Humanity as close as it's ever been to catastrophe, says Doomsday Clock

·3 min read
The Doomsday Clock reads 100 seconds to midnight, a decision made by The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, during an announcement at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on January 23, 2020. - President and CEO of the non-profit group Rachel Bronson said "It is the closest to Doomsday we have ever been in the history of the Doomsday Clock." The clock was created in 1947. (Photo by EVA HAMBACH / AFP) (Photo by EVA HAMBACH/AFP via Getty Images)
The Doomsday Clock warns of possible apocalypse. (Getty)

Experts behind the Doomsday Clock believe a global apocalypse is still closer than ever to becoming a reality.

This year, the clock – set every year by members of the Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists to indicate how many metaphorical “minutes to midnight” humanity has left – was kept at 100 seconds to 12am, the closest it has ever been to catastrophe, mainly because of the reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.

Watch: Doomsday Clock remains at closest point ever to midnight

The Doomsday Clock, created in 1947, was originally intended to warn of the threat of nuclear armageddon, but now also takes into account the likelihood of other emerging threats such as climate change and advances in biotechnology and artificial intelligence.

Over the years, its hands have moved forwards and backwards as the threats to the world changed.

On Wednesday, the scientists revealed the risk of disaster had not changed from 2020 and is still the closest it has ever been to 12am.

A members of the medical staff prepares to enter a coronavirus room at the intensive care unit of the Ariana Abderrahmen Mami hospital in the city of Ariana near the Tunisian capital Tunis on January 27, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic crisis. (Photo by FETHI BELAID / AFP) (Photo by FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images)
A COVID intensive care unit of the Ariana Abderrahmen Mami hospital in Tunisia. (Getty)

They said this year’s clock decision was massively influenced by the pandemic.

COVID-19 was first reported in December 2019 in China and was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 11 March 2020.

Since then more than 100 million people have been infected with coronavirus and a further 2.16 million have died after contracting COVID, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The Doomsday Clock scientists said in statement: “The pandemic revealed just how unprepared and unwilling countries and the international system are to handle global emergencies properly.

“In this time of genuine crisis, governments too often abdicated responsibility, ignored scientific advice, did not cooperate or communicate effectively, and consequently failed to protect the health and welfare of their citizens.”

The change in US president may have an impact on future predictions.

Last year the scientists asked US citizens to demand action from their government on climate action and cited former leader Donald Trump’s decision to leave the Paris climate change agreement as being a problem.

His successor Joe Biden has since signed an executive order to return the country to the agreement.

The scientists said: “President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate change agreement was a dire mistake.”

They also advised the US to work with other signatories of the Iran nuclear deal to restrain nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

Trump pulled Washington out of Iran’s nuclear pact in 2018 and reimposed US sanctions that had been lifted under it, prompting Tehran to violate its conditions.

Biden, who took office last week, has said the US will rejoin the pact if Tehran resumes strict compliance.

US President Joe Biden delivers his inauguration speech on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Semansky / POOL / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK SEMANSKY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
US president Joe Biden may have taken over from Donald Trump, but the clock has remained the same this year. (Getty)

In 2015, the clock jumped forward by two minutes, taking it to three minutes to midnight. It remained unchanged in 2016.

In 2017, the clock was set two and a half minutes to midnight. A year later it moved to 11.58pm and stayed the same in 2019.

In 2018, to rewind the clock, scientists recommended Trump refrain from provocative rhetoric regarding North Korea, the two countries open multiple communication channels and the world community seek a cessation of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile tests.

The countdown was established by experts from the Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists, who were working on the Manhattan Project to design and build the first atomic bomb.

The bulletin is an independent non-profit organisation run by some of the world’s most eminent scientists.

In December the bulletin marked its 75th anniversary.

Watch: What is long COVID?