As much attention has been on the coronavirus pandemic and political turmoil in the US and abroad, “the potential to stumble into nuclear war—ever present—has grown,” says the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which released its annual Doomsday Clock announcement Wednesday. Citing nuclear risks, climate change, and the mishandled pandemic, the organization has set the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to midnight for 2021. That’s the same setting as last year, per USA Today, and is the closest humanity has been to “destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making” since the clock was established in 1947. In its announcement, the Bulletin also calls out widespread misinformation and conspiracy theories, saying they are a “threat multiplier” for nuclear war, the Guardian reports.
“This wanton disregard for science and the large-scale embrace of conspiratorial nonsense … undermined the ability of responsible national and global leaders to protect the security of their citizens,” the organization says, mentioning the deadly Jan. 6 US Capitol riot: “In 2020, online lying literally killed.” It’s not all doom and gloom. As for “positive developments,” the Bulletin notes that President Biden acknowledges the threat posed by climate change and is taking steps to address it. And it mentions the administration's offer to extend the START arms control agreement with Russia, among other things. While these developments are “positive,” the organization says, they “have not yet yielded substantive progress toward a safer world” so “they are not sufficient to move the clock away from midnight.” (Read more Doomsday Clock stories.)