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Interview With Broadcaster And Naturalist David Attenborough; Interview With Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore; Interview With "The Power Of Big Oil" Author Dan Edge; Interview With Singer And Songwriter Carole King. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired December 27, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to AMANPOUR. Tonight, we're bringing you some of our favorite
interviews around the climate, the existential challenge of our time. Here's what's coming up.
A conversation with premier television naturalists, David Attenborough, who's documented profound changes in our environment for seven decades.
Also ahead, the American politician who put climate change at the top of the agenda. Walter Isaacson speaks to former U.S. vice president, Al gore.
Plus, filmmaker Dan Edge documents the making of the climate cover-up in his frontline series, "The Power of Big Oil." And, finally, how musical
artist, Carole King, went from natural woman to natural activist.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The year 2022 will be remembered for a relentless torrent of climate mega disaster. In Pakistan, intense rain and unusually high heat led to
devastating floods, killing more than 1500 people. In China, a one-two punch prolonged drought, followed by historic flooding leading hundreds of
thousands displaced. And in the United States, Hurricane Ian decimated the Florida Coast with losses estimated at more than $50 billion.
But in the face of these compounding challenges, today we celebrate those who refused to stand idly by. And we begin with Sir David Attenborough. The
great naturalist and conservationist who has inspired generations to love the earth as he does. More than half a century after his production, the
96-year-old is still enlightening us, most recently with the BBC series "Frozen Plant II". Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID ATTENBOROUGH, BROADCASTER AND NATURALIST: Explore all of Earth's frozen habitats. Where life finds a way not just to survive, but to thrive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I spoke with Sir David on Earth Day in April, 2020, just weeks into the COVID quarantine, when a pause in human activity created a rare
moment of quiet in the natural world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, Sir David. And I just wonder what you think of kind of being inside unable to go outside and celebrate Earth Day,
and all the changes that our planet's seen, certainly since you were born.
ATTENBOROUGH: Yes, indeed. I mean, the world has been transformed. And I've been extraordinarily lucky and that I've been filming the world since
the 1950s. And so, I've got enough video documentation of how it looked to me when I was in my early 30s and it was a different world altogether. I
could see things that nobody else had filmed before, certainly. I could travel into places where hardly anybody had ever been before. It was a
marvelous, pristine world and it was rich. And yet, of course, it was still being depreciated.
Had I been there 50 years before that, I would have seen even a greater thing. But now what I realize, of course, looking back now, is how the
world has become poisoned and depleted and is wrecked really from many points of view and other dangers on the horizon.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you before I go back because you're right. You know, in your life span, I mean, you're 93 years old. That's a well-known fact.
I'm not being indiscrete. And, as you say, you have seen the massive transformations.
But I led into this, and surely you, obviously, have been on top of it, as well, by talking about the incredible blue skies, the lack of carbon and
pollution in our air, the cleaner waters right now, we have seen animals roaming around as if it was still a natural world in highways and streets
of urban centers. Do you -- I mean, do you think, wow, look at what could happen if we put our mind to it?
ATTENBOROUGH: Yes, very much so. And I'd pick it in this glorious weather. Of course, I'm locked in, as we say. So, I don't get out even though I'm
close to one of the loveliest parts in Great London, in Richmond Park, I can't go there. I'm supposed to stay at home, which is what I'm doing.
But the skies are so blue. The bird song is so loud and I can hear it over because there are no airplanes. I mean, I live quite close to London
Airport. And normally I wouldn't be able to talk for longer than 90 seconds or so before a drone of an airplane came by. Now, it's an event to see an
airplane in the sky and I can hear the bird song.
So, it's -- and -- but also, the air is purer. And when you hear reports of fish coming back into Venice canals and so on, you realize the world is
actually changing. And being that changed, being forced upon us, the question is, are we going to be strong enough to keep these changes to do
what's needed to retain these improvements in the years to come when we have got over this particular hump and problem.
AMANPOUR: It's been suggested that a simple message, stay home, stay safe during this coronavirus has worked. People are doing that. They're obeying
it. Do naturalist, climate activist, people who care need to come up with a simple message that will be equally powerful once we get out of this for
ATTENBOROUGH: Yes, we do. But you can't have a more powerful message than we have now because you didn't actually make mention the second half of it.
Of course, the government is saying stay in, because if you don't there is a risk of a deadly disease. That's a pretty big threat.
And when the government says, or whoever it is says, that threat has disappeared, will we have the strength of the mind then to say, OK, well,
we won't use the highways as much as we did? We will stay at home if we can.
I think that one of the changes that may well happen in the coming years is that actually people have discovered that you can work in this day and age
with all our various devices. You can work very well from home. And there is no need to have to endure that dreadful journey packed into like
sardines in tins into the -- going into the middle of the city. May be there will be a shift in the way we work.
Now, if there is -- if that happened, that's because people prefer it that way. But do they -- when they prefer to say, oh, well, we don't -- we'll
give up our overseas holidays. We don't need to travel as much as we want because we want to reduce the amount of noise in the atmosphere and in the
skies or indeed, the carbon dioxide that we are wasting on traffic, on transport that we don't need.
That's the question. Will we do it? We -- do we care enough to do things that we don't enjoy as obvious improvements?
AMANPOUR: So, you know, you say will we care enough? And that we're facing a health crisis right now. That's true. But of course, the climate crisis
is an existential crisis for our species, as you have said and many others have said. And I found it really interesting that today on Earth Day, Ipsos
MORI, which is a very, very reputable poll says two-thirds of the British people believe that climate change is as serious as coronavirus and the
majority want climate prioritized in the economic recovery.
And I know that you have -- you know, you have moved from being just an observer and a lover of nature to somebody who uses your incredible voice
in your platform more as an activist in telling people and warning them about what's ahead. I wonder what you think of the younger generation,
people who are saying this about what should happen in the future.
ATTENBOROUGH: The heartening thing about what you just described is that young people who are going to inherit this earth, young people have made it
absolutely clear how vigorously and vehemently they feel about what is happening to the planet. And it is that, as in any democratic society, or
our leaders and our politicians to take that seriously.
Before, 20 years ago, I don't think the politicians did take it seriously. I thought they thought, oh, well, you know, it's 20, 30, 40 years ahead and
we've got urgent things to do tomorrow and next week. They didn't really take it seriously.
But young people now are insisting that they take it seriously, and that has been the major change, I think, in public move over the past few
months. We must take notice of what they are saying. It is not me. I'm in my teens. I'm young. But I do know that I may not know the facts about
ecological sophistications, but what I do know is that the world is going to be for me to live in for the next 50 years or so. And that's pretty
AMANPOUR: Let me just read a couple of stats, because you started by saying the world has changed a huge amount since you were born, since you
were a young man. You were young in the 1930s when 66 percent of the world was wilderness and carbon dioxide levels were only about 310 parts per
When you started your first "Blue Planet" in the late '90s, wilderness was down to 47 percent. And now, it is 25 percent, barely 25 percent of our
world. So, in your lifetime, it's gone from 66 percent wilderness to 25 percent. And it's gone from, I don't know, at that time, it must have been
about 2 billion on the planet. Now, it's, you know, 7-plus billion on the planet. And a lot of this disease, many are saying, reputable doctors are
saying, is partly because of overpopulation and over farming of these animals. What do you say to that?
ATTENBOROUGH: Well, it is not so much overpopulation as dense population. The density of the population. And epidemics are not new. Though, you know,
there was the black death a few centuries ago. There was the great plague in the 17th century, in which people were dying in huge numbers in the
convocations, in the big class -- well, I chose the word convocations. So - - but there were dense cities. Certainly, London was a city in which was -- there were over density of population was huge and people were dying in
great numbers. So, it's not new.
And anybody who knows anything about keeping animals, farmers know perfectly well and anybody else who looks after living creatures, if you
keep them in great densities, the transmission of disease once it starts goes like wildfire and very difficult to control. Well, we are living in
huge densities. You know, homo sapiens has increased in numbers, as you've just said, over three times as many as when I was making my first programs.
It's extraordinary. So, it is not surprising that, in fact, we are getting the comeuppance from that point of view. But it's not nature having revenge
or anything like that. It is a basic fact of life that that if you ever have huge densities of population, you will get diseases spread very
swiftly in them.
AMANPOUR: One of the -- well, your latest film "A Life on Our Planet" was meant to have premiered last week ahead of Earth Day. Because of this
crisis, that has been delayed. What were you saying in that documentary? What were you saying about your experience and how you've, you know,
watched these developments and what you -- what legacy you want to leave?
ATTENBOROUGH: The filmmakers who suggested it pointed out to me that actually I've had a film record, I've been making films in the wild since
the 1950s, early 1950s. And before that, I have plenty of memories of running in the English countryside and looking at birds and collecting
fossils and being aware of the natural world. And so, I had seen that change.
But I dare say I wouldn't recognize that change and we're not very good at recognizing slow changes unless it had, in fact, been recorded on the film.
And it's when I now look at those films, lakes covered in wildfire with various sorts and lava (ph). And I suddenly realize, yes, that's gone.
That's changed. And so -- and it's that record which has made it so vivid to me as to what has been going on in my lifetime.
AMANPOUR: And now, while you're in lockdown, you are also taking part in a BBC experiment whereby a lot of you are teaching young kids and you have
decided to teach geography for a while. What are you telling the kids? Why have you decided to jump into this fray? What's it like being an online
ATTENBOROUGH: Well, I can't pretend that we're making special lessons in that sense. But on this very afternoon, I've been recording an introduction
in sound (ph) to some of the films which I have made in the past and which will be brought out and be shown again because they have a very precise
educational message in them.
And so, I'm introducing them saying look at this. Look at the oceans. Let's look at the ocean. They covered two-thirds of the world. And they have
creatures in them which vary from this, that and the other. And let me show you some of the things that goes on and the way it's all interconnected.
And then we will show sequences from planet or indeed, other series, which I have done in the past. And we are -- those are being edited by people who
are specialists in learning via television in order to convey the messages that will be helpful. My commentary won't change, only my introductions
will be added.
AMANPOUR: I just want to end by saying you do have some solutions and you have talked about these, make large no-fishing zones to give stocks a
chance to recover. Reduce land farming by half, humanity must eat less meat, you believe, and phase out fossil fuels. Of course, that's a huge
endeavor that -- you know, with -- the world is trying to get to.
But I also just wonder, you're 93. You say you can't go out even to the park, which is right outside your door. What is it like experiencing this
at this point?
ATTENBOROUGH: Well, I'm embarrassingly lucky. I have a reasonably large garden. And I walk -- but I walk around it more in the past three weeks, I
suppose, or a month than I have for years. Because I now walked closely different plants of which I'm particularly fond the way in which they are
actually developing. As that (INAUDIBLE) from the Mediterranean (INAUDIBLE) -- has developed that great spike yet.
So, every day, I go around hoping that I'm going to see that particular change. And of course, the weather's been so lovely. The birds have been so
beautiful that it's such a consolation. And it's interesting, isn't it, that doctors and medical profession know very well now that an appreciation
of the natural world and contact with the natural world actually brings huge benefits, huge benefits in our pieces of mind and our peace of mind.
ATTENBOROUGH: Huge benefits in terms of us -- of our happiness and our relationship with the natural world.
AMANPOUR: Well, boy, you have brought that to such a massive global audience and we are all happy that at your films. Thank you so much, Sir
David Attenborough, for joining us on Earth Day at 50.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: David Attenborough there on the importance of protecting our natural world. A message echoed at the opening of the COP27 summit by
former U.S. Vice President, Al Gore. Who said we must all choose life over death and not make more long-term commitments to fossil fuels. Gore joined
Walter Isaacson to discuss his latest initiative, using sophisticated technologies to keep governments and corporations honest on their pledges
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And Vice President Al Gore welcome to the show.
AL GORE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Great to be with you. Thank you, Walter.
ISAACSON: You've just come back from Egypt where you're -- the U.N. Climate Change Summit COP27. One of the big pieces of news was President
Biden sitting down with President Xi and deciding to restart a lot of the talks about climate. We've been in a really challenging situation with
China over Taiwan trade issues. Do you think we need to recalibrate and look at the bigger issues and maybe perhaps recalibrate that relationship
so we can all focus on climate?
GORE: Well, I think climate is an issue that can bring the U.S. and China closer together in their aspirations for the future. You know, China has
been hit very hard by the climate crisis. This past summer, they went for 70 days with temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius, 104 Fahrenheit over a
vast swath of the county.
And the climate historians noted that there is nothing even minimally comparable in all of world history to that heat wave. They've also had
these massive downpours or rain bombs and many other impacts. The sea level increases are threatening a huge particularly around Shanghai and around
And so, China has its own self-interest in trying to help the world community solve this crisis. And of course, the U.S. and every other nation
do as well. But the conflicts you mentioned actually can be transcended by the work that the two largest emitters, the two largest economies have to
do together in order to help the world get out of this mess.
ISAACSON: You're very famous, of course, of being one of the early pioneers in warning about this with an inconvenient truth. But I also think
of you as somebody who's been a science geek all around, you know. Space, information, super highway, you know. For years, you've been that. They
seem to tie together with something you announced in Egypt which is climate trace. Tell me what that's about.
GORE: Oh, thank you for asking. I am super excited about this new development. There is a coalition of 10 independent artificial intelligence
groups, data researchers, universities, NGOs, that have come together to use artificial intelligence and machine learning and sensor based on air,
land and sea. And internet data streams to accurately identify all of the point source significant emissions of greenhouse gas pollution all over the
That has not been possible in the past because even though you can use satellites to look down at methane emissions, you can't see the whole Earth
with the kinds of satellites that measure methane but you can't see it. With CO2, you're looking down through a column of air that's so enriched
with CO2 that the so-called signal to noise ratio makes it impossible to just see it chemically. But if you use all the wavelengths and measure the
infrared, heat signature, the smoke plumes, the ripples of water in the cooling pond, how many fan blades in the cooling fans are operating, the
internet data streams, or the off take of electricity, and other sources of information.
You can fit those together into a machine learning algorithm that are incredibly accurate in pinpointing where the pollution is actually coming
from, exactly how much is coming from which, and what the trend is overtime. We get them from all the wavelengths from 300 existing
satellites, from the U.S., Europe, Brazil, China, India, Germany, and Canada. We see the entire surface multiple times every day. And we can use
all of that -- those different sources of information to really identify and track the emissions.
But now, we can apportion it correctly. We found, for example, that the oil and gas industry has under reported their emissions. Their emissions are
actually three times higher than what they have reported to the U.N. And the old saying, you can only manage what you can measure, applies here
because most of the emissions come from countries that have pledged to get to net zero by 2050. Here's how they can do it. We can identify those sites
And for companies that have pledged to get to net zero, we can show them how they can buy the same steel and the same amounts from a supplier that
has one tenth of the global warming pollution of a supplier that they might be using now. And there are hundreds, thousands of similar examples.
ISAACSON: So, you could take this data and can you pinpoint it directly, like, to one steel plant --
ISAACSON: -- or one oil refinery here in Louisiana, or something and say, this particular plant is doing this much pollution?
GORE: Absolutely. And it's very, very exciting. We have started with the largest 72,000 plus, the largest emissions sites around the world. By next
year, we'll have millions. And essentially all of them, we won't have the backyard barbecues. There's a long tale. But we'll have 99 percent of the
emissions identified where they're coming from.
And not only do we have the specific plant, we can show you the different parts of each plant, the so-called metadata or what the technology is and
who owns it. We have ownership data for almost all of them. And we are seeing others send us more information that we're verifying since the
release last week. We've been deluge with incredible amounts of new data.
And in the nature of machine learning, the more data, the more accurate it becomes. One other point, you can't -- they can't cheat with this. There's
no way to cheat because they would have to falsify multiple different data sets from multiple domains. It's absolutely impossible. So, we have
accountability, and identification for the very first time
ISAACSON: Is your goal with climate trace to shame some of the companies and how would that work?
GORE: We're just providing the facts. We're not the climate cops. We're a little bit similar to the neighborhood watch organization, the -- our
neighborhood is the globe.
And if somebody wants to use it to name and shame, we can't prevent them from that, but I think the highest and best use of this information is to
identify the opportunities to easily reduce emissions without hurting productivity or profitability. We can do that right away.
ISAACSON: So, you think you may be able to work with these companies if you're able to identify it, as opposed to just shaming. That can be a
carrot and the stick?
GORE: No question about it. Take steal for example, there are companies that use electric furnaces instead of blast furnaces. If you look at the
full spectrum, you'd -- and it's all available on the climatetrace.org website, by the way. You can find the same amount of steel, same quality,
same kind, from a supplier whose emissions will be less than one tenth of the emissions that come with a supplier that you may now be using.
Most of these manufacturers have excess capacity. They can serve more customers with lower emissions. And the ones that lose customers with high
emissions will be challenged to, not necessarily name and shame, but challenged to change their technology and change their business model?
ISAACSON: I think you've made a deal with one of the government entities in Mexico, for example. Tell me about that.
GORE: Well, there are two -- there are actually two cities in Mexico, one in the western cape region of South Africa, two in Europe. Six overall. And
we have cut it off at six because we were focused on the launch at the United Nations conference in Egypt.
And we decided to sign up six subnational governments as a kind of trial run. They love it. They are basing policy on it. But we are going to open
it up in the new year to any municipal government, state, provincial, regional government, and any nation state that asks for our help. We'll do
it all for free and we will assist them in identifying exactly where they can reduce emissions.
ISAACSON: You spoke of the World Bank as being a part of a fossil fuel colonialism. What does that mean and what do you think the World Bank
GORE: Well, the World Bank and the other multilateral development banks that are part of that system, what it's supposed to do is to open up access
for developing countries to the private capital markets. At present, if you are in Nigeria, and you want to build a new solar farm, it makes imminent
economic sense, it's going to be profitable, the cheapest source of electricity. But you will have to pay an interest rate seven times higher
that the interest rate paid in the developed countries, to the U.S., EUROPE, OECD.
Why? Because they have political rifts, rule of law risk, corruption risk, climate risk. Several other layers of risk in these developing countries
that the private markets are leery off. The role of the World Bank is supposed to be to take those top layers of risk off the top so that these
countries can compete for interest rates that are competitive. So, that they can move forward in their economies.
But instead, the World Bank has not been doing its job. They've actually been supporting more fossil fuels. And it's nuts. And the person who -- the
previous president appointed to run the World Bank is a climate denier. He ran for Congress as a climate denier. He has a long history of statements.
He is now saying oh, no, I'm not. Well, OK. But we need new leadership.
ISAACSON: Is Biden able to change the president of the World Bank and push it, and should he? And who should he appoint?
GORE: Yes. He should push it. The World Bank -- the head of the World Bank is a position that has traditionally been filled by the U.S. That is an
informal agreement, since World War II, and every administration has been reluctant to lose that privilege. And so, they are reluctant to change
course -- to change heads in the middle of a term, but nothing could jeopardize the U.S. hold on that position more than having climate denial
policies in the World Bank.
The votes of the shareholders are necessary, and the U.S. can't do it unilaterally. But Germany has come out in favor of changing the World Bank
head, the Australia has as well, several other countries. We have the votes, and I'm hopeful that they will get rid of this current head of the
World Bank, put a new person in.
And the problem is -- well, look at this way. If you look -- I mention all of those electricity plants installed worldwide, 90 percent of them are
renewable last year. But if you look where they went, mostly to the rich countries. And if you look at the ones in the U.S. and Canada, 96 percent
of the money to build them came from the private sector.
In Africa, only 14 percent of the money comes from the private sector, because they don't have access to these markets. And when they depend on
government money, it makes them more vulnerable to these state-owned enterprises that are in the pockets of the fossil fuel companies and there
are sometimes corrupt relationships, and they can keep going forward with fossil fuels and there is a so-called Dash for Gas in Africa now, and its
fossil fuel colonialism because the resources that are developed are intended to go straight to Europe and straight to Asia.
They don't benefit, the people of Africa. They leave them with what will come -- become stranded assets, because the fossil fuel facilities are no
longer competitive now, and as years go by, they are going to be less and less competitive. And it leaves them with climate chaos. So, yes, it's
fossil fuel colonialism.
One LNG export terminal in Africa would cost about $25 billion. You could pretty well put renewable energy all across the continent for that.
ISAACSON: One of the topics at the COP27 that you just came back from, that Climate Change Summit, was, I think, it's called loss and damage,
which in some ways, is like a reparation to the countries that were hurts by climate change. Is that something that, I don't know, is possible
politically? And I think Senator Kerry even was not too enthusiastic about it. Tell me about what you think.
GORE: Well, I sympathize with John Kerry's response on this, because he has to bridge the gap between the just aspirations of these developing
countries and the very difficult political situation in the wealthy countries. They don't want to hear -- those -- the developing country don't
want to hear us talking about how difficult our politics are, but it's reality.
ISAACSON: And isn't there some validity to that?
GORE: If you're asking me my opinion, I am in favor of payments for loss and damage. I think it's morally justified. Some European countries have
already signed up to it. But it's justified to point to the realistic political obstacles? Sure, it is.
Again, that doesn't help us, you know, make the countries that are suffering understand any better, but loss and damage is layered on top of a
justifiable demands for adaptation funding. You may remember that for the last 10 or 15 years, there has been a $100 billion pledge by the wealthy
countries to help poor countries with adaptation to climate. Those pledges haven't been kept either. And so, it kind of widens the divide between the
way developing countries are looking at this and the way the wealthy countries are looking at it.
The way to fill that gap is to say, look, the amounts that will ever come, government to government, as justified as they are -- and again, I'm for it
-- but they're going to be dwarfed by the amounts that should be flowing from private sources, because we are in the early stages of a global,
sustainability revolution, empowered by artificial intelligence and machine learning and distributing supercomputing and the biology revolution, this
revolution has the scale of the industrial revolution, coupled with the speed of the digital revolution.
And Africa and the other developing parts of our world will benefit enormously from this. You know, they leapfrog the landline telephone
networks that we rely on and went straight to mobile. It's a similar situation. They can leapfrog the old, dirty, poisonous sources of energy in
the past and go straight to the cheapest energy in the history of the world, according to the International Energy Agency and others. But they
need access to capital in order to enter the marketplace and involve themselves in this revolution.
ISAACSON: Vice President Al Gore, thank you so much for joining us.
GORE: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Incredibly, the COP summit ended with no word on curbing fossil fuels and emissions because of pressure from Saudi Arabia and China. Our
next troubling question is why it's taken so long for governments to get their act together on the climate emergency? Well, the answer may lie in a
documentary series from PBS Frontline called, "The Power of Big Oil". It details how fossil fuels companies have successfully lobbied for decades to
undermine climate science. Take a look at the trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Big Oil knowingly spread disinformation --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An epic three-part series
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said that climate science was uncertain. That action wasn't required.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our job was to fight back against the progressive agenda.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We concluded that none of these technologies were going to be competitive against oil.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Big money had infiltrated the halls of Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is an urgency to the situation that is not being answered.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It's incredibly revealing. And I spoke to the producer of "The Power of Big Oil", Dan Edge, about holding these corporations to account
for so much deception.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Dan Edge, welcome to the program.
DAN EDGE, SERIES PRODUCER, "THE POWER OF BIG OIL": Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, you have produced this documentary series on "The Power of Big Oil". We're airing, you know, on Earth Day at a time when not a huge
amount of attention is being paid to the climate. Tell me why and what the -- what the narrative is that you were trying to explore.
EDGE: It's an extraordinary narrative, and it goes back the entire span of my life, actually. I'm 44 years old, and our story starts 44 years ago,
when Exxon, at the time, the biggest oil company in the world, started pioneering research into climate change. And our story, over three films,
tells really the story of what happened next and how the fossil fuel industry, chief amongst them, Exxon, managed to stave off any concerted
action to tackle climate change over a 40-year period.
So it really is the story of how we got to where we are today and the spectacular success that big oil had, particularly in the 1990s, in
crafting a narrative, the consequences of which we're very much living today. That narrative is that -- was that the science of climate change was
uncertain. And that narrative was that any attempt to tackle climate change would be prohibitively expensive.
Now, there's lots wrong with both of those arguments, but they were enormously powerful. And we are living the consequences of those arguments
right now in 2022.
AMANPOUR: So, then, I guess the question, because you have a -- you know, a clip about the politicians who, I guess were, lobbied to believe and buy
into that narrative. I just want to play for you one of the clips, and we can discuss it. This is then-Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican. Now, his
work helped doom Kyoto and other such things. And this is what he says to you now.
FMR. SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE): They live. And, yes, I was misled. Others weren't misled. When they had evidence in their own institutions that
countered what they were saying publicly, I mean, they lied.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they had said that if they held their hands up there and said, yes, this is real, could it have been different?
HAGEL: Oh, absolutely. It would've changed everything. I would've -- I think it would've changed the average citizens' appreciation of climate
AMANPOUR: So, Dan, is it that they were naive? Is it that they, I don't know, were being lobbied? There was a lot of money flying around.
EDGE: I think there's an extent to which we all were. I was sort of coming of age, if you like, in the mid-'90s. And I was, very much, felt I was
growing up in a world where no one really knew what was happening with climate. And -- but the scientists who we have interviewed at great length
for this series tell a different story. You know, the science of climate change was largely settled in the 1980s. And the specific fact that climate
change was happening was part of scientific consensus by 1995.
So, what the -- what our series charts is the extraordinarily successful campaign that industry, the fossil fuel industry, embarked on in that
period, and which continued for decades.
To muddy the waters, to muddy the waters in terms of the science and to muddy the waters in terms of the potential economic cost of doing anything
about climate change. It's very successful, isn't it? And it worked in the -- in terms of public opinion. But as our interview with Chuck Hagel makes
clear, it also worked in the Senate.
AMANPOUR: And you also did talk to a lot of formers, so to speak, people who have been involved in this lobbying, involved in this attempt to shift
and shape the narrative, including those who worked for the very famous American Petroleum Institute, which seems to bear the brunt of a lot of the
blame when people talk about this particular angle of the climate debate. Here's what one former consultant told you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's great pressure that came from the clients to talk about jobs. We have tried to tell clients, we really can't measure
jobs accurately. But you have to get paid at the -- at the end of the day. So, we ended up doing the best we could talking about jobs. But you don't
really -- you don't really know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first people that will lose their jobs are the American coal miner.
JOHN SHLAES, GLOBAL CLIMATE COALITION: It would cost probably 500,000, 600,000, 700,000 jobs a year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that would hurt the U.S. automobile industry and it would hurt the U.S. economy.
AMANPOUR: So, this is really a campaign of fear. But it was really extraordinary to hear that guy, the consultant, basically saying, we kind
of made it up. Now, we have to say that the American Petroleum Institute says that people like yourself, critics are cherry-picking information from
the past, and that the industry's position has evolved with the science. Has it evolved with the science? And did they make it up?
EDGE: It's clear that both API's position and the members of API, like Exxon, was not consistent with science in the 1990s. It has evolved,
however. I mean, API and Exxon speak very differently about the reality of climate change now in 2022.
What's clear, though, what was happening in the '90s with that particular clip you played is that a very conscious and very clever effort was being
made to paint any action on climate change, any attempt to regulate fossil fuels as catastrophic for the economy, extremely powerful argument.
And Paul Bernstein, who we saw talking there, what he goes on to say is, of course, what we weren't taking into account -- and even then he knew he
should be taking into account as an economist. What we weren't taking into account was the potential costs of not tackling climate change. And this is
very much what we're living now in 2022, with a climate crisis all over the world, all over the United States. Costing billions and billions and
billions of dollars. And those costs were not factored into the economic forecasting commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute in the 1990s.
AMANPOUR: I want to take you to what I think you consider the sort of turning point in the '90s, when -- the Clinton years, where the climate
agenda was basically put on the back foot. And here we have Jerry Taylor, former CATO Institute, and that, of course, was founded by the Koch
JERRY TAYLOR, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT, CATO INSTITUTE: When I became part of that world, we thought the odds were pretty long against this. We did not
expect to prevail in the climate debate. By the end of the decade, however, the climate skeptics and denialists were in a position of strength. Now,
they had pretty much run the table. In every decisive fight, we had won.
GORE: They won the battle. I was intent that they would not win the war. It became clear to me at that point that it was going to be a longer war.
AMANPOUR: So, what does al gore think now and what do you think? Have they won the war as well?
I think Al -- I don't want to put words into his mouth, but I think Al Gore would say the war continues, if you like. But what he does acknowledge and
what other people who have fought for action on climate change over the last three or four decades all acknowledge is they have got beaten a lot of
I mean, the clip we saw there concerns the victory of industry in the 1990s in preventing Kyoto, the Kyoto Treaty being ratified by the United States.
But it's a template that worked and was played out again when President Obama launched an ambitious climate program early on in his time as
president, which was comprehensively outmaneuvered, as the second episode of our series tells a story of, by industry and by the Koch brothers
specifically. And, of course, President Biden now.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you then, because one of the obvious poster boys for that problem is within his own party, and that's Senator Joe
Manchin. And he has put out all these same reasonings, jobs, the coal industry. He also is, whatever the right word is, implicated, connected
with part of part of that industry. So, how much has been learned when you consider that one senator can hold up such a massive, massive pledge by an
EDGE: I think the simple answer is not much. And what struck us -- my filmmaking team, throughout the series, what struck us time and time again
is like, wow, it's like Groundhog Day. We were having the same arguments, the same conversations, and the same myths were being peddled 30 years ago,
and the same structural problems with democracy, with American democracy specifically, are preventing change.
And so, I'm not sure much has been learned. And, sadly, the -- what we see is the same thing, same damn thing happening over and over again. And I
know, for people who feel very strongly about climate change, the -- President Trump obviously was very opposed to any action.
And President Biden's arrival was a moment of great hope. But, unfortunately, what we have seen researching the story, over the last 40
years, is there have been quite a few of these moments of hope. There have been quite a few of these moments where change has not only seemed
possible, but has seemed probable. And every time, it's run into the same systemic blocks that President Biden is facing now.
AMANPOUR: So, you were not very successful in getting oil industry actually to talk to you on camera, for obvious reasons. Everybody gave you
statements and the like.
Independently and completely separately, I had the opportunity to interview Bernard Looney, who, as you know, is the CEO of BP. And like many in the
business, and certainly many CEOs, they all profess to be converts now and to understand, but that it can't happen overnight. Let me just play you
that little part of the interview I did with the CEO of BP.
BERNARD LOONEY, CEO, BP: This is not a light switch. We don't turn a 112- year-old company on its head overnight, but we have carried out the biggest
restructuring in our history. We have entered offshore wind in the largest and fastest growing markets in the world, in the U.S. and U.K. We're
involved in hydrogen. We're doubling down on electrification. We're doing all of the things that a company of ours needs to do to be part of the
AMANPOUR: Are things shifting? And, also, what do you make of the Bernard Looney argument?
EDGE: I think things are shifting. I think many of the people we have interviewed for our series have questioned whether they're shifting
anywhere near fast enough. And I would note that BP was saying all this stuff more than 20 years ago, when CEO John Browne rebranded the company as
beyond petroleum. And they haven't moved very far beyond petroleum in the intervening 20 years.
That said, I mean, the different oil companies are clearly moving at different speeds and in different ways. And there is a growing awareness
that things do need to change. What our series really charts is that it could have happened and started. That evolution could have started so long
ago, and didn't, because he's right. It's not a light switch. You can't just turn it off. You can't just stop oil tomorrow. That civilization would
fall apart. It would cause huge suffering.
But Exxon, for instance, were researching -- the world leaders actually in researching solar and other renewable forms of energy in the early 1980s,
this is more than 40 years ago. And they switched it all off. They switched all of that research and development off in the '80s. And so, there's a --
EDGE: -- because it didn't make -- didn't make money. And then CEO, Lee Raymond, was very open about that. His focus, particularly when oil prices
dropped in the early to mid-'80s, his focus, he said, had to be on shareholder value and making as much money as possible, which is how, you
know, how corporations work. And so, those research lines at that point were not going to compete with oil and gas in terms of ease of -- ease of
use and how much money it can make for the company.
So, it's very understandable in an economic sense and he makes the argument quite compellingly in our film. But it's, at the same time, a tragic missed
opportunity, I think, both for the company and for the world.
AMANPOUR: We've heard a lot also about the climate scientists, those who write the big, you know, annual or however often they write it. You know,
the U.N. climate reports, they're getting very disheartened, at least, you know, anecdotally, some of them say, what is the point?
We've been putting out these really scientifically sound predictions and warnings and actual road maps to change, and it's not really making any
difference. Should -- there's an actual debate. Should we keep putting them out there? I just wondered what you thought about that. And do you see any
light at the end of this quite dark tunnel?
EDGE: I can understand the scientists' frustration because many who we spoke to that work on the IPCC reports from -- you know, from the early
'90s expressed that frustration. They've been saying, the science is largely there since the 1990s, and it doesn't seem to have changed
And lots of the scientists like James Hansen who was the, sort of, godfather of climate science almost, or the grandfather of climate science.
He told us how, sort of, naive he was, really, that he really believed, OK. Now, we found out a set of scientific facts and now public policy will
follow. And it's been a sort of lifelong education in the reality of politics for him. But it really isn't that simple.
I think we are in a different era now, though, and that's the fundamental fact that we are living through climate crises in a way that we weren't 15
years ago, and that's all over the world not just the United States. So, the reality of the science is really quite plain to see and the reality of
the costs of not acting on climate change is really quite plain to see.
So, we have a generation coming through now who are living climate change rather than just hearing a of confusing debate about climate change, and
that's a fundamentally different dynamic. And that paradoxically does gives me some hope.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Because they are voting with their green consciences, certainly many people.
AMANPOUR: And, you know, as we say good-bye, it's worth remembering that climate used to be a bipartisan consensus and that it just -- all that
collapsed, as you say, around the '90s. Dan Edge, thank you so much. "The Power of Big Oil."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And, finally tonight, musician Carole King is without a doubt one of pops all-time great singer-songwriters. But these days, she's less
focused on creating new hits, instead she dedicates her considerable talent and passion to protecting the Northern Rockies, one of America's last great
I ask Carole King what motivates her to fight for causes ranging from climate to voting rights to women's freedom. She answered with perspective,
gleaned over her 80 years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAROLE KING, MUSICIAN: what I believe is the solution, OK, I'm going to get very 30,000 foot here, but I am -- maybe, so, give me that.
AMANPOUR: You go right ahead.
KING: There are cycles. There are cycles. I mean, we -- history has cycles. We've been through bad times before. I'm not sure they have ever
been this bad in terms of the absolute knocking down of the pillars of our democracy. But I feel that, if everybody, as like one little molecule in
the whole organism that is society, you know, which comprises so many different kinds of people, a lot of people are struggling and don't have
time to think about politics.
But politics is affecting them. And I think shows like yours are so valuable because people watch them and they learn. It's not just, oh,
filling time. You are educating people. And that's what I see my role as, is educating people about issues I know about and get encouraging people to
get involved to educate themselves for more than one source so that you can make an intelligent decision. And get involved and do it in a knowledgeable
way and band with other people, organize and vote because that's the foundation on which our future rests.
And the same thing is true about the climate crisis. Act. Take action. Write to the president. Write to the Congress people. Be involved would be
my overarching message to everybody that is as outraged as I am about some of these decisions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Wise words from Carole King, turning outrage into action. That is it for this special edition. Remember you can always catch us online on
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and, of course, on our podcast. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.