Return to Transcripts main page


Typhoon Haiyan Aftermath; Massive Fires Blaze through Australia; Interview with Dr. Jane Goodall and Dr. Vandana Shiva; Imagine a World

Aired December 30, 2013 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, I'm Christiane Amanpour.

And welcome to a special edition of the program, an in-depth look at our planet and the ominous threat of climate change.

You only have to look out the window to see all the extreme weather around us, strong storms, devastating droughts, raging wildfires, blistering heat waves and on and on.

These extreme weather events, scientists say, are a direct result of climate change and with 95 percent certainty the highest level ever, they can pin the blame for this climate change on humans.

The Philippines were hit hard this year by extreme weather, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms ever on record slammed into the country, killing nearly 6,000 people and displacing many more, almost 2,000 are still missing.

The Philippine president, Benigno Aquino, is faced with the daunting task of rebuilding. He joined me just after the typhoon hit to talk about it from Cebu in the Philippines.


AMANPOUR: President Aquino, welcome to the program. And thank you for joining me in the midst of this incredible national disaster. I appreciate your time.


AMANPOUR: Can I ask you first, you have toured some of the worst hit areas. On a personal note, how has it affected you, what you've seen, and how do you manage to reassure your people who have gone through this supertyphoon after an earthquake, after a typhoon last year?

AQUINO: Well, I think, first of all, typhoons are not an unusual occurrence for the Philippines. We get visited by about 20 of them every year. But this year has been an exceptionally bad year, more than 20.

We have been able to demonstrate as a government and as a people collectively that we take care of each other. And the government's immediate response, I think, has been reassuring to the vast majority of our people.

Our ability to take care of our problems rather quickly, except in this particular case, the foundation of our efforts rely on the local government units. And unfortunately, two or three were simply overwhelmed by the degree of this typhoon that affected us.

AMANPOUR: Are you getting enough aid internationally? Obviously the United States is sending an aircraft carrier; it's already deployed U.S. Marines there. You have a very close history, of course, with the United States.

Are you getting enough aid from your international allies and neighbors?

AQUINO: There are, at last count, I saw almost 22 countries have either pledged or have actually given us aid, and we are very thankful for this.

Amongst the first countries to respond was Germany, Japan, Indonesia, even countries who are -- we've had not extensive ties, like Hungary. So we are very appreciative of this, Canada, New Zealand were amongst the first also.

And as you said, an American carrier battle group, I understand, is coming over. There are desalination facilities and helicopters, as well as supply ships, that will greatly enhance our efforts to bring the necessary materials back to the areas most hard-hit.

AMANPOUR: It just so happens that there is one of those major climate change conferences taking place in Europe right now, in Warsaw, Copenhagen 19. And your Philippine climate negotiator made a really heartfelt plea for international help and basically lambasted the failure of the world to deal with climate change.

He said that he's done a lot of interviews; he's talked to a lot of officials in the U.S. and the developed world, and they say they can't be held responsible, that they can't be morally obliged to do anything.

Now the Philippines is the most storm-wracked area in the world; we know that it's the third most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

What do you say to those negotiators who are sitting there in world capitals while your country is practically submerged?

AQUINO: Well, I think it's already an accepted reality for the Filipino community that global climate change is a reality and there should be no debate that it is happening. Areas are -- times when it should be raining suddenly become dry. The dry months suddenly become very, very wet.

For instance, since I've assumed office, practically every year, when we are supposed to be in the Christmas period already, where we never had typhoons, we have very, very strong and devastating typhoons like what happened last year.

We're, again, at the tail end. There -- our wet season is supposed to have been over and we have this supertyphoon. It wreaks havoc also on our planting season, wherein our farmers are getting hard-pressed to adjust to this global climate change.

And we all live on one planet. Either we come up with a solution that everybody adheres to and cooperates with, or let us be prepared to meet disasters, ever-increasing disasters on a global level.

AMANPOUR: When you look to the future and you know what kind of place your archipelago occupies, it is just storm buffeted over and over again.

Do you think this is going to get worse in the future? Do you envision worse storms, worse casualties? Or do you see that there might be a possibility of raising the game and raising the ability to react to this kind of thing?

AQUINO: Well, one would hope that it will not be worse than this. But at the same time, again, we're trying to plan our communities whereby they are more resilient to all of these ravages of nature. There is an ongoing program precisely to define all of these geohazard maps. There is some sort of an ecological reengineering whereby items, like planting mangroves, for instance, as defense against tsunamis.

Investments in the sciences, particularly our weather bureau, the Institute for Volcanology and other entities in government whereby they will provide us with the necessary knowledge so that we can minimize to the furthest extent the risks inherent in all of these natural disasters that, unfortunately, the Philippines finds itself in, not just for typhoons, but also being part of the Ring of Fire.

AMANPOUR: Mr. President, finally, what is your most urgent and desperate need to deal with this disaster right now?

AQUINO: Well, right now I think the challenge for us after we -- after relief efforts will be to rebuild the houses of tens of thousands of families affected, quite a major outlay, and then construction has to be better to withstand the ravages of this climate change.

And also later in the mapping out of areas prone to storm surges, there still -- that, I think, is the next phase of the studies that we have to do to make our country more resilient to all of these natural disasters.

AMANPOUR: We wish you the best and we wish all the people in the Philippines the best at this terribly difficult time. Mr. President, thank you for joining me from Manila.

AQUINO: Yes. Thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: And after a break, individuals making a difference in the struggle to turn back climate change: we'll meet extraordinary women on the front lines when we return.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to our special program on climate change.

In the past 12 months, Australia has seen the hottest summer in the hottest year on record. Wildfires raged even before the summer began. And just as month after Australia elected a new prime minister, Tony Abbott, who once called climate science "absolute rubbish."

But scientists of the weather bureau have added the new color purple to its maps to record temperatures once thought to be off the scale, up to 54 degrees Celsius or 129 degrees Fahrenheit.

Christiana Figueres is the daughter of the former Costa Rican president and she's now the U.N. chief climate official. We talked about the Australian wildfires and other serious threats to our planet when she joined me here in the studio.


AMANPOUR: Thanks for being here, Ms. Figueres.


AMANPOUR: So first and foremost, is there a link between climate and wildfires, brush fires?

FIGUERES: Yes, there is absolutely. Now the W model (ph), World Meteorological Organization, has not established the direct link between this wildfire and climate change yet. But what is absolutely clear is the science is telling us that there are increasing heat waves in Asia, Europe and Australia, that these will continue, that they will continue in their intensity and in their frequency.

So what we've just seen on the screen is an example of what we may be looking at unless we take actually vigorous action.

AMANPOUR: And vigorous action, the reason we're focusing and drilling down now on Australia is because you have to deal with the politics of vigorous action.

So what does it mean for your efforts and for global efforts when an elected prime minister runs on an anti-climate change platform, promises to scrap a carbon tax initiative -- he says for the good and to do the right thing by the people of Australia -- axes the independent climate commission.

How bad is that for your work?

FIGUERES: Well, what the new government in Australia has not done is it has not stepped away from its international commitment on climate change. So what they're struggling with now is -- are not what are they going to do but how are they going to get there.

And as has just been pointed out, what we think is they're going to have to pay a very high political price and a very high financial price because the route that they are choosing to get to the same target that the previous government has could be much more expensive for them and for the population.

AMANPOUR: So sort of paradoxically, then, Mr. Abbott, the prime minister, in his campaign, said, listen, this carbon tax makes it just way too expensive, way too restrictive, you know, businesses and jobs are being affected.

You're saying, though, by not having the carbon tax, it could have the same effect on people.

FIGUERES: Or worse, because the fact is we are already, as you have just pointed out, we are really already paying the price of carbon. We're paying the price with wildfires; we're paying the price with droughts. We're paying the price with so many other disturbances to the hydrological cycle. That is all the price that we're paying.

So what we need to do is put a price on carbon so that we don't have to continue to pay the price of carbon. And in fact, what you have just seen on the screen is one scenario, Christiane. And it is a scenario that we would walk toward unless we take, as I say, very vigorous action.

But there is another scenario, OK? What we have seen are just introductions to the doom and gloom that we could be facing. But that's not the only scenario. We could, as humankind, we could take vigorous action and we could have a very, very different scenario. That's a scenario that is worth examining.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you, because of course fires are not just restricted to the place that we've just been talking about, but it's happened in September in the United States, the West Coast. It happened over the summer in Turkey. So it is actually all over.

But what about, then, the -- trying to convince people that this is something that you actually have to tackle quickly before it become irreversible?

What is the timeline that we as a human species have before this becomes irreversible?

FIGUERES: We have very little time. The important thing is that we still have time, although inasmuch as we delay, we are closing the window in and on -- upon ourselves. But we do have time. What we know is that we have to reach global peaking; that means we have to get to the maximums. Currently the trajectory of emissions is still going up. We're still rising.

So we have to get to the global peaking point this decade. And then begin our trajectory down as opposed to up, which is where we are. And we have to get to zero net emissions, zero net emissions, not zero emissions, but zero net emissions by the second half of the century. That's a very different path. And we can do it.

AMANPOUR: What do you say, though, to nations such as Australia, which have had so much success with their minerals, with what they are able to extract, with what they're able to sell to places like China and others?

This is their export industry. And other nations which continue to import huge amounts of fossil fuels to use?

FIGUERES: And we will not move into a magical world that doesn't have fossil fuels, OK? We have to be realistic. Yes, it, over the long term, what we will have, is a much more balanced and a much healthier energy mix in which the bulk of the growth of energy which has to come will come from renewable energies. But there will always be a base load that was going to be provided by fossil fuels.

The issue is, however, that those fossil fuels -- in particular coal - - cannot pursue business as usual for the coal technologies that we have.

They have to invest, the coal industry itself has to invest in carbon capture and storage so that they can burn some coal but do it with less carbon footprint. They need to become much more efficient because they are horribly inefficient right now, most of the plants (ph). And they need to invest in the new technologies of the future.

AMANPOUR: Christiana Figueres, thank you very much for explaining. Thank you for being here.

FIGUERES: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: "Now in the fight against global warming the time has come for sanity," those words from my next guests, two women who are leading the charge for a cleaner, more responsible world.

Vandana Shiva, one of India's most prominent environmental activists, and Jane Goodall, renowned around the world for her groundbreaking work with wild chimpanzees and now sounding the alarm with her program, Roots and Shoots.

I asked them both whether they think women play a distinct role in this struggle.


AMANPOUR: Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. Vandana Shiva, welcome. Thank you so much for joining me.



AMANPOUR: You are attending the International Women's Earth and Climate Summit and presumably that means that there is a certain role for women to play.

Jane Goodall, what is a role for women to play that may or may not be different than a man's role?

Why is it called Women's Summit?

GOODALL: I sometimes wonder why is it that women somehow seem to be so much more concerned -- and maybe it's our traditional role of nurturing and caring for the family and it's so obvious to me -- I keep thinking of the rate of melt of the Arctic ice. And that is terrifying.

And I've been there and I've seen it in Greenland. And if you care about the future of your children, your grandchildren, then I don't know. Maybe women do have a very important role to play.

It makes me so sad to my soul when young people, like in college, say, well, you know, I feel depressed or I feel angry or I don't care because you've compromised our future. And there's nothing we can do about it.


GOODALL: And we have --

AMANPOUR: Sorry; go ahead.

GOODALL: No, I was going to say, we have -- we have compromised their future. And it's high time that we get together and do something to help. And hopefully this conference with women, who are the mothers, who are the nurturers and traditionally haven't been the people pushing for the bottom line.

AMANPOUR: I guess that was my next question.

How do you mobilize young people to do something about this and to protest what's happening?


SHIVA: Yes, Christiane, if you look at some of the data, 40 percent of the greenhouse gases come from an industrial globalized model of farming that uses synthetic nitrogen and emits nitrogen oxides, that uses fossil fuels, puts animals in factories and tortures them, that emit methane.

All of this can be solved immediately by shifting to an ecological agriculture and everybody in the world, the United Nations, UNTA (ph), the IASTD (ph), the FAO (ph), the international labor organization, are recognizing that for every crisis we face today, whether it be the economic crisis of disappearance of work and jobs, or it be the ecological crisis with climate at the center, or it be the food crisis that a billion people are facing, directly for lack of food and 2 billion for lack of good food, healthy food, and they're suffering diseases of obesity, diabetes, et cetera, all of these problems get solved by promoting ecological agriculture on the basis of the science of agricology.

And I think we need a groundswell across the world that creates another paradigm and another world view, and that's where women at this summit are taking the lead to say there's another way of living on this planet, another way of being, another way of thinking. Change your minds, you guys.

AMANPOUR: Indeed. Change your minds, you guys.

What, finally, Dr. Goodall, is your biggest nightmare?

What keeps you up at night over this?

GOODALL: I think my worst nightmare is thinking of my own great- great-grandchildren and what the world will be like for them, if we don't change.

And you know, I so agree with everything that you've said, Vandana. And this is why I'm working with the youth and the boys as well as the girls, I have to say they're really important. But when young people get to understand the problems, they're going to be depressed, angry, bitter, violent or apathetic unless they know there's something they can do.

And so our Roots and Shoots program is about helping young people understand and then they themselves choose projects to make things better for people, animals and the environment, and learning to live in peace and harmony with each other, between religions and nations and between us and Mother Earth, because these things are at the heart of everything.

Roots and Shoots is about growing a family of young people who share a philosophy.

And I was talking to one of them the other day, and he said, "What I love is I know anywhere I go in the world, even if I know nobody, if there's a group of Roots and Shoots, I find my family."

And I believe as the children grow up, we will reach that critical mass of young people sharing the right philosophy to follow the path that you're talking about, Vandana.

AMANPOUR: Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. Vandana Shiva, thank you very much for joining me.

GOODALL: Thank you very much for having us on your program.

AMANPOUR: Wishing you good luck.

SHIVA: Thank you, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: And after a break, is there a climate for revolution? The answer and the numbers may surprise you.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where climate change and a dwindling water supply may have helped fuel serious civil war, a crisis which means that next year nearly three-quarters of the population will need humanitarian aid.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Five years before Syria was awash in sectarian bloodshed, it was in the midst of a devastating drought, one of the worst in modern times, and the numbers are staggering.

According to the Center for Climate and Security, from 2006 to 2011, the unprecedented drought scorched 60 percent of Syria's land and it killed 80 percent of the livestock in some regions, putting three-quarters of the farmers out of work and ultimately displacing 1.5 million people.

And that was before the bloody conflict that has so far scattered 4 million people inside the country and sent 2 million refugees streaming across Syria's borders.

While no one's claiming a direct cause and effect, the drought did bring on the diaspora from dying farms to overcrowded cities and thereby put enormous economic and social pressures on an already fractious society.

And Syria is far from an isolated case. Scientists warn that with severe water shortages in Yemen and other countries in the region, the climate of violent revolution may spread.



AMANPOUR: Water was also the stumbling block in peace talks between Israel and Syria 13 years ago. That's when Bashar al-Assad's father, Hafez al-Assad, insisted on retaining a tiny stretch of the Sea of Galilee, or the Kinneret, as the Israelis call it, which provides Israel with much of its water.

In fact, then Prime Minister Ehud Barak ran on the campaign slogan, "No Syrian soldiers will splash their feet in the Kinneret."

Imagine if there had actually been peace between Israel and Syria; perhaps today's war might never have happened.

That's it for this program. I'm Christiane Amanpour. Thanks for joining me. Always follow me at Twitter and Facebook and of course on