcement on Wednesday morning. Bulletin president and CEO Rachel Bronson called out an erosion of the belief in science and the globe's lack of preparedness for the coronavirus pandemic.

"The lethal and fear-inspiring COVID-19 pandemic serves as a historic 'wake-up call,' a vivid illustration that national governments and international organizations are unprepared to manage the truly civilization-ending threats of nuclear weapons and climate change," said Bronson in a statement.

The nonprofit Bulletin of the 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.

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 confirms something we already know: This planet and its residents face a lot of challenges.

Watch this: Inside the James Bond-style tsunami escape pod that could save your life