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Doomsday Clock remains 100 seconds to midnight for 2021

Scientists behind the symbolic countdown to self-annihilation say disinformation is a threat, but that a new embrace of science-based policies helps.

The scientists behind the Doomsday Clock, a symbol for how close the human race is to self-destruction, announced Wednesday that the clock has not changed from 2020 to 2021 -- 100 seconds to midnight. Although it hasn't moved, it's still the closest it has ever been to the apocalypse. But the scientists say there are signs of potential improvement.

Board members for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which includes 13 Nobel laureates, say that "national leaders must do a far better job of countering disinformation, heeding science, and cooperating to diminish global risks." They say people can handle "the dangers posed by modern technology, even in times of crisis," but that leaders worldwide must work together and against the spread of false information.

"In 2020, online lying literally killed," the Bulletin said, citing false information not only about the coronavirus but also politics. It specifically cited conspiracies about the presidential election which were pushed by former President Donald Trump and his allies. Elections officials across the country, the former head of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and former U.S. Attorney General William Barr have said that there was no voter fraud on a scale that would have cost Trump the election. President Joe Biden won by an Electoral College vote of 306-232 and the popular vote by more than 7 million.

The Bulletin noted that there was not enough cooperation around the world to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, whether countries were unprepared or unwilling to do so.

"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 Bulletin said. "As a result, many hundreds of thousands of human beings died needlessly."

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But, the Bulletin says Biden's acknowledgement that climate change is "a profound threat" and his support of international cooperation and science-based policy can help address the global problem. It also says Biden's offer to extend the New START arms treaty with Russia helps reduce the threat of nuclear weapons.

"In the context of a post-pandemic return to relative stability, more such demonstrations of renewed interest in and respect for science and multilateral cooperation could create the basis for a safer and saner world," the Bulletin said.

For those reasons, the clock has not moved forward nor has it moved back from 2020. One hundred seconds is the closest the clock has ever been to midnight since it was created in 1947. "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 Bulletin said.

The bulletin has moved the clock backward or forward 23 times since its debut to show threats to humanity and Earth. 

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