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Interview with Son of Jimmy Lai Sebastien Lai; Interview with Jimmy Lai's Lawyer Caoilfhionn Gallagher; Interview with Ukrainian Author Yaroslav Trofimov; Interview with "Not the End of the World" Author and Our World in Data Deputy Editor and Science Outreach Lead Hannah Ritchie. Aired 1:00-2p ET
Aired January 19, 2024 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
As rockets and missiles are exchanged across the Middle East, we get the latest from our reporters on the ground in Lebanon and Israel.
Then, Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai faces a life sentence for violating Beijing's national security law. Christiane discusses the case with his son
and one of the people heading up his defense.
Also, ahead, the reality on Ukraine's front lines. My conversation with Ukrainian journalist and author, Yaroslav Trofimov.
And why we need to ditch our doom and gloom approach to the climate crisis. Hari Sreenivasan talks to data scientist Hannah Ritchie.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour. I'm actually in London. I keep saying New York.
Coming up this hour, a political storm is brewing within Israel as politicians, past and present, call for elections amid the country's war in
Gaza. War cabinet member Gadi Eisenkot saying the public has lost trust in the country's government. While Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak points the
finger at current leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, saying under his leadership, the war could "become an existential threat to Israel." All this as fears
continue to grow of a wider war in the Middle East.
So, what could happen next? Let's get to our correspondents in the region. I'm joined now by Jeremy Diamond from Tel Aviv, Israel and Nada Bashir who
is in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.
Jeremy, let's start with you first. A lot of talk today picking up on this stunning interview with Gadi Eisenkot and Channel 12 in Israel. And one
thing of note that he also said is that he believes new elections should come as soon as the next few months. That's quite telling, given that
Israel isn't set to have new elections for two and a half years. What has the response been, and could there realistically be an election for prime
minister as soon as a few months?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Look, it is certainly possible. But what is really notable here is that we have been hearing
about some, you know, rifts within the war cabinet for months now, tensions over planning for the next phases of the war, tensions over the Israeli
prime ministers at times, bombastic, more political comments seeming like he is already beginning to campaign amid a wartime effort.
But this is the first time that we have really seen these tensions bubble to the surface in this kind of way. And it comes from a voice who has a lot
of authority and a lot of Israel. Gadi Eisenkot is a former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces. He has also lost a son as -- during this
current war in Gaza.
And so, when he comes out in this interview, which was in part about how he is dealing with the loss of his son, but also more broadly about the future
of this war and the future of this government. And when he starts to talk about the fact that there is no trust in this government of which he is a
part -- at least, as part of a member of the war cabinet, that is really, really notable.
And so, he is saying here that he believes that Israelis need to go to the polls and have an election in the next few months. He also went at Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's credibility without naming him directly. He said that those who claim that Hamas has been fully defeated
in Northern Gaza are "not telling the truth."
And what he is also going after is this idea of two dueling priorities that are increasingly in conflict with each other. And that is, on the one hand,
the objective of destroying Hamas, and on the other hand, the objective of returning all of the hostages.
And here, Eisenkot is effectively saying that the hostages really need to be the priority, and that the government should agree to a cessation of
hostilities for the -- for a longer period of time to allow for another deal with -- to free hostages to emerge.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, it's important to point up, as you noted that Eisenkot is a revered figure in Israel and really has skin in the game here, given that
he lost not only his son but his nephew in this war in Gaza. And also, like Ehud Barak calling for elections soon.
Nada, let me turn to you because there's continued concerns about this conflict escalating within the region, continue to see more missiles fired
from the Houthis in Yemen. And President Biden himself admitting that the airstrikes so far on the Houthis have not been a deterrent, yet they will
What has been the reaction within the Arab community there to concern over the Houthis? How far they're willing to go? And it is notable that it's
coming at a time when the Saudis, who obviously the Houthis had been at war with for so many years, have really stepped up publicly to lay out their
own conditions on what it would take for their role in rebuilding Gaza and a pathway to a two-state solution.
NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, absolutely, Bianna. From the outset of this war, on the diplomatic front, leaders across the region have been
vocal and calling for a ceasefire, calling for an end to attacks on the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military.
And there has been, from the very early stages of this war, warnings around the potential for that violence, for hostilities to escalate, to draw in
other groups across the region. That is certainly what we have seen, at least in Yemen, where the Iran backed-Houthi rebels continue to carry out
attacks along that Red Sea shipping route. That has, of course, been a huge point of concern.
And we've been hearing repeated warnings now from Houthi officials and leaders saying that those attacks will continue so long as Israel's
airstrikes, so long as Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip do not come to an end.
And of course, we have seen that just in the last few days. And Thursday evening, the U.S. military saying that it had seen reports of -- or at
least confirmed reports of two anti-ship ballistic missiles being fired towards a U.S.-owned vessel.
Now, of course, the Houthis have said that they are not only targeting, in their words, Israeli vessels, but crucially, Israeli linked vessels, and
those linked to the allies of Israel, including the United States.
Now, according to U.S. military officials, those missiles did not damage the vessel, nor were the crew on board. The crew on board reporting they
had seen missiles landing in the water near the ship.
But this has stoked concern, of course, because we've been hearing in the last few days from U.S. military officials following those U.S. and U.K.
airstrikes carried out across Houthi targets in Yemen. They said that they had significantly diminished or downgraded the Houthis ability to carry out
such attacks in the future.
Clearly, we have seen that downgraded. This is at a much smaller scale from what we have seen over recent weeks. Of course, what we've seen, in some
cases, a barrage of missiles being fired towards vessels now just down to two on Thursday evening.
But of course, The Houthis have said that they will continue to fire these missiles. And as you mentioned, Bianna, that has been acknowledged by the
U.S. president, Joe Biden. He acknowledged that this has not -- the U.S. strikes on Yemen have not acted as the deterrent that the U.S. government
or the Biden administration had hoped. And nevertheless, those U.S. strikes are expected to continue.
And of course, we are seeing this being reflected more broadly across the region, including here in Lebanon, where Hezbollah, and indeed the Lebanese
government now are saying that they cannot expect to see any sort of ceasefire agreement on Lebanon's southern border until there is a lasting
ceasefire agreement in Gaza.
GOLODRYGA: And Jeremy, meantime, the reverberations from Netanyahu's press conference yesterday where he just essentially closed the door to the
prospect of a Palestinian State are still being felt. And it comes as President Biden spoke with the prime minister for the first time today in
just about a month. What more do we know about their conversation?
DIAMOND: Yes, really notable that it was nearly a month since the last time these two leaders spoke. And then just a couple days after the Israeli
prime minister once again closes the door on a Palestinian State. We have this latest call.
We don't know -- have all the details of this call, but certainly we know that behind the scenes there have been growing tensions between the Biden
administration and the Israeli prime minister and his government over a number of issues, whether it is the next phases of the war in Gaza, what
comes after in terms of post war governance and reconstruction or this very notion of a Palestinian State. There are a number of issues where, despite
the fact that the U.S. is continuing to support Israel in its war against Hamas that there certainly are a lot of tension points here.
And the Israeli prime minister, we should note, has repeatedly closed the door on a Palestinian State, including during this current war. And so,
it's not necessarily anything new, but it is notable in the sense that he really does seem to be kind of sticking his finger in the eyes of the U.S.
president, who he and his team, over the last several weeks, especially as Secretary of State Antony Blinken was here in Israel, were really trying to
talk about the longer-term prospects for peace in the Middle East, talking about the opportunity that this war might present for the creation of a
Palestinian State, for integrating Israel more broadly into the region.
And so, for the Israeli prime minister to kind of reiterate his objections to that amid those efforts certainly puts him and the U.S. president on a
GOLODRYGA: Yes, and this comes in the last phone call. We know reports are that the president ended up hanging up, essentially, on the prime minister.
Things were that tense. Would imagine things are similar between the two of them right now.
Jeremy Diamond, Nada Bashir, thank you so much.
Well, up next, to Hong Kong, where the fate of media tycoon Jimmy Lai hangs in the balance. The 76-year-old is on trial for allegedly violating the
national security law imposed by Beijing after widespread pro-democracy protests in 2019 and 2020. Lai was a staunch supporter of that movement.
And in the summer of 2020 was detained in his own Apple Daily Newsroom, accused of colluding with foreign forces and sedition. Lai has pleaded not
guilty against all charges, but faces life behind bars.
Christiane spoke with Jimmy's son, Sebastien Lai, who has been campaigning tirelessly for his father's release. And Caoilfhionn Gallagher, who leads
Lai's international legal team.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Caoilfhionn Gallagher, Sebastien Lai, welcome to the program.
Sebastien, you are out there in Taiwan, and you have not been able to talk to your dad. Is that correct? Since he was arrested some three years ago.
SEBASTIEN LAI, SON OF JIMMY LAI: That's correct, yes. Dad has been in prison for more than a thousand days. And because I go out and speak
campaign on his behalf, I have not been able to go back to Hong Kong.
AMANPOUR: How do you feel about that? I mean, do you know how he is, how he's feeling, how his -- you know, not just his physical health, but how
his morale is?
LAI: There are times when I get pretty anxious because at his age, he's 76, obviously his life is -- he -- you know, he's at an age where, in
maximum security, anything could happen to him.
But look, I think -- he said in himself, actually, in the interview that he did right before he was arrested, and someone asked him if he regrets it --
regret, you know, campaigning for democracy. And he replies, well, why would I grant doing the right thing? And I think that keeps him very strong
And I truly believe that. I think that when someone gives everything he has for his beliefs, for what he knows to be right, that gives him tremendous
strength, even though, obviously at 76, having been in prison for three years, that that might not seem like it, but I think that's what's keeping
AMANPOUR: Well, I'm going to actually play a snippet of that interview because he spoke to CNN's Will Ripley in August of 2020. So, I'm going to
play it and then, Caoilfhionn, I'm going to ask you for your reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY LAI, FORMER PUBLISHER, APPLE DAILY: Our fighting for freedom has such a strong resilience with the West. It's just because they see that
they are fighting us with -- fighting with us. We are fighting with the same value. They know it. They sense it. They see the logic. They see the
righteousness in it. And that's why we have such a great support from the International Community.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Caoilfhionn, you are part of his international legal team. You also haven't talked to him, certainly not recently. Tell me how important
it is for people outside. He referred to the U.S. and, of course, he is a British citizen as well.
CAOILFHIONN GALLAGHER, JIMMY LAI'S LAWYER: Well, you've just heard a man who's speaking truth to power. We often hear that phrase. And though you
see him speaking in such a powerful way, when he was really staring down the barrel of a gun and facing the prospect of a life sentence under the
national security law.
And he could be anywhere. He could have left and gone to Paris, gone to London, be living in the U.S., living in the U.K., and he's chosen to stay
put and speak truth to power. This case couldn't be more important. And he decided to stay put to speak out for other people. And it's now vital that
the International Community speaks out for him.
Since I last spoke to you last year, we've seen a very welcome sea change in terms of the International Community speaking for him. We now have
International Community speaking with one voice. We've got the U.S. government, the U.K. government, with Lord Cameron, the Canadian
Parliament, the European Parliament, and 24 countries in the Media Freedom Coalition, including Ireland, Japan, Estonia, a wide range of countries,
all saying this case is outrageous.
The national security law is fundamentally problematic, criminalizes dissent, shouldn't exist as a law in the first place. And we've seen
multiple countries call for his immediate and unconditional release. And that's something which -- that call needs to grow ever louder, particularly
next week, when China's facing the UPR process, Universal Periodic Review Process in Geneva. That's the opportunity for every single country around
the world to hold China to account for its human rights abuses. And Jimmy Lai must be a name on every country's lips next week in Geneva.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has signed a letter calling for his release and the correct application of justice. China, Hong Kong, have
actually condemned that, and they have, you know, plenty of responses.
For instance, they strongly oppose foreign interference with judicial proceedings and also, they go on to say, Hong Kong people enjoy freedom of
the press and freedom of speech, which are protected under the basic law and Hong Kong's Bill of Rights. It stipulates that such freedoms enjoyed by
Hong Kong shall be protected in accordance with the law in safeguarding national security. Nonetheless, freedom of speech and free -- and the press
are not absolute.
How do you read that? Because, Caoilfhionn, it seems to want to have all things at all times.
GALLAGHER: Well, that's a blackest white statement. That is, quite frankly, a completely untrue statement about the context in Hong Kong
currently. And I think you can look to many objective sources to see how untrue that statement is.
I mean, the claim that Hong Kong now enjoys wonderful press freedom under the national security law is not a claim supported by the United Nations,
by Human Rights Watch, by Amnesty International, by the Media Freedom Coalition, and other experts around the world.
If you look at Reporters Without Borders, for example, we've seen that over the past four years, Hong Kong has plummeted from being a beacon of freedom
of expression in the region to being a country which is now languishing towards the bottom of the league table for media freedom. So, that
statement is simply untrue.
It's also concerning to hear China saying that they abhor foreign interference. They don't want other countries to interfere in this process.
They want justice to take its course. First of all, there is no justice under the national security law. It's a law which in itself has rightly
been condemned by the United Nations.
And secondly, China is very selective in that. Because we've also seen Chinese spokespeople and Hong Kong spokespeople already preempting the
outcome of that trial, making quite clear that they think Jimmy Lai is guilty. So, they're very selective in how they approach it.
AMANPOUR: Sebastien Lai, I wonder whether you feel free under the restrictions of this law and knowing, you know, that your father is held in
jail under the restrictions of this law, whether you feel free in describing his case.
What is it that he's been arrested for? What is it that he was doing? We know that he supported, funded aspects of the pro-democracy movement.
LAI: Yes, dad had a very good line that fear is the cheapest weapon that an autocratic regime has on its people. So, you know, obviously, I --
speaking on my father's behalf, I fear what might happen to him, but I will keep doing it until he's out, just as he kept speaking out, calling for
democracy for the last 30 years. And he's done so even when his life was being threatened, even though -- even when he knew that he was going to get
arrested. So, I'm not going to stop calling out for his -- calling out for him to be free.
With my father's case, as Caoilfhionn has alluded to, we really see the Hong Kong government weaponizing its legal system to crack down on the
freedoms of Hong Kong. In a sense, in this year, that is a big year for democracy with the U.S. elections, the Taiwan elections that just happened,
you really see Hong Kong putting all these values that are foundational for a democracy on trial with the trial of my father, the free press, it's rule
of law, free speech. So, I've got to speak out for him no matter what.
GALLAGHER: Could I add something on that?
AMANPOUR: Because Sebastien's also called this a show trial.
GALLAGHER: Yes, he has. And he's right to call it a show trial. In the Hong Kong security chief has been boasting of the fact that the national
security law has a 100 percent conviction rate. This trial is only going one way. It's a trial under a law which shouldn't exist.
And it's about three things. Jimmy Lai is essentially being charged with conspiracy to commit journalism, with conspiracy to --
AMANPOUR: Conspiracy to commit journalism?
GALLAGHER: It is conspiracy to commit journalism. Because that's what -- what he's charged with is advertising, raising funds for a newspaper,
publishing public interest journalism, raising issues about corruption, human rights, Tiananmen Square, crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in
Hong Kong. That's journalism. It's public interest journalism, which all of us around the world are so proud of.
AMANPOUR: This is where I have to read from Hong Kong, where the government spokesman says, that all prosecutor decisions by the Hong Kong
Department of Justice are based on admissible evidence, and that Hong Kong enjoys independent judicial power with courts and judges who are free from
any independence. He's interference, rather.
Here's the nut graph. Cases will never be handled any differently owing to the profession and political beliefs or background of the persons involved,
says the spokesman, to suggest otherwise is utter nonsense without regard to objective facts.
GOLODRYGA: So, again, that statement is a blackest white statement. Because the national security law, in itself, criminalizes civil society,
it criminalizes journalism. So, the law in itself is already failing to protect fundamental rights which are essential in a democracy.
Freedom of expression, public interest journalism, those things are not protected. And the national security law in itself claims that you're
engaging with foreign forces and committing an offence when you raise human rights and pro-democracy concerns with international organizations.
This in itself is a fundamentally problematic way of proceeding.
AMANPOUR: So, Sebastien, let me ask you then, who is Jimmy Lai? Who is the human being behind the businessman, the successful tycoon, the, you know,
He's somebody who, you know, I think disguised himself and ran to Hong Kong when he was about 12 years old, escaped there.
LAI: Yes, my father escaped on a boat when he was 12 from China to Hong Kong. And, you know, I think, not to oversimplify it, but my father's life
has always been a chase for that freedom.
He came to Hong Kong and he always tells me, as a kid, that he -- you know, obviously he was very -- he just -- he was penniless. He came to Hong Kong
with nothing and had to work immediately at a glove factory the first day.
But he tells me that for him, it was like heaven, because he knew that in Hong Kong, he had a future, he had freedom and therefore he had a future
unlike in China in the '50s and '60s.
His real turning point was Tiananmen Square protest, it was a political awakening for him. He felt very hopeful that if China had democracy as
well, that -- you know, that the people of China would enjoy the same freedoms and it would flourish like it did Hong Kong.
But when the mass gap and the Tiananmen Square mass gap, and my father realized that though China was freeing economically, it wasn't going to
free socially. And he started the newspaper "Apple Daily." And, you know, for 30 years they were -- they spoke truth to power, kept supporting
democracy, even when it got really hard with the passing of national security law. And he was rested after the national security law.
But I think one element of dad's life that people always (INAUDIBLE) because of his advocacy is his tremendous love of -- well, of both life,
but also food. I don't know if you know this, but he actually has a French knighthood. It's actually for his writing about French food. But it's
It's -- the (INAUDIBLE) which, you know, it's one of the -- obviously, you know, the French giving an agricultural reward is high praise.
AMANPOUR: The Chinese foreign ministry has a completely different view of him, Caoilfhionn. Jimmy Lai is one of the most notorious anti-China
elements bent on destabilizing Hong Kong and a mastermind of the riots responsible for numerous egregious acts.
He met with Vice President Mike Pence. You know, he's had a lot of -- obviously, in his life meetings with important -- including in countries
that are considered adversarial by China.
What do you expect to come out of this trial?
GALLAGHER: Yes. The national security law and the sedition laws under which Jimmy Lai is currently being charged mean the trajectory is only
going one way. The statistics are clear. 100 percent of people who've been prosecuted under the national security law have already been convicted.
That's not surprising. This is a law which Amnesty International described as having breathtakingly broad offences, which apply to anyone on the
planet. So, that's what you're dealing with.
So, the outcome of the trial within Hong Kong is not going to be rule of law compliant. And that is why the International Community must do all it
can to hold China and hold Hong Kong to account and ensure that this brilliant brave man is freed in the way that he should be. And so, that
Sebastien, who hasn't seen his father since 2020, can see his father again.
AMANPOUR: Caoilfhionn, there are some, even autocratic countries, that do care about their reputation, their ability to do business in the West. And,
you know, pressure does work in some of these cases. Do you think it will work in China's case, this pressure?
GALLAGHER: So, the short answer is yes, it can. And I've worked in many cases where I've had clients detained in, for example, Saudi Arabia,
Russia, Iran. And you need to work out what's the leverage, which actually ultimately makes a difference.
Now, here we know the chief executive, John Lee, in his first policy speech, and when he took over as chief executive of Hong Kong, expressly
highlighted the importance of trade and Hong Kong being an international investment center.
This week, we've seen a huge delegation from China at Davos, in Switzerland, and in Ireland sending the message that China and Hong Kong
are open for business, it's business as usual, this is a safe place to do trade.
And the bottom line that the International Community must get across to Beijing's and Hong Kong's leaders is, as long as you have Jimmy Lai behind
bars, you are undermining your own message. If you want Hong Kong to be seen as a safe place to do business, you cannot lock up a businessman for
running a business, for running a newspaper, and for doing his job.
AMANPOUR: And finally, to you, Sebastien, as we said at the beginning, you haven't spoken or seen your father, you know, since his arrest three years
ago. What would you say if you were able to see him tomorrow?
LAI: That -- well, that I'm immensely proud of him. I mean, I know how hard the decision he made was. You know, obviously with Christmas having
just happened and his birthday, but before that, you realize that actually by choosing to stand with the people of Hong Kong, stand with his
journalists and stay in Hong Kong, he also inadvertently chose to not spend that time with us, with his family.
But, you know, it's like you said, it's like you said when they asked him, after his first arrest and he was let out, that he -- you know, he regrets
what he's done, and he says, you know, lying there on the cold prison floor, I think to myself, would I change anything in the last 30 years if I
could? And he's -- the answer is, not a thing.
So, you know, I echo that. I think I'm incredibly proud of what my father has done and what he's doing. And I wholeheartedly support him. And I won't
stop until he's out of jail.
AMANPOUR: Sebastien Lai, Caoilfhionn Gallaher, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us on this.
GALLAGHER: Thank you.
LAI: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And here's what a Hong Kong government spokesperson had to say. The government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region firmly
rejects and strongly disapproves of the misleading and unfounded statements concerning the case of Lai Chee-ying, that's Jimmy Lai, and the Hong Kong
National Security Law mentioned in your inquiry.
The spokesman goes on to say, any attempt by any organization or individual to interfere with the judicial proceedings in Hong Kong by means of media
or any other means in order to procure a defendant's evasion of the criminal justice process is a reprehensible act undermining the rule of law
of Hong Kong.
And as guaranteed by the basic law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights, all defendants charged with a criminal offense have the right to and will
receive a fair trial by the judiciary.
Well, China has been a key talking point for Ukraine at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, with President Zelenskyy saying he would very
much like China to be involved in his country's peace plan.
Kyiv is also watching Washington, where 60 billion of aid are still held up in political gridlock. I spoke about all of this with Yaroslav Trofimov,
chief foreign affairs correspondent for "The Wall Street Journal".
His new book, "Our Enemies Will Vanish," details his experience covering this war as a Ukrainian journalist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Yaroslav, thank you so much for joining us. Congratulations on this book.
You're a veteran correspondent, covered many wars, but this war in Ukraine is obviously personal for you. It's where you're from. It's where you were
born and spent many years growing up.
I want to read -- I have a section from the book, a quote, where you write, it felt wrong to wear on the streets of my own hometown the vest and the
helmet that I had donned hundreds of times in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other war zones.
How surreal was it for you to cover this war?
YAROSLAV TROFIMOV, Ukrainian Author: It was very surreal. And also, in part because it was the war in the country, as you say, you know, I grew
up, that I loved, where I had my formative experiences. But it's also -- after, you know, many years covering wars in other countries, just before
the invasion of Ukraine, I was in Afghanistan. I spent, you know, most of 2021 there.
I was in Kabul watching how, within hours, you know, President Ashraf Ghani escaped and the Taliban were marching past my hotel. And so, I really had
this fear that the same would happen in Kyiv. I mean, the fragility --
GOLODRYGA: That it would fall?
TROFIMOV: It would fall, yes. And maybe if President Zelenskyy had listened to the advice that he was given by Western leaders, telling him,
you know, we should leave Kyiv, set up government, in exile in London, somewhere else, if he had listened to that advice instead of remaining
stubbornly in his office and saying, you know, what we need is weapons to defend Ukraine, Ukraine also could have met the same fate.
GOLODRYGA: You mentioned Zelenskyy. There's an amazing quote from him about Putin's failure to seize Kyiv in those early days and hours. And
Zelenskyy said, he opened his mouth like a python and thought that we're just another bunny. But we're not a bunny and it turned out that he can't
swallow us and is actually at risk of getting torn apart himself.
Take us back to those early days in the war when you two, as you just said, thought initially Kyiv may fall and when you realize that this is a
different type of leadership, this is a different type of country.
TROFIMOV: I think the moment of realization was on day two of the war, when after the initial chaos and after the Russians were prevented from
landing planes with reinforcements at the Hostomel airfield outside of Kyiv, Zelenskyy appeared outside his office late at night and recorded this
very short selfie video saying, you know, we are here with, you know, some of the leaders of the government behind him. We're not going anywhere.
And that message, which came at the time when Russia was spreading rumors that he had fled, he's on leave, he's in Poland, really rallied Ukrainians
and showed that, you know, if he's there, we should also stay where we are in our jobs and do our things.
And I think this leadership, by example, was a very important moment. And I remember driving in Kyiv the next morning and seeing this giant line of
people outside sort of a horse racing track. And we stopped to see who they are, and they're just people coming out of their homes to sign up for the
territorial defense, to get weapons and to go to the front line to defend their city.
If you look at Zelenskyy's role, I think it's really important that in those first weeks and months, he went over heads of politicians in the
West, of governments in the West, and used his talents as a showman to speak directly to the people. He addressed, you know, rock concerts,
university commencements. He really created this groundswell of moral support for Ukraine that drove policy decisions.
And it's very rare in our modern age that sort of moral considerations actually sways politicians to do things that are necessarily want to do.
GOLODRYGA: Remember that famous line that he didn't really utter, it turned out, but it was in the early days of the war, and it was with a
western leader where he was apparently told, you should leave, we'll help you. I don't need a ride, I need ammo. He may not have said that exact
line, but those are the actions that he portrayed and conveyed to his people.
TROFIMOV: Right. That was the message, not the exact words. But -- and, you know, there was no armor forthcoming in the beginning.
TROFIMOV: And Ukraine basically repelled the initial Russian onslaught --
GOLODRYGA: With what they had.
TROFIMOV: With what they had.
GOLODRYGA: Because the idea was, why do we want to give Russians our weaponry, right? What's the point if this is going to fall in just days?
TROFIMOV: And if we go back again to Afghanistan, there was this vivid example that just a month earlier, all this weaponry fell to the Taliban.
GOLODRYGA: In the irony that it was perhaps Afghanistan that gave the green light to Putin to say, no one's going to stop me from going into
I do want to talk about present day reality and link it to those early days of the war when it wasn't necessarily the United States, it was the U.K.
Boris Johnson was the first leader who Zelenskyy spoke with. It was one of the first countries that offered a significant amount of military aid and
public support. And now, we see Rishi Sunak in Ukraine meeting with Zelenskyy, announcing more than $3 billion in additional military
assistance when the country needs it the most.
Talk about the role that the U.K. has played, really kind of punching above its weight in this war.
TROFIMOV: Well, even before the war if you remember, and I speak about in the book, you know, the U.S. had announced weapon supplies of javelins, the
anti-attack missiles. But in fact, only about 90 of them were supplied, which is a real drop in the ocean according to the Ukrainian officials.
Whereas Boris Johnson convinced his own military command to ship 2,000 NLAW missiles and sort of comparable anti-tank weapons, which really made the
difference in stopping the tank columns that the Russians had sent across the border.
And throughout this conflict. I mean, the U.K. is not -- you know, it doesn't have a huge military, but it's pioneered new capabilities. They
were the first to give Ukraine cruise missiles that are used very successfully in last several months to attack targets in Crimea. Some of
the U.S. still hasn't given to Ukrainians, for example, because the ATCOMS, sort of comparable American weapons, are still being denied to Ukraine.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, and this was always a scenario that was frustrating because the weapons that Ukraine did ask for initially they would get, but
it would be months later. So, the argument would be, only if we had had it sooner, imagine what we would have been able to achieve.
Now, you have some $50 billion in U.S. assistant hanging in the balance here, and you see a change even in President Biden who went from saying,
we'll support Ukraine for as long as it takes to, we'll support Ukraine for as long as we can. Really addressing the reality of the situation where
you're seeing one of two major U.S. parties questioning the role of continuing to support Ukraine.
How is that affecting lawmakers in Ukraine and their concern about what this means for their war?
TROFIMOV: Well, I would say parts of one of the major parties because there's --
GOLODRYGA: Not all Republicans, but yes, enough to cripple these negotiations.
TROFIMOV: Yes. But so far, we see that the request for funding for Ukraine has been stuck in Congress for a month and it is already having an effect
on the battlefields.
If Ukraine and Russia had a parity, more or less in the number of shells they could fire at each other six months ago, now Ukraine is maybe five to
one disadvantage. And so, the cost of this delay is really measured in the lives of Ukrainian soldiers and also Ukrainian civilians.
And, you know, this is a sort of a -- I mean, some people in this country and in Europe say that, well, you know, if we stop funding Ukraine's
military, they will force Ukraine to negotiate. But there's no magical solution because Russia is not interested in negotiating.
So, the cutoff in funding will not lead to a settlement, it will just lead to Russian advances.
GOLODRYGA: Well, that leads to the question of how this all ends. You know, you focus on one year in this book because it's very difficult to
write about a book about a war that's still ongoing. And you talk about those pivotal first months, you now see things changing a bit, not only
concern in U.S. Congress, but in the E.U. as well about continued funding and the procurement of weapons. How long that will take.
Russia seems to have no problem going to Iran and even North Korea. And we'll see what role, if any, China takes in all of this. How does this end?
What is the biggest challenge that Zelenskyy faces now in running a democratic country by saying publicly, we won't negotiate, but also knowing
this war can't go on forever?
TROFIMOV: I think it's easy to say for him right now, we won't negotiate because there is nothing on the Russian side that suggests that
negotiations are possible. If we look at the situation from the Russian legal standpoint, you know, Russia had this referendum, so it could be
illegal to an annex four Ukrainian regions, you know, neither of which actually controls fully.
And as far as Russian law is concerned, all the fighting is actually now on the Russian territory. So, freezing the conflict anywhere near current
lines will be, you know, politically catastrophic for President Putin.
It's much safer for him to keep going and going, especially now that he has rebuilt the Russian military industry. And there's a hope that funding for
Ukraine will dry up this year, and then maybe the following administration in the U.S. after the November elections will be much friendlier.
GOLODRYGA: He's betting on Donald Trump winning.
TROFIMOV: Well, I mean, that's what many Russian officials are saying, for sure.
GOLODRYGA: How big of a hindrance for Ukraine has the war in the Middle East been, in terms of not only attention, recognition, resources, but also
just diverting everyone's eyes?
TROFIMOV: I think attention is not necessarily something that Ukraine needs. I think, you know, how many times does Secretary Blinken go to Kyiv
doesn't affect the course of the war. But funding certainly is a huge issue.
And, you know, the Ukrainians hope that the fact that Israel and Ukraine funding were put in the same request would speed up the approval in
Congress, that hasn't happened. And the other problem, obviously, is the polarization around the world and the perception in many countries in the
Global South that the U.S. engages, the West, in double standards has really undermined support for Ukraine.
GOLODRYGA: Yaroslav, thank you so much for joining us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Turning now to the climate crisis, data scientist Hannah Ritchie says we need to shift our focus from doom and gloom to solutions.
As she argues in her new book, "Not the End of the World." She joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, thanks. Hannah Ritchie, thanks so much for joining us.
Your book is titled, "Not the End of the World: How We Can Be the First Generation to Build a Sustainable Planet." Tell me a little bit about what
motivated this optimism in your book.
HANNAH RITCHIE, AUTHOR, "NOT THE END OF THE WORLD" AND DEPUTY EDITOR AND SCIENCE OUTREACH LEAD, OUR WORLD IN DATA: Yes. So, it's framed as not the
end of the world, not to be pronounced as, you know, oh, it's not the end of the world, but a definitive, no, it's not the end of the world because
we can tackle these problems.
And in the book, I cover seven big environmental problems. And the way I try to frame it is that on many of these problems, we are in a bad place
and we're on a bad trajectory. But I can see from looking at the data that there is a possibility that we get on a much better trajectory. I think
there are solutions there. Some problems we have solved.
And some of the motivation for writing the book is that I think on many environmental issues, we've kind of got to the stage where we feel like
there's nothing we can do. We kind of feel helpless to do anything, and I'm trying to kind of shake action and get us going.
SREENIVASAN: You know, your day job is at a place called Our World and Data. And for people who aren't familiar with that, it has for years now
had some of the best visualizations of fact, right? And for members of our audience that don't know what Our World and Data does, explain.
RITCHIE: Yes. So, Our Word and Data, we're a website online and we frame it as data and research to understand the world's largest problems. So, we
kind of sit between academia and research and the general public, policymakers, journalists, and we try to make this data understandable to a
And we do that across environmental and climate topics, but also poverty, health, war, what we frame as the world's largest problems, and we try to
zoom out and look at the long-term trends rather than just single headlines.
SREENIVASAN: What is it about your work with kind of the raw data that helps you be more optimistic? Because especially say, in the context of
climate, what most people here are numbers that are alarming and at times make them feel hopeless.
RITCHIE: Yes. I mean, specifically on climate. I mean, the trajectory that we're on right now is a very scary one. We're headed for between 2.5 to 3
degrees, which the impacts there would be really severe and catastrophic.
I think what makes me a bit more optimistic, especially when we look at energy trends, I think what's -- we're in a very different position now
than we were even a decade ago on these issues. And the big reason for that has been a rapid decline in the cost of low carbon technologies.
So, if we're looking at climate action a decade ago, our alternatives to fossil fuels were way, way more expensive than fossil fuels. So, it was
really hard to see how the world would adopt them.
What we've seen over the last decade is plunging cost of these technologies that are now competitive, or in many cases cheaper than fossil fuels, but
it gives me a lot more optimism that rich countries can adopt these, but also middle-income and low-income countries can raise standards of living
while also doing it in a low carbon way.
SREENIVASAN: So, there is the technology aspect of it. And as you point out that we have engineered some solutions. Then there seems to be sort of
a political dimension to it as well. Do you think that even if humanity is presented with these low carbon alternatives that we are not just capable,
but willing to make the sacrifices necessary to have this energy transition occur?
RITCHIE: I don't think it's going to be easy. I think it's going to be very difficult. And I think the political will issue is a big one.
I think I'd contest framing it as a sacrifice. I think, in the past, we framed this as a sacrifice, which is why I think climate action has been
quite slow. The way I see it is with these energy technologies, there's an opportunity. And you actually see that in uptake rates, even if people are
not deploying these technologies for climate, which I wish they were, they're also doing it for economic opportunities or lower bills or
employment opportunities or energy security.
So, I think we need to move away from this framing as a model of we need to sacrifice to tackle climate change. Because I think even if the political
well is not there, there are other reasons why we might switch to these technologies.
SREENIVASAN: When we think of climate, a lot of the conversation, at least in the press, you know, crescendos at these annual meetings of the COP
folks, and all of a sudden, oh, it's the Paris Agreement. We're slipping past this degree Celsius, and the phrase tipping point always comes up. And
you kind of take issue with that notion of tipping point. Explain.
RITCHIE: Yes. So, I don't take notion, but the fact that there are tipping points. There are tipping points in the climate system where -- and these
are very different ones. There's no one single tipping point. We don't know exactly where they are, which is the big risk and why we need to act. But
there are a range of different tipping points where you would see irreversible impacts that we can't retract back from.
What I take issue with is the 1.5-degree target being mentioned as a tipping point. That's not necessarily a tipping point. And I think it's
really important in communication because I think when people think about climate change and we are, you know, getting very close to 1.5 degrees and
that -- personally, I'm quite pessimistic that we reach 1.5 degrees. I think if you frame it as a tipping point then people will lose any sense of
urgency. Because if we reach 1.5 and we're tipped into a kind of unlivable planet then what's the point in taking action?
I think the way we need to frame it is 1.5 degrees should be our ambitious target, but we need to fight for 1.6 and 1.7 and 1.8. And by doing that, we
will be able to try to prevent many of these tipping points where we actually just don't know where they are in the system.
SREENIVASAN: You end up framing sustainability with two different components. Explain what those are.
RITCHIE: Yes. So, as an environmentalist, I think, when I normally think of sustainability, I think of it as having a low environmental impact to
protect future generations and other species. But I think what's also really important that we need to keep in mind is providing a good life for
everyone that's alive today.
So, there's this human development angle and an environmental sustainability angle. And the way I frame it is that we never really
achieve sustainability unless we achieve both halves at the same time. I think often in the past, these two things were strongly in conflict.
If you look over the last few centuries, we've made amazing progress on the human dimension, but it's came at the cost of the environment. We've burned
fossil fuels and we're now driving climate change.
Where I see the opportunity that we have is, I think, that these two goals are no longer incompatible. I think we can provide a good life for 8, 9, 10
billion people while reducing our environmental impact at the same time. So, I think that's the opportunity that we have.
SREENIVASAN: So, how do you balance, I guess, the optimism that you are laying out in parts of this book with a sense of urgency that's also
necessary? Because right now we've got, you know, NASA confirming that 2023 was the hottest year on record.
You know, there are scientists who are saying, listen, a decade from now, we're going to look back at this as a relatively cool year. So, how do you
kind of help people keep both of those ideas in their brain that we do have potential and all hope is not lost, but that we do need to act quickly?
RITCHIE: Yes, I think it's very difficult and I think there is always the risk that people become complacent. So, yes, we do need to convey the
current trajectory that we're on is unacceptable and a really serious and dangerous one. But we also need to give people the sense of agency that we
can tackle this and we don't need to be on this particular trajectory.
I think often when people are just hit with headline after headline after headline, they can fall into the state where, you know, you're telling them
about the problem, but you're not giving them any notion of solutions or a way that we can get out of this. So, they often feel kind of helpless and
inactive, and that's not going to help us drive us forward.
So, I think, yes, we need to convey the seriousness and the urgency by which we need to act, but we also need to convey a sense of, yes, there is
actually solutions out there and they are being implemented, how can we drive that faster.
SREENIVASAN: You write a little bit about your brother as an example of what a single human being can do. What are the steps that he took?
RITCHIE: Yes, so my brother -- I frame my brother in the book as he's not an environmentalist and he's never, you know, really been that interested
in climate change. But he -- for example, he got a Tesla. He got an electric car. Again, not for the environment. He just got an electric car
because it made sense. Like, it was a nice car to drive. It works really well for charging. His bills are lower.
And I think, again, this comes back to the opportunity angle, where I think we need to also convey the other benefits of these solutions. Because if
we're going to wait and rely on just everyone being motivated to tackle climate change, I don't think that we'll get there.
So, what I stress is we need -- yes, we need to make people aware of climate change, but we also need to highlight the other core benefits of
these solutions so that everyone can get on board.
SREENIVASAN: You know, you write in the book that this could be the first generation that actually creates energy without burning stuff. And at the
same time, the space that we're in today, according to a 2023 report by the Energy Institute, says that, I think, we're at 82 percent of our fuel
supply still is reliant on fossil fuels.
So, how do we get from the 80 percent that we're at to hopefully zero in a generation?
RITCHIE: Yes. So, we need a, we need a massive build out of the alternatives to fossil fuels. And as I said earlier, I think the economics
of these technologies are now really advantageous. So, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, nuclear, like we need the whole lot and we need them to work
together to create a portfolio that can replace fossil fuels.
I think what is important to highlight about the current energy system that we have is that because we're burning fossil fuels, it's actually very,
very inefficient energy system. So, when you burn fossil fuels, most of that energy actually goes to waste and only a small fraction of it actually
goes to what we call energy services, which is moving you from A to B or powering your laptop or your TV.
Now, that's an opportunity because if we move to a decarbonized energy system, we'll actually need less energy. So, that big stack of fossil fuels
that we see can seem really, really daunting. But once we start to decarbonize and electrify many of our transport and heating systems, a lot
of those losses will disappear.
I mean, we shouldn't underestimate how big of a challenge this is. It's a really, really big challenge, but I think there's various parts of that
puzzle that should make us a bit more optimistic that we can actually get there.
SREENIVASAN: What do you do to tackle kind of the structural inefficiencies in infrastructure? You're really looking at upending the
existing systems of how utility systems work, how you know, gas infrastructure works. How do we tackle those things kind of simultaneously?
RITCHIE: Yes, the infrastructure problem is a big one. And I think in some sense, it's a big one in the U.S. or the U.K., for example, where I think
we've actually moved away and became very complacent about just building infrastructure.
I think in many countries they're actually doing much better on this. So, if you look at China, for example, it's building its energy systems. It's
building out its grids. It's building massive amounts of solar and wind and electric vehicle infrastructure very, very quickly. And I think in some
sense, the U.S. and the U.K. really needs to get on board with getting back into this feeling of actually building stuff.
I think what's important to know is, I think, we probably will have what we call a kind of messy middle transition where it's actually much easier if
you're either going fully petrol, because you just need the petrol stations, or fully electric, because you just need electric stations. I
think there's going to be this messy mid transition where you're going to actually need both at the same time because some people will have gasoline
cars and some people will have electric cars.
So, I think, yes. I think it is going to be just a big challenge.
SREENIVASAN: You also write about food and the choices that we make with what we eat having a fairly consequential impact on global climate. Break
that down for us.
RITCHIE: Yes. So, I think when people think about climate change, they automatically think about energy and that's around three quarters of our
emissions. But the final quarter comes from our food systems.
And actually, food and agriculture is not just relevant for climate, it's kind of the leading driver of many of our other environmental problems. So,
land use, water use, deforestation, biodiversity loss, like food is really central to many of these problems.
But yes, around a quarter of our greenhouse gas emissions come from food systems. And actually, if you look out towards the end of the century, even
if we were to fully decarbonize our energy systems, the amount of emissions from food, if we just keep it as today, would probably take us past what we
call the carbon budget, which is the amount of carbon we can emit to stay within 1.5 or 2 degrees. Food systems would actually probably take us past
most of those targets. So, yes, we really need to address food.
SREENIVASAN: In your section about food, you say that it's not just about eating local. Explain that.
RITCHIE: Yes. So, I think when you ask people what's the best way to reduce the carbon footprint of your food, they will often say eat local,
and that's often the advice that's given.
I think when you actually step back to look at the data on the carbon footprints of different foods, actually the transport component, so what
we'd call food miles, globally is around 5 percent of food system emissions.
Most emissions come from land use change or land use or emissions on the farm, which is things like fertilizers or manure or cows burping, the
methane when they when they burp. And most of the emissions come from those components, not from transport.
Now, what that means is that when you're comparing the carbon footprints of foods, what you eat matters much, much more than how far it's traveled to
reach you. So, it's not necessarily the case that your local food is automatically better for the climate than food that's shipped in from
SREENIVASAN: You write quite a bit about plastics as well. You don't take issue with kind of, in a way, the miracle that plastic is. It's really just
about what do we do with it after we use it.
RITCHIE: Yes. So, I think with plastics, I guess there's two dimensions to this. One is, I mean, people are now particularly concerned about
microplastics and the potential health impacts on humans. I think the actual health impacts are very inconclusive at the moment. And if we want
to end plastics, I don't know how to do that.
But what I think is a very tractable problem is tackling the waste at the end of the stream. We have plastic flowing into rivers and flowing into the
ocean, and that's actually a very tractable problem. It's not necessarily about the amount of plastic we're using, it's how we dispose of it at the
end of the chain.
So, even if you're putting it in a sealed landfill, or recycling, or incinerating, there's very low risk of going into the rivers and going into
the ocean. Where most plastic is flowing and they are now tends to be in middle- and low-income countries where plastic use has increased a lot, but
there's not the waste management infrastructure to manage it at the end of the chain.
So, that means that the basic solution to this, which is not -- you know, it's not flashy or exciting, but it's just investing in proper waste
SREENIVASAN: You're careful not to prescribe specific things for readers of the book. I mean, you kind of worry that maybe that it turns them off or
it comes off preachy. Why not?
RITCHIE: Yes, I think, in the book, what I want to give is good information. So, if someone wants to reduce their carbon footprint, I lay
out all the data and examples of what someone can do.
I'm very specific not to prescribe to people, you have to do this or you shouldn't do this, because I just don't think they respond very well to
that. Like I think if I take the example of my brother, I think if I told him you have to get an electric car because you need to do this for the
climate and you're a really bad person if you don't, I don't think he would get the electric car.
So, I think, in general, as a communication strategy, telling people what they have to do often backfires.
SREENIVASAN: There was a head of a nonprofit, Brian Kateman, who wrote an op-ed in the L.A Times, and he sort of took issue with the optimism. He
said, you know, I get the appeal of embracing optimism. It makes everything so much easier. Pessimism is exhausting and so is action, but we have no
What do you say to that?
RITCHIE: I think we just agree or disagree on what motivates people. I -- as I -- I'm very clear in the book, I frame optimism, not as this blind
optimism that things are going to be fine and we can just sit back, because if we don't take action, they won't be fine.
But the way I frame it is urgent optimism or cautious optimism, which states that we can make positive change if we drive it, like it's a very
active form of optimism, not a sitting back and doing nothing. And I think for me, that just seems to be a more effective way of motivating people to
take action rather than telling them this is a really bad problem, and then leaving them with no solutions.
SREENIVASAN: The book is called "Not the End of the World." Deputy editor and science outreach lead, Our World in Data, Hannah Ritchie, thanks so
much for joining us.
RITCHIE: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And that's it for now. Thanks so much for watching and goodbye from London. I love saying that.