Return to Transcripts main page


Neil deGrasse Tyson Talks Climate Change; More Climate Change Discussion. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired September 17, 2017 - 10:00   ET


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: This is GPS, THE GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.

I've interviewed my fair share of world leaders, but the one whose brain I would most like to pick right now is Kim Jong-un.

Since I will probably never have a chance, I will tell you how I think he would answer all the questions swirling about about his true intentions.

Also, Russian wargames, German elections, the fate of the Iran nuclear deal, and the upcoming UN General Assembly. We have a great current events panel.

Then, the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. The destruction was widespread. Power and flood levels almost unprecedented.

But the White House doesn't want to talk about the role of climate change. Is that a mistake? I will talk to two brilliant scientists. Climate expert Katharine Hayhoe and Neil Degrasse Tyson.


NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, SCIENTIST AND SCIENCE COMMUNICATOR: The longer we delay, the more - I worry that we might not be able to recover.


ZAKARIA: Finally, a happy story about a refugee. Really, Aya, whose story was featured on "Humans of New York" and here on GPS has found a new home and I will tell you about it.

I'm sometimes asked what world figure I would most want to interview. Well, for me, the answer is obvious, Kim Jong-un.

The general impression around the world continues to be that the North Korean leader is crazy, provocative and unpredictable. But I wonder he might well be strategic, smart and utterly rational.

Since I'm unlikely to get that interview, I decided to imagine it instead. I would first ask, Marshall Kim, why do you keep building and testing nuclear weapons even though they result in massive crippling economic sanctions for your country. I imagine he might answer like this. My nation faces a fundamental challenge, survival. The regime and I personally are more threatened than ever before. My forefathers had it easy. The Great Leader, my grandfather, ruled with the support of the world's other superpower, the Soviet Union, as well as our gigantic neighbor China.

My father, Dear Leader, as we called him, still had Beijings help for the most part.

But, today, the sole superpower, the United States, has made it clear that it seeks regime change in my country. Yet, we have survived with our ideology and system intact.

How? Because we have built a protection for ourselves in the form of nuclear weapons.

So, I might follow-up with Kim. But China still provides you with crucial supplies of food and fuel. Don't you see them as an ally?

What would he say? Well, maybe he would say, China is ruthlessly pragmatic. It supports us for its own selfish interests. It doesn't want millions of refugees or a unified Korea on its border, one that would be a larger version of what South Korea is now with American troops and a treaty alliance with Washington.

But I believe that China no longer considers us an ally. After all, it's voted to sanction us in the United Nations Security Council time and again. The current president Xi Jinping cultivates close relations with South Korea.

At the grand celebrations in Beijing two years ago commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, he placed the president of Russia and the president of South Korea at his side. In North Korea, as you know, we pay a lot of attention to ceremonies and what they signal.

And then I would wonder, so will you come to the negotiating table? Will you agree to denuclearization in return for the lifting of sanctions?

Kim's answer in my imagination would go like this. Yes and no. Yes, we will come to the table, but we will never give up our arsenal. We're not stupid. It's all that's keeping us alive. Look at Saddam Hussein.

And we never forget that North Korea was named as part of the Axis of Evil one year before the United States invaded Iraq.

Look at what happened to Gadhafi in Libya after he agreed to give up his nuclear weapons program. Look at what's happening to Iran right now after Washington signed the deal and the Iranians have been certified to be adhering to it.

President Trump now says, well, he might tear it up anyway. Do you think we would be stupid enough to believe American promises after all this? We are now a nuclear power. That is non-negotiable. But we're willing to talk about limits, test bans, freezes. We would need to be given something in return, not just money. We need security in the form of diplomatic recognition by Washington and guarantees of non-aggression from China, Japan and the US.

[10:05:04] Finally, I would say to Kim, many Americans worry that you will soon have the capacity and the intention to launch missiles at the US.

His response might well be, we will have the capacity. And it serves my purpose as to keep you off-guard. But why would I strike America and invite a retaliatory counterstrike that would put an end to my regime.

Keep in mind, the whole point of this, my entire strategy, all our efforts and the hardships we have borne are to ensure that my regime and I personally survive. Why would I risk that?

If you look at how I have stayed in power, you know I believe in assassinations, not suicide.

For more, go to and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

It has been a busy couple of weeks in world affairs, from North Korea to Myanmar to Russia, Iran and more. And it's sure to be a busy next couple of weeks, especially with the UN General Assembly debate starting this week in New York.

So, let us get right to it with a great panel. Fraser Nelson is the editor of "The Spectator", the venerable conservative weekly here in Britain. Anne Applebaum is a "Washington Post" columnist and a Pulitzer prize-winning historian. Her new book, "Red Famine," Stalin's war on Ukraine will be published in the United States soon. Martin Wolf is the chief economics commentator of "The Financial Times".

So, Martin, let me start with you. With all this turmoil and with the circus of the Trump administration and Brexit in Britain, markets still seem remarkably stable and, in fact, booming. Are the markets right that we should simply kind of - the slogan is, don't worry, be happy.

MARTIN WOLF, CHIEF ECONOMICS COMMENTATOR, "THE FINANCIAL TIMES": I think the markets are probably right, which doesn't mean they are certainly right.

If you look at the history of this, we always have an enormous amount of political noise, and most of it has very limited, or if any, economic effect.

But there is, of course, always the possibility that something will happen, which is actually of immense importance politically. I'll leave aside financial or economic crises. Big wars. That would certainly change things. If the North Korean event led to a war and it would change things. But most of this, if we look back on history, it turns out to be economically immensely insignificant. One of the best examples is 9/11, which we had a big debate at the time - I was involved in these - would this be a big economic event, but it turned out, economically, it was completing insignificant. Geopolitically, it changed the world.

So, yes, the markets are probably right.

ZAKARIA: And when you look at, Anne, from Europe, the way in which the Trump administration seems to be trying to I would maybe provoke North Korea or in some way be more aggressive about it, are people worried or is there a sense that this is all kind of negotiating posture?

ANNE APPLEBAUM, "THE WASHINGTON POST" COLUMNIST: I think people are very worried. And there's a kind of sense of helplessness. This is a major crisis and it's actually one in which Europe has no role.

Really no individual European countries and Europe as a whole has not managed to forge a foreign policy. It does not speak with one voice, and so isn't really able to influence the Korean Peninsula.

And so, here, we're watching the major actors, really the US and China, but also Russia, which has the ability to play a kind of undermining roll or confusing role without really being able to contribute much. And I think it tells you something about the state of European foreign policy that it's - we're kind of wordless right now.

ZAKARIA: What happens in Europe with Brexit? Is Britain out - it seems like the longest divorce negotiations ever.

FRASER NELSON, EDITOR, "THE SPECTATOR": It's going to get longer. We expect two years of this, perhaps more, but there's no real question of it reversing.

Public opinion in Britain still as supportive of Brexit now as it was during the referendum. And if anything, what we've seen since then has made people who voted leave even more sure than they were.

I mean, we had Jean-Claude Juncker from European Commission laying out this kind of federalist vision of United States of Europe, exactly the kind vision that Britain was never going to sign up to.

So, I think, if anything, the decision of Brexit looks more politically secure, even though results of economic - arguments about the trade relationship we're going to have with the EU afterwards.

ZAKARIA: But it does seem like there is some waning of the kind of populist fire in Europe. I look at Merkel, seems to be a handy lead, ready to get reelected. Macron is doing reasonably well in France.

APPLEBAUM: Well, one of the effects of Brexit, as well as the election of Trump, on the rest of Europe was that it served as a counter example. I mean, I know. I agree with Fraser that many of the people who supported Brexit here are still supportive. [10:10:01] But to outsiders who look at it, it's not an attractive picture. Britain's trading relationships are unclear. Quite a lot of what's going to happen when Britain leaves the EU is just beginning to dawn on the British - for example, that there is going to more bureaucracy here and not less.

They're going to have to re-create all kinds of institutions and all kinds of things that Europe regulations - regulatory tests that Europe does on the behalf of Britain and other people see that and nobody really wants a part of it.

And the same, of course, is true of Trump. We see this chaos. We see incompetence. We see promises that were made and aren't being fulfilled and political discomfort and really nobody wants that.

And I think the attraction of Merkel is really just that she's more of the same. I'm a little more worried about the German election than you are. I think, because of these small parties, there could be an unstable coalition after she wins. And there's probably more support for the far right than we can see from the outside.

But, nevertheless, the fact that there was this swing to her, and you saw the swing to Macron, is a reaction against the sort of perceived Anglo-Saxon mess.

ZAKARIA: You think Brexit is going to be a disaster financially for Britain, economically?

WOLF: Disaster is a big word, I which I try to avoid using. It depends very much on the nature of the negotiations.

I agree with Fraser. It's probably the only thing related to Brexit that we do agree on, which is that it will happen. It will happen.

But the sort of agreement we will have in the process will affect enormously what happens. Will there be actually a deal? Will we actually reach a deal? If we do reach a deal, what will that look like? All these are highly uncertain.

My own view is that it could be anywhere between a very large mass in the short run, which will over time, obviously, attenuate, and a relatively mild event and it really does depend on things we don't know yet.

The final thing I would say, and I think this is probably something we do disagree on, I think the negotiations are at the moment getting absolutely nowhere.

ZAKARIA: All right. On that note, we're going to take a break. When we come back, what to do about what the United Nations now calls ethnic cleansing in Myanmar? A question with no easy answers.


[10:16:39] ZAKARIA: We are back with Fraser Nelson, Anne Applebaum and Martin Wolf. Fraser, Myanmar. What do we make of what's going on there? This massive hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas, Muslim minority, being now ethnically cleansed in various ways.

We thought Aung San Suu Kyi was the good guy or the good gal in this story. What does it tell us?

NELSON: Well, here we have a Nobel laureate now presiding over a government, which is denying that anything is happening, which isn't letting the UN have a look at what's happening.

And it seems, looking from afar, like it's an angel turned into a devil here that how could it be that she is being so blind and refusing to do what the other Nobel laureates are begging her to do.

I think the answer is that she doesn't have proper control over the government. Sure, nominally, she's head of state, but does she really control the army, does she really control the border regions. This conflict has been going on since the 1980s.

And Buddhist mobs have a long track record of persecuting the Muslim minority here. And I don't think it's within her power.

So, we're seeing a classic example now of somebody, who although technically is the head of state, doesn't really have the authority and is in a bind. Her office personally, she has said, yes, sure, she'll welcome some suggestions to help them out. But when it comes to what she can do politically, that's a whole different matter.

ZAKARIA: Fraser had a phrase there which I thought was telling, Buddhist mobs. When you think of Buddhism, you think of it as a religion of peace. Isn't it ironic - even Buddhism, when you get into these power relationships, is as prone to violence as any other religion.

WOLF: My understanding - I have no expertise in this - is that the religion, if you can call it that, of the Japanese samurai was Zen Buddhism. And you can't describe the samurai as exactly peaceful people.

So, my view is a history - and the history of civilization tells us pretty strongly that religion is something that could be used and is used and belief can be exploited in many different ways, all of them human and some of them being human, are very, very unpleasant.

ZAKARIA: As you said it during the break, Christianity after all was founded by the prince of peace, and yet has a checkered track record.

WOLF: Inquisition and a few other - the Crusades and a few other things, which people have not forgotten, including in the Middle East.

ZAKARIA: Do you think - I mean, there are people who say Aung San Suu Kyi's Nobel Prize should be withdrawn. Obviously, this is kind of a rhetorical point. But how to think about somebody like her?

APPLEBAUM: Yes. I think that would be pretty pointless gesture. If we started going back through everybody who had won a Nobel Prize and looked at what their qualifications were, we might have a lot of questions. I think it makes for an interesting different point, though, which is how will the Trump administration deal with this.

In the previous administration, and indeed going back some way, there is an American tradition of being against genocide and wanting to stop these kinds of disasters.

There was a great feeling of guilt, for example, after the failure to stop the Rwandan genocide during the Clinton administration. And some of the - for example, the US involvement in Libya was partly justified on those grounds. We are Americans. We want to stop what seemed like - about to be a genocide at that time in Benghazi.

[10:20:01] I haven't heard the Trump administration say anything very clear yet on this. Is this a priority of theirs? Is ethnic cleansing something that they care about? There's really been so far no indication of where they see their role, America's role as a moral power in this crisis.

ZAKARIA: Fraser, how is Trump these days? You are attuned to conservative party politics. Theresa May made a bet that seeming to be Donald Trump's closest European friend would help her.

For other leaders, it's been almost the opposite. The fact that Angela Merkel and Trump don't get on has benefited Merkel in Germany. The fact that Macron is seen as very different from Trump has helped him.

Has it helped or hurt May that she is seen as Trump's best friend?

NELSON: Well, domestically, it's hurt her, of course. Anybody in Europe can win points by being rude to the American president.

But Theresa May took a different view. Britain's interests always lie being close to the United States of America and that she's going to turn a blind eye to the coarser aspects of a Trump administration.

And also remember, the Brexit context is absolutely crucial. Here he she has in Donald Trump somebody who says he eager to do a free-trade deal with Britain when we leave the EU. Now, this is what Britain needs more than anything else.

I spoke to a cabinet member who said it's like when you're - you're on a lift raft in the water and this big ship comes by to rescue you. Now, whether there's going to be a free trade deal with America or not remains to be seen. But the fact that we've got one willing to offer Britain exactly what it needs exactly at this time, that is enough to overlook the various coarse aspects of Trump, which appalled so many voters.

ZAKARIA: And on trade, Martin, do you think that the Trump administration is likely to go through with the kind of tough trade talk that it has had? Does that worry you? Would that worry markets?

WOLF: Globally, that is really one of the most interesting - the dog that hasn't barked yet. What does Trump's global trade, globalization rhetoric mean? The one

big thing he did, he did that on the first day. He pulled out of TPP, which I think was a - of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an extraordinary mistake. I mean, just a freebie for China.

But we don't know what he's going to do with NAFTA. He's still talking about something they're going to do about China.

But, at the moment, I would have to say, which is true I think in a number of other areas, but this is one I follow more closely, that his bark is much worse than his bite. He hasn't actually done much.

ZAKARIA: He tweeted out during the North Korea thing that we're going to shut down all trade with any country that does dealings with North Korea, which, of course, is China which is 5 percent of America's GDP being shut down to zero.

But I was struck by how the Chinese government didn't even bother to respond. The feeling was, it's Trump, it probably means nothing.

We have to end it on that. Martin Wolf, Fraser Nelson, Anne Applebaum, pleasure.


[10:27:08] ZAKARIA: Seeing the devastating effects of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey and of the wildfires out west, one cannot help but think about the crucial role that government plays in our lives.

But while we accept to even celebrate the role of government in the wake of such disasters, we're largely blind to the need for government to mitigate these kinds of crises in the first place.

Ever since Ronald Reagan, much of America has embraced an ideological framework, claiming that government is the source of our problems.

Reagan famously put -


RONALD RAEGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The nine most terrifying words in the English language are I'm from the government and I'm here to help.


ZAKARIA: Reagan's worldview grew out of the 1970s, a period marked by fiscal mismanagement, government overreach and slow growth.

It might have been the right attitude for its time, but it stayed in place for decades as a rigid ideology, even though we've entered a new age in which Americans face a very different set of challenges, often desperately requiring an activist government.

For decades now, we've watched a stagnant wage growth for 90 percent of Americans, has been coupled with supercharged growth for the richest few, leading to widening inequality on a scale not seen since the Gilded Age. It's been assumed the federal government could do nothing about this, despite much evidence to the contrary.

We've watched China enter the global trade system and take advantage of access to Western markets and capital, while still maintaining a massively controlled internal economy and pursuing predatory trade practices.

And we've felt the American government can't do anything about it because that would be protectionist.

We've watched as financial institutions took on more and more risk with other people's money, effectively gambling in a heads-I-win- tails-you-lose system. Even after the system blew up causing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the calls soon came to deregulate the financial sector once again because, after all, all government regulation is socialist.

In the same period, technology companies have grown in size and scale often using first-mover advantages to establish quasi-monopolies and quash competition. And we assume the federal government should have no role in shaping this vast new economy. Better for Washington to simply observe the process like a passive spectator watching a new Netflix drama.

And then, there is climate. These hurricanes are not caused by global warming, but their frequency and intensity are likely magnified by climate change, and yet we've been wary of too much government activism.

This is true not just in tackling climate change itself, but in other areas that contributed to the destructive power of the storms.

Houston chose to have almost no zoning of any kind that limited development, even in flood-prone areas, paving over thousands of acres of wetland that used to absorb rainwater and curb flooding.

The chemical industry has been able to convince Washington to exercise a light regulatory touch, so there's limited protection against fires and contamination. And now, low tax and low regulation Texas and Florida have come to the federal government, hats in hand. We're living in an age of revolutions, natural and human, that are buffeting individuals and communities. We need government to be more than a passive observer of these trends. It needs to actively shape and manage them. Otherwise the ordinary individual will be powerless.

I imagine that this week most people in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean would have been delighted to hear the words "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." For more, go to and read my Washington Post column.


ZAKARIA: So what role did climate change play in the ferocious strength of Hurricane Irma and the intense flooding caused by Irma and Harvey? Well, on Monday, U.S. Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert refused to

say whether climate change had been a factor in Harvey or Irma's strength at all. The head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, has told CNN in advance of Irma's landfall that it was insensitive to talk about climate change right now.

So how should we think about an event like this and the broader issue of science and public policy?

To help me understand the impact of all of this, Neil deGrasse Tyson joins me. He is, of course, the author of the best-seller "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry" and much, much more.

So, Neil, you're not a climate scientist, but you're a very distinguished scientist and astrophysicist. What do you think about, when people say, "Look, this is not settled science; there are still questions"?

I sometimes think to myself, "Look, there are a lot of questions still about Einstein's theories that led to nuclear fission, but we still know that nuclear power plants do operate and they do provide electricity."

TYSON: Yeah, so what's happening here is there are people who have cultural, political, religious, economic philosophies that they then invoke when they want to cherry-pick one scientific result or another.

You can find a scientific paper that says practically anything, and the press, which I count you as part of...


The press will sometimes find a single paper and say "Oh, here's a new truth," if this study holds up. But an emergent scientific truth, for it to become an objective truth, a truth that is true whether or not you believe in it, it requires more than one scientific paper. It requires a whole system of people's research all leaning in the same direction, all pointing to the same consequences. That's what we have with climate change as induced by human conduct. This is a known correspondence.

If you want to find the 3 percent of the papers or the 1 percent of the papers that conflicted with this and build policy on that, that is simply irresponsible. And how else do you establish a scientific truth if not by looking at the consensus of scientific experiments and scientific observations?

Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, signed into law in 1963 (sic) -- a year when he had important things to be thinking about -- he signed into law the -- the National Academy of Sciences. Because he knew that science mattered and should matter in governance.

ZAKARIA: And, you know, we build our cities on the basis of science. When we fall ill, we don't go to the local witch doctor...


ZAKARIA: We go to a doctor, even though all of that science is still -- you know, I mean, there are advances going to be made; none of it is settled in the sense that...

TYSON: Well, so, you know what is settled? You know what is settled? Settled science is the science that has come out of large bodies of research that all agree.


TYSON: When you see scientists arguing -- and I tweeted -- I said, "If you think scientists want to always agree with one another, you've never been to a scientific conference." Because people are duking it out.

But what are they fighting over? Not the settled science that's been in the books. We're fighting over the -- the bleeding edge of what is not yet known, and that is the natural course of science.

Now, if you as a journalist want to eavesdrop on that meeting, you'll think scientists don't know anything about anything. But it is the body of knowledge that has accumulated over the decades that precedes this that becomes the canon of what, if you're going to base policy and legislation on, that's what you should be thinking about.

ZAKARIA: So you would say this is a moment to listen to climate scientists?

TYSON: I think this 50 inches of -- I can't even picture -- how many rain drops was that? Fifty inches of rain in Houston, this is -- this is a shot across our bow. A hurricane the width of Florida, going up the center of Florida -- these are shots across our bow.

What -- what will it take for people to recognize that a community of scientists are learning objective truths about the natural world and that you can benefit from knowing about it?

Even news reports on this channel talked about the fact that we have fewer deaths per hurricane. Why? Because you now know weeks in advance. We have models that have trajectories of hurricanes. In decades gone by, it was like "There's a hurricane there; we don't know; should I stay; should I go?" And then you stay and you die. OK?

So to cherry-pick science is an odd thing for a scientist to observe. And I don't -- I didn't grow up in a country where that was a common phenomenon. We went to the moon and people knew science and technology fed those discoveries.

And the day two politicians are arguing about whether science is true, it means nothing gets done -- nothing. It's the beginning of the end of an informed democracy, as I've said many times. What I'd rather happen is you recognize what is scientifically truth; then you have your political debate.

So in the case of energy policy, whatever, it's -- you don't ask, is the science right; you ask should we have carbon credits or tariffs?

ZAKARIA: What's the right response?

TYSON: Right, exactly. What is the economic dimension of this? That's where the politics needs to come in, and it's not. The longer we delay, the more -- I worry that we might not be able to recover from this because all our greatest cities are on the oceans and water's edges, historically, for commerce and transportation. And as storms kick in; as water levels rise, they are the first to go. And we don't have a system; we don't have a civilization with the capacity to pick up a city and move it inland 20 miles. That's -- this is happening faster than our ability to respond. That could have huge economic consequences.

ZAKARIA: On that sobering note, Neil deGrasse Tyson, always a pleasure. And we are in a hurry to read the book.


TYSON: Thanks.

ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," Neil deGrasse Tyson just told me this is the moment to listen to climate scientists. Well, we have one of America's best to tell us what we need to know about this pivotal moment.


ZAKARIA: We're going to go deeper into our examination of whether or not climate changed added to the ferocity of the hurricanes Irma and Harvey. We thought long and hard about which climate scientists to invite to talk about it. We zeroed in on Katharine Hayhoe. The headline of a New York Times profile of her was "Katharine Hayhoe, a Climate Explainer Who Stays Above the Storm."

That's exactly what we were looking for. Professor Hayhoe is director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech.


HAYHOE: Thank you for having me.

ZAKARIA: So, tell us, for a layperson who wonders, I look at all this stuff, particularly the hurricanes, and I wonder, does climate change have anything to do with it? What's your answer?

HAYHOE: Yes. We care about a changing climate because it exacerbates and amplifies the naturally occurring weather and climate risks that we already see in the places where we live. It's amping up our heat waves, our wildfires, our droughts and even our hurricanes.

ZAKARIA: And so when we look at these hurricanes, correct me if I'm wrong, but what I seem to understand is the oceans are warming and warmer water then gets into the air, the warmer the air, the more moisture it can hold, and that's what produces this -- this more intense hurricane. Is that right -- or correct me? HAYHOE: In a warmer world we see more rain on average associated with

hurricanes because warmer air holds more water vapor. So as the hurricane comes along, there's more water vapor for it to sweep up and dump on us. But the risk associated with hurricanes is also being exacerbated by sea level rise. Because, as the oceans rise, there's more force behind our storm surges and greater coastal areas are flooded on average than would have been 50 or 100 years ago.

And, lastly, hurricanes get their energy from warm ocean water, and over 90 percent of the extra heat that's being trapped inside the climate system by all the carbon dioxide we're putting into the atmosphere -- over 90 percent of that heat is going into the ocean where it can fuel stronger storms.

So on average, in the future, we don't expect to see any more frequent hurricanes. The number of hurricanes we've seen so far, at the same time, has been mostly bad luck, but we do expect to see more rainfall on average associated with hurricanes, stronger storm surges and also more intense hurricanes, on average.

ZAKARIA: So when you look at the situation you're describing, there's a whole bunch of carbon that's already up there, baked into the system, as it were. Are we -- do we need to start -- I understand it's important to do something to mitigate, to affect the trajectory of a warming earth, but is it worth also getting serious about adapting to the reality of climate change?

If everything you're describing is true, do we need to start thinking about dams and dikes and fortifications and rotating agricultural crops so that we use different ones, and I don't know what one does about wildfires, but is there -- do we need a kind of program of adaptation?

HAYHOE: Absolutely. The time when we had the luxury to choose between preparing for a different future or reducing our carbon emissions -- that time has passed long ago. Some amount of change is inevitable, but we can avoid the worst impacts if we can transition in a sensible but a fast way off of carbon-based fuels, like coal and gas and oil, to clean energy.

And that's a lot of the work that I do is working with cities and regions, figuring out how we can build our resilience to the risks we already face today as well as those that are being amplified in the future. Smart urban design, even switching to clean energy that isn't at risk during droughts, when we often don't have enough cooling water for traditional sources of electricity generation; making sure that, when water falls in our urban areas, it goes where we want it to rather than where we don't; and looking at how we manage our forests because forest management plays a big role in looking at our wildfire severity.

ZAKARIA: So what I'm struck by is that a number of the things that you talk about as being smart ways to deal with the problem would be good for the United States anyway. They would reduce pollution; they would build in resiliency for all kinds of other problems. You know, it seems that there are added benefits almost even if there wasn't climate change?

HAYHOE: I completely agree. And there should be added benefits. There's nothing wrong with added benefits. It's great if we can agree to do something even if we might not be coming from the same page as to why we want to do it. So, for example, burning fossil fuels: people don't realize that burning fossil fuels -- coal, gas, and oil -- in our cars and our factories and our power plants -- is responsible for over 200,000 deaths in the United States alone every year.

So the economic benefits and the health benefits of cutting fossil fuels are staggering. People also don't realize that clean energy is a tremendous local investment in the economy. Here in Texas, we have over 25,000 jobs in the wind energy industry and people who are losing their positions in the oil and the gas industry as the prices go up and down, they're being taken in and retrained to do solar panel installations in San Antonio, or a Chinese wind company is taking in out-of-work coal miners up in Wyoming and retraining them to do wind energy installations.

There are many reasons to look to clean energy and resilience, and climate is only one of them.

ZAKARIA: Catherine Hayhoe, pleasure to have you on.

HAYHOE: Likewise, thank you.

ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," two years ago here on "GPS," we introduced you to Aya, a refugee who first fled the Iraq war, then the Syrian civil war. She dreamed of coming to America. And finally she found a country to take her in. It wasn't America. We'll tell you which one it was when we come back.


ZAKARIA: The United Nations General Assembly kicked off this week and human rights abuses around the world are sure to be at the heart of many discussions. It brings me to my question. Where did lawmakers vote to effectively eliminate the budget of their nation's human rights commission this week? Was it the Philippines, Uganda, Russia or Saudi Arabia?

Stay tuned and I'll tell you the correct answer.

This week's book of the week is Jhumpa Lahiri's "Unaccustomed Earth." Every summer I try to make a point to read some fiction, and this collection of short stories was the best of the bunch, intelligent, quietly moving and beautifully written. You must buy this book.

Now, for the last look. From Syrians escaping a country ravaged by civil war to Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence and persecution, refugee-related news is rarely good news. But I actually have some. Loyal viewers may remember my 2015 interview with a woman named Aya who had been featured on the popular photo blog "Humans of New York." She joined me on the show, along with the blog's creator, Brandon Stanton.

Aya first fled Iraq as a child during the Iraq War, after witnessing unimaginable violence, including a car bombing.


AYA, FORMER IRAQI REFUGEE: We were just, like, saying that "Is there anyone alive?" And everyone was just, like, there's no sound. And I thought that there's no one alive now, but we just find some people who were alive and we took them to the hospital.

ZAKARIA (voice over): Aya and her family resettled in Syria, but when the civil war broke out in that country, they had to pack up and leave yet another nation. This time they found temporary placement in Turkey, but she told me her greatest wish was to come to America.

AYA: It's my dream because my mom was talking a lot about the United States and it's a good country and it's the country of dreams and if you work hard you are going to have everything. So I just thought that this is the life that I want.

ZAKARIA: Well, the United States government rejected her family's application for refugee status on account of, quote, "security-related reasons," unquote, but they appealed.

(on camera): What will happen if you don't manage to get to America?

AYA: I will be lost like now. I will -- I will be a human being without -- without a dream, or I'm -- I will stay like this; I will be lost all the time.

ZAKARIA: Her appeal, too, was denied, and this story, is, of course, not unique to Aya. In fact, according to the New York Times, the Trump administration is considering reducing the number of refugees accepted over the next year to under 50,000, less than half the number President Obama said should be admitted in the 2017 fiscal year.

But here's the good news. I'm pleased to tell you that Aya has found a home. She and her family have settled in Switzerland. We're told Aya and her family are looking forward to studying in, working in, and contributing to their new country. The next step, her lawyers say, will be to help Aya's dog George join the family. The cute pooch traveled with Aya from Iraq to Syria to Turkey but has not yet been cleared for travel to Switzerland.

Aya, we wish you the very best in your new home. Switzerland is lucky to have you.

The answer to the "GPS" challenge question is A. The Filipino parliament is dominated by allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, a crime-fighting hard-liner who has stoked a wave of extra-judicial killings in his country by condoning the actions of anti-drug vigilantes.

On Tuesday, the lower house of congress voted to cut the budget for the commission on human rights which has been investigating the killings to 1,000 pesos, or just $20. CNN Philippines reports that the budget still needs to pass the senate. Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.