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CNN NEWSROOM

Freed Chibok Schoolgirls Home for Christmas; Netanyahu Lashes Out at Obama; World Pays Tribute to Late Pop Star. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired December 27, 2016 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:00:02] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Ahead this hour, kidnapped by Boko Haram, held captive for two and a half years but now these Chibok schoolgirls are home in time for the holidays. It's a reunion you'll only see here on CNN.

Deep anger -- the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashes out at President Obama after the U.S. refuses to veto a United Nations resolution condemning Israel settlements.

And more than 75 years after Pearl Harbor, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is in Hawaii for a landmark visit.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

Good day to you.

First to Nigeria and the Chibok schoolgirls -- after more than two and a half years in Boko Haram captivity some are finally celebrating Christmas with their families. You'll remember nearly 300 girls were kidnapped from a boarding school back in April of 2014.

Flash forward now to October of this year, the militants freed 21 of the girls after negotiations with the government. They spent ten weeks in government care and then reunited with family and friends in Chibok.

Our colleague Isha Sesay has been on the front lines of the story and has the very latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After almost two and a half years of Boko Haram captivity at last it's time to go home. Having covered the Chibok girls' abduction from the very beginning I'm going the make the long journey from Abuja to Chibok with them.

(on camera): You're going home. How are you feeling? Somebody tell me. What is the feeling in your heart right now? Happy?

(voice over): For all the talk of excitement, some of these girls are also nervous. (on camera): Don't be nervous. Don't be afraid. You hold your

faith. You hold on to your faith, ok? Ok? The same faith that kept you all those months.

(voice over): With the girls on the move there are more smiles as they chat and giggle freely amongst themselves.

Once we land in Yola, the girls are welcomed by some of the Chibok community leaders as well as the government of Adamawa State.

The road to Chibok, too dangerous to travel after dark, the girls spend the night at a local hotel. Outside, a large security cordon is put in place. Inside, with their journey delayed they gather in one room to do what they were unable to do while in Boko Haram captivity.

I learned from Rebecca Malim (ph) and Glory Dama (ph), they were singing local Christian hymns. While in captivity their Christianity was not tolerated by the terrorists.

(on camera): What have you been doing since you were in Abuja?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are grateful. We are grateful for them because they have done good for us. And when we are in Abuja we are playing football. We have English class. That's where we are learning how to speak in English and writing very well.

SESAY: Bye.

You guys look so different since I saw you in October. How are you feeling now from that time to now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy. We are feeling beautiful because since we came -- we.

SESAY: You can tell me -- you can tell me because you are beautiful.

Good morning.

(voice over): The next morning, a military convoy escorts the girls to Chibok -- a place that holds the promise of long awaited family reunions and memories of a fateful night.

(on camera): The convoy has stopped in a town Maraba-Mubi which is about an hour away from Chibok. The movement through these parts, such a well-armed convoy is drawing attention from passers by. As we enter Chibok town, locals wave excitedly welcoming their girls home.

The moment of reunion eventually arrives. The room almost vibrating with the sound of unbridled joy.

[00:05:01] But for some waiting parents -- heart break. These women have come looking for their daughters who are still being held by Boko Haram. They thought their children were among the group who were coming home for Christmas.

(on camera): There has been such an outpouring of grief amid the joy. The piercing screams of mothers realizing that indeed they are not to be reunited with their daughters on this day which has turned what should have been an overwhelmingly happy moment into a bittersweet one.

(voice over): For Rebecca and her father the nightmare is over and her father is overcome with feeling of gratitude. Given all they have endured the mental and physical abuse at the hands of their captors, the years of painful separation from their loved ones, this reunion here in Chibok moves these fractured families and their community a step closer to wholeness.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: It really is something to behold, George, to see these girls reunited with their loved ones there in Chibok -- scenes that will stay with me for a very, very long time.

Now I should tell you that the plan is that they will be with their family members until early January and then make the journey back to the capital of Nigeria, Abuja, where they will continue their rehabilitation and their journey toward full recovery -- George.

HOWELL: Isha -- your reporting on this topic has been so important but your personal connection has been so meaningful and touching in the story and the story-telling itself.

Isha Sesay, live for us in Lagos, Nigeria. Thank you so much for your reporting.

We move on now to Israel. A spokesperson for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says there is proof and that proof is quote, "ironclad" that the United States orchestrated a recent U.N. Security Council vote Friday condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in east Jerusalem.

The United States has denied that but Benjamin Netanyahu, he is furious about it and now is limiting ties with all 12 U.N. Security Council members who approved that resolution. The United States abstained rather than vetoing which then allowed that measure to pass. A Palestinian official says this is not an about-face for Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAEN RASHID AREIKAT, CHIEF REPRESENTATIVE OF THE PLO TO THE U.S.: We have been hearing a lot of encouraging statements from the current U.S. Administration and we have been urging them to translate those statements into action. The United States did what conforms with its long-standing policy since the days of Lyndon Johnson in 1967. Ronald Reagan the Republican president used abstention seven times during his two terms as President of the United States to allow resolutions and to condemn settlement activities.

So the U.S. is doing just what they have done all the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: Despite the history there, some still don't see it that way. Israel's ambassador to the United States told CNN the Palestinians are the ones balking at taking any part in the peace talks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON DERMER, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: The prime minister of Israel did a freeze -- he did a freeze for ten months and Palestinians did not come to the negotiating table. This has not been about the settlements. What do the Palestinians want? What they want to do is to blame Israel for not negotiating, refuse to sit down and have discussions with us and internationalize the conflict.

And for the last eight years they have not been able do that because thankfully the President has stood up to those efforts in the Security Council. Now he gave the Palestinians exactly what they want. He gave them the ammunition for a political and diplomatic and legal war against Israel. He gave him that ammunition by not vetoing the Security Council resolution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: All right. Despite those comments from the Israeli ambassador, Israel is downplaying concerns about a permanent rift with the United States and is also looking forward to the incoming Trump administration.

We get more on that now from CNN Elise Labott.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is escalating his attack against the Obama administration clearly still angry over the U.N. vote declaring Israeli settlements illegal.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Friends don't take friends to the Security Council.

LABOTT: Netanyahu who summoned the U.S. ambassador and has accused President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry of orchestrating what he called a shameful ambush at the U.N. telling his cabinet he has iron-clad proof.

NETANYAHU: From the information that we have, we have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed.

LABOTT: The White House denies that calling the claim absurd.

BEN RHODES, U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did not draft it. We didn't put it forward.

LABOTT: The Obama administration maintains the U.S vote was a last resort after struggling for the past eight years to convince Israel to halt settlement construction on occupied lands the Palestinians claim for their state.

[00:05:07] RHODES: For years, we've seen an acceleration in the growth of these settlements. And frankly if these current trends continue the two-state solution is going to be impossible.

LABOTT: Officials are now with U.N. backing Palestinians will push for sanctions, boycotts and take Israeli soldiers to the International Criminal Court.

DERMER: What this resolution just did is it gave the Palestinians ammunition in their diplomatic and legal war against Israel and the United States not only didn't stop it they were behind it.

LABOTT: Netanyahu is now putting his hopes in President-Elect Donald Trump and members of Congress who are promising to defund the U.N. unless the vote is overturned hoping that will give Trump leverage.

NETANYAHU: I look forward to working with those friends and with the new administration when it takes office next month.

LABOTT: And it's not just the President-Elect who opposes this vote but members of Congress from both parties who had urged the Obama administration not to go through with it. Now leading Republicans like Lindsey Graham say they will move to defund the U.N. unless the Security Council overturns the vote.

Elise Labott, CNN -- Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: So we're hearing from the U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump saying there is, quote, "no way that President Obama could have beaten him in this year's election." That is if President Obama were eligible to run for a third term. The President claims that his message of hope and change, that it could still win despite the Democratic Party's great loss and defeat in November.

Here's what President Obama told CNN's senior political commentator David Axelrod.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the wake of the election and Trump winning, a lot of people have suggested that somehow it really was a fantasy. I am confident in this vision because I'm confident that if I -- if I had run again and articulated it I think I could have mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Joining now from Washington is CNN political analyst Josh Rogan. He is also a columnist from the "Washington Post". Josh -- good to have you with us.

President Obama said Monday he would have beaten Donald Trump had he run for a third term -- run again for the presidency. Trump says no way. Who do you think is right here? Is President Obama reading the electorate correctly or is he misreading what happened in the election?

JOSH ROGAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think what President Obama is referring to is the fact that Hillary Clinton lost a lot of districts especially in the traditionally blue Rustbelt that President Obama had carried twice. It's a subtle dig at Hillary Clinton for not doing more to keep what he thinks of as the Obama coalition together.

I think it was the Obama coalition -- there is reason to think that Obama could have held it together but in that fictional race who knows what might have happened. The bottom line is that President Obama doesn't want Hillary Clinton's loss to be a reflection on his legacy. And that's what he's trying to do here with that sly kind of comment.

HOWELL: But, Josh, look -- this back and forth between the President of the United States and, you know, the President-Elect who responded -- we'll talk about that in a moment. But first of all, is this really necessary? Does this matter at this point?

ROGAN: Well, I mean for different reasons it matters for Trump and Obama in different ways. For Donald Trump every time you say anything about him he doesn't like he is going to respond to you. He has no discipline. He has no filter. He just can't resist.

For President Obama, the legacy is the only thing that matters to him at this point. He wants to have as much of a say as possible in what history says about him. Most of that is out of his control but he is doing his best to frame it while he still has a chance.

HOWELL: And let's talk about the President-Elect's response. He did respond saying the following, quote, "The world was gloomy before I won. There was no hope. Now the market is up nearly 10 percent and Christmas spending is over a trillion dollars. Your thoughts there?

ROGAN: Yes, President Obama is a very popular president right now. His approval ratings are over 50 percent. You know, I guess the fact that Trump won the election gives credence to his claim that most Americans thought was headed in the wrong direct and the fact that he also lost the popular vote shows that it was not a clear mandate or a clear message really one way or the other.

And the fact that Christmas spending is up probably has nothing do with the Donald Trump win it's more something like the rooster taking credit for the sunrise.

HOWELL: Josh -- let's talk foreign policy, specifically the situation between the Obama administration and Israel. John Kerry is expected to lay out the administration's vision for the Middle East peace process. Kerry has been to Israel and the Palestinian territory now more than a dozen times in his tenure. But most tellingly that came in the first year. Those efforts appear to have lost steam.

[00:15:04] This is how the Israeli prime minister now describes the latest turn of events as the U.S. declined to veto a U.N. Security Council criticism of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NETANYAHU: Over decades, the American administrations and Israeli governments have disagreed about settlements but we agreed that the Security Council was not the place to resolve this issue. We knew that going there would make negotiations harder and drive peace further away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Netanyahu even said that friends don't take friends to the Security Council. How would you interpret what is going on here?

ROGIN: It's just a collapse of what was already a very bad and shaky and unfriendly sort of personal relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. I think the Obama administration had a list of things that they might do in these final days to try to set the stage for progress in the Middle East peace process.

The first thing that they did which was to not veto this resolution condemning settlements has already become a major crisis in U.S./Israel relations. Not to mention U.S. relations with the United Nations.

So John Kerry's second effort here to sort of lay out the parameters for a Middle East peace process is going to fall upon deaf ears in Israel. They're decided they don't want to work with the Obama administration any more. They are mounting a challenge against the U.N. and all of the countries that supported this resolution and they're just going to wait for the Trump administration so why would they listen to John Kerry when they can get much better terms in only a month.

HOWELL: And that is the question, you know, only a month, you know. What difference would it really make?

ROGIN: Exactly.

HOWELL: The dichotomy that we now see in the U.S. relationship with Israel is that Mr. Netanyahu is openly looking forward to dealing with the President-Elect but much of Mr. Trump's support comes from the alt-right which is viewed widely as anti-Semitic.

ROGIN: Well, yes. But it's kind of an odd situation but he has support from the pro-Israel community and also some factions of the alt-right which have anti-Semitic members.

On the Israel stuff that policy is run primarily by his son-in-law Jared Kushner. It's also run by his -- it's going to be assisted by his future ambassador, David Friedman. These are supporters of Israel that are to the right of even Netanyahu.

So I don't think the alt-right parts of his administration are going to win the day here. I mean we're looking at an administration under President Trump that will be very, very close to the Netanyahu administration. That speaks well for the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship but it doesn't speak well for a process to proceed to any sort of two-state solution.

HOWELL: And again, many people saying hey, let's wait until January 20th and keep an open mind.

Josh Rogin -- thank you so much for your insights.

ROGIN: Any time.

HOWELL: Now to the political landscape in South Korea. A group of lawmakers there are quitting the ruling conservative party and they're now forming their own party. The 29 lawmakers were members of President Park Geun-Hye's party. Now they say those who remain loyal to her, that those people have forgotten true conservative values. The party will now be called the newly reformed Conservative Party. President Park was impeached earlier this month over a major corruption scandal.

Russia says there are no signs of a terrorist attack behind Sunday's deadly plane crash that happened near Sochi. A military plane went down in the Black Sea minutes after takeoff. Divers have found parts of the plane. All 92 people on board were killed. Authorities have recovered at least ten bodies. Most of the victims were part of the army's official choir. They were headed to perform for Russian troops in Syria.

This is CNN newsroom. And still ahead, an American explorer who has broken his eighth world record climbing some of the highest mountains on the planet. We'll hear from him next.

Plus crowds of fans remembering the British pop star George Michael outside of his estate in London. New details on his death still ahead.

[00:19:12] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

HOWELL: One of my favorite songs right there. You've got to love that one -- "Father Figure" by George Michael. One of the British singer's many chart-toppers throughout the remarkable career that he had spanning more than three decades. He died on Christmas day at the age of 53 years old, reportedly from heart failure.

(MUSIC)

HOWELL: That's another one, too. You just got to love that one too. Ironically on Christmas day the day he died.

Michael soared to fame in the early 1980s as part of the British pop duo Wham and he achieved greater success as a solo artist despite personal battles and scandals.

Here's CNN Ian Lee with more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a familiar scene in 2016 -- fans grappling with how to say good-bye to an icon. While many of them never knew George Michael personally they paid tribute as if they were old friends.

The pop superstar's sudden death at just 53 years old has come as a shock to his fans around the world. The singer reportedly died of suspected heart failure at his home in Oxfordshire, England. His death is being treated by police as unexplained but not suspicious.

It comes after a close call in 2011 when he was hospitalized with acute pneumonia. At the time George Michael spoke movingly at his gratefulness at being alive.

Now outside the same home his fans have gathered to mourn.

A lot of the heartfelt tributes talk about the impact that George Michael had on their lives. For many people he was the sound track of their youth, something they want to share with their children.

What is your favorite George Michael song?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Last Christmas".

LEE: Why do you guys like it so much?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's a bit new to us, really because we are used to like Bruno Mars and that. But dad's been saying you have to listen to the 80s songs, they're really good.

LEE: These three sisters came to lay flowers. For them, it's like losing a family member.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean he was sweet. We all (inaudible) this year. We liked him -- he was at class. We grew up with him. We're his age. He is our idol, always will be. We'll never forget him and his music will live on.

LEE: Over three decades and more than 100 million record sales later, the world now says its good-byes to George Michael.

Ian Lee, CNN -- London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: For the first time ever, Japan's prime minister will visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Why Shinzo Abe is making this historic visit and what it means for relations between the United States and Japan.

This is CNN NEWSROOM.

[00:24:51] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. It is good to have you with us.

I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is suspending ties with the embassies of 12 U.N. Security Council members. The council approved the resolution condemning Israeli settlements last week. Israel is also furious with the United States which it accuses of initiating the measure. The United States denies that.

The President Barack Obama says that he could have won a third term as U.S. President, that is, if he had been eligible to run. Mr. Obama told his former senior adviser, CNN's David Axelrod, a majority of Americans still believe in his vision of hope and change for the country.

In South Korea, 29 lawmakers are quitting President Park Geun-Hye's ruling Conservative Party. They're now forming their own party. They say those who remain loyal to Park have forgotten true conservative values. President Park, as you'll remember was impeached earlier this month over a major corruption scandal.

Also, fans and celebrities around the world, they are paying tribute to George Michael, the pop star who rose to fame in the 1980s. He died unexpectedly on Christmas day. His manager tells the press association, that it is believed the 53-year-old singer died from heart failure.

In the coming hours, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the U.S. President Barack Obama will pay tribute to those who died at Pearl Harbor. They will visit the USS Arizona Memorial on Tuesday. It has been 75 years since the sunrise attack by Japan that drew the United States into World War II. On Monday, Mr. Abe laid a wreath at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Earlier this year, Mr. Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima. The United States dropped a nuclear bomb on that city in 1945.

[00:30:10] Joining me now to talk more to give us some context and perspective is Jeffrey Kingston, the director of Asian --

[00:30:10] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The United States dropped the nuclear bomb on that city in 1945.

Joining now to talk more, to give us some context and perspective is Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University Japan.

It's good to have you with us.

Let's talk first of all about the significance of this visit to the USS Arizona; this, of course, following the president's visit to Hiroshima.

JEFFREY KINGSTON, DIRECTOR OF ASIAN STUDIES, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY JAPAN: Yes, it looks like Prime Minister Abe wants to reciprocate President Obama's visit to Hiroshima. Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima are the book ends of the Pacific war and I think that Abe clearly wants to turn the page on the post-war era.

And here, you know, surprisingly, right-wing newspapers are endorsing this visit. So he is not getting any flack from that end. But the real question I guess is does he have any credibility on history issues because he is closely associated with right wingers here who are promoting a version of the shared war time history that exonerates Japan and argues that Japan's war was defensive in nature and Japan did not instigate a wider war that actually ravaged the whole region.

HOWELL: Let's talk about the broader implications of this. Look, we're talking about a time when the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, also visited. So what is the state of relations right now between the United States and Japan?

KINGSTON: Well, I think that President-elect Trump has, you know, showed that he is more favorably disposed to President Putin. I think that under the Obama administration, there was a certain chill between the president and Prime Minister Abe not only over history issues, but also on Abe's attempt at diplomacy with Putin because they have disputed territory in the northern islands off of Hokkaido. That didn't work out too well for Prime Minister Abe. Putin left within 24 hours and did not make any concessions whatsoever.

I think the real concern here, though, is President-elect Trump. I mean, he is a bit of a wild card. People don't really know what to expect. And, you know, he's pulled the rug out from underneath Prime Minister Abe by pulling the plug on TPP, the Transpacific Partnership, and he's also raised questions about the security alliance that have sowed anxieties, not only in Japan but around the wider region.

HOWELL: You talk about this chill under the Obama administration and the wild card of the incoming Trump administration. But, you know, how do you square the circle because there was a time where Japanese leaders were concerned about the United States not fulfilling its security obligations with that nation.

KINGSTON: Yes, well, President-elect Trump on the campaign trail was accusing Japan of free riding on defense, which is totally inaccurate. And he -- you know, he raised some red flags by saying, well, the United States isn't going to be the global policeman anymore.

So in Asia, where a rising China is stirring great anxieties, I think that these comments off-the-cuff as they may have been have raised anxieties and this is sort of not very productive in terms of regional diplomacy for the United States and in terms of Japan's lynchpin role as the American ally in the Far East.

So I think it's safe to say that a lot of people are wondering what 2017 will bring in the year of the rooster, whether we're going to have very much to crow about.

HOWELL: Jeffrey Kingston, thank you so much for your insight and perspective. We will obviously see how this visit goes. Thank you. KINGSTON: Good talking to you, George. Thanks.

HOWELL: An American climber survived hypothermia and survived exhaustion, setting his eighth world record in Nepal. You'll love the story. We'll have him next.

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[00:32:15] HOWELL: An American mountain climber just set a new world record for making the most first assents of previously unclimbed mountains in Nepal's history. His name is Sean Burch. He spent more than a month climbing mountains in some of the most remote regions of the Himalayas. Burch became the first person ever to climb the top of 31 mountains. He climbed 16 hours a day and says that the journey was as gruelling as it was exuberant.

Take a look here, of him on top of the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN BURCH, EXTREME ADVENTURE ATHLETE: No one in the world has ever seen this. I tell you what, it makes all that hard. Alpine mixed climbing all worth while. I tell you that much. So nice. Now the most important thing is to get back down alive, to climb for another day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: And Sean Burch now joins us here on the ground in Washington, D.C.

Sean, it's a pleasure to have you. What a cool, cool experience. What made you want to do this, to climb so many mountains?

BURCH: Well, I'm really into exploration, especially 21st century exploration. Like everyone who thinks there is nothing left, right, except for space and the deep ocean, but I feel there is plenty of space left remaining around the world that has not been seen and is truly unexplored. So that always is the driving motivation to stand atop a summit, a mountain that no one has ever even -- you know, no one has ever touch, no one has ever stepped before.

It's something that -- it's an honor. And I really have done four expeditions on first ascents and I really feel that I'm going to continue it, because it's a tremendous feeling.

HOWELL: I've got friends who are adventure seekers. So I wonder if your answer is similar to what I would expect here. But, you know, people will see this and they say, I mean, did you fear for your life? What's it like for you when you're doing this? Is there a concern? I mean, obviously, a worry?

BURCH: Yes, you always have fear for your life, but you can never doubt yourself. Once you start -- once I start the expedition, you have to believe 150 percent in your heart that this can -- you know, that will be resolved. I will reach this goal that I have set for myself, because if you start having doubts at any time, that is where something can go really wrong and you can possibly get injured or even worse and die.

HOWELL: Sean, another part of this trip, a very important part of it was documenting how climate change has affected these mountains that you were climbing.

What did you see when you were there and how important is it for you to make sure that message gets out?

BURCH: Yes. I thought, you know, the best way to really -- is to see like you have in Antarctica and you have in Greenland, no one -- in areas where no one has touched it before, yet you see the real changes of global warming and that's the same thing on these mountains.

[00:40:10] No one has even been there before, but you see drastic changes like wide range in temperatures. I would be looking at a mountain and thinking, OK, I'm going to go climb that. And then they'd be -- have a ton of snow. And then the next day by noon, all the snow would be gone.

And I talked to some of the nomads that were in those regions and they're like this is unprecedented. This hasn't -- you know, in the last five years all the snow is disappearing. And even though it's great to document this, at the same time it's very sad because you just see the rise in temperatures and what it's doing to the land and to the earth.

HOWELL: But climate change denial -- what do you tell people who question whether this is really happening? I mean, you've been there, you've seen it. What do you tell those people who have doubts?

BURCH: Yes, you know, I'm always awed by people who do not believe in climate change. I've been to the north pole, I've been to Greenland, I've been -- you know, again, this trip to Nepal, I've been on top of Kilimanjaro, where I actually see the glaciers and all the blocks of ice just deteriorating right in front of my eyes and I'm always blown away, like how could you not believe that climate change is not happening with all the facts and all the scientists say otherwise, you know.

HOWELL: All the facts and all the scientists, you know, do indicate what you're talking about. What's your next goal?

BURCH: My next goal is I actually have a documentary coming out next year and I'm also -- I'm also a motivational speaker so I'm going to stay with that. But I will always will be doing expeditions. But, again, I want to hit this first ascents genre and keep documenting the changes of the earth in areas that no one has even been before with global warming and climate change.

HOWELL: Sean, I want to ask our director if we can play this sound bite that we just played a moment ago. I want to replay it and I want to ask you a question after. Can we replay this real quick?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BURCH: No one in the world has ever seen this. I tell you what, it makes all that hard. Alpine mixed climbing all worth while. I tell you that much. So nice. Now the most important thing is to get back down alive, to climb for another day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: So, Sean, I just have to ask you, last question and briefly here, what's it like? What were you thinking when you are there on top of the world, not everyone gets to do what you did. What's that feeling like to be there?

BURCH: It's a humbling experience. I am so thankful when I get to a summit and I do. I thank the gods for the honor to be here because really, it truly is an honor. And I never forget that with each and every single mountain I climb around the world. It is an honor to be where I am. I just try to live life to the fullest and appreciate every single second, because it is so important.

HOWELL: It takes a real focus and strength to do what you do.

Sean, thank you so much for being with us.

Sean Burch.

BURCH: Thank you.

HOWELL: And a great note to end the show. I'm George Howell here at the CNN Center in Atlanta. "WORLD SPORT" is up next. You're watching CNN, the world's news leader.

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