Return to Transcripts main page

The Amanpour Hour

Clean Industrial Revolution Kicks Into Life to Save the Planet; Interview with Former Vice President Al Gore on the Climate Crisis Fight; Interview with DeepMind Founder Mustafa Suleyman on Artificial Intelligence. Aired 11:15a-12p ET

Aired February 03, 2024 - 11:15   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

There are ghastly wars raging here in Europe and in the Middle East, but we begin today by focusing on the greatest existential threat to humanity and the extraordinary people doing something about it.

Climate change is going to be top of the ballot for nearly half the world's population heading into elections this year. The leaders they choose will collectively decide the path we take, embracing meaningful action or subverting it.

In the United States, voters look set to face two radically different views. President Biden's, who signed the country's most sweeping climate legislation and former president Trump, who openly rejects climate change.

A recent CNN poll found that there is bipartisan support for environmental action, with 73 percent of adults saying the federal government should design climate policies to cut greenhouse emissions in half by the end of this decade.

So here are the facts. Last year was the hottest year on record. NASA has warned this year could be even hotter. And the U.N. says governments are not doing enough to cut pollution and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.

So the stakes couldn't be higher. In a moment, I'll talk to someone who has been sounding the climate alarm for decades, former vice president Al Gore.

But first, some good news. There are plenty of people right now trying to save our planet, and they are making a difference.

Here is CNN's chief climate correspondent, Bill Weir.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: These days it can feel as if some part of the planet is always burning, or flooding, or both in succession.

But less obvious is the clean industrial revolution cranking up around the world, driven as much by profits as politics. Wind and sun energy is now so cheap, the deep red state of Texas creates more renewable energy than California.

And with hundreds of billions of investment dollars pouring into clean tech, startups like Antora hope revolutionary thermal batteries like this will power entire factories and move entire industries to the sun and wind belts.

ANDREW PONEC, CO-FOUNDER/CEO, ANTORA ENERGY: 1,600 degrees Celsius -- so this is hotter than the melting point of steel and it's just a couple feet inside that shelf.

WEIR: I have a hard time explaining to my kids what nuclear fusion is, but this is just a hot rock in a box.

PONEC: Exactly.

WEIR: In speed and scale, China is leading the transition at a staggering pace, spending almost as much in clean energy last year as the entire world invested in fossil fuels.

But science says it's not enough just to add clean energy, it must replace the dirty old kind. And since methane has over 80 times the planet-cooking power of carbon dioxide in the near term, President Joe Biden halted the expansion of massive liquefied natural gas terminals in Louisiana until the climate costs can be better understood, setting up a stark re-election rematch with the man one expert calls a "climate arsonist".

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Their windmills are causing whales to die in numbers never seen before. Nobody does anything about that.

WEIR: But the laws of physics do not pause for elections and the state of Maine is among those places already reeling with the changes.

So this was what that was?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the whole building.

WEIR: No way. This is just what's left of it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just generations and generations of stuff and, you know, there's a lot of memory down there.

WEIR: two freakish storms devastated the iconic lobster and fishing communities already suffering effects of warmer seas.

But Maine is also leaning into adaptation and mitigation with gusto. According to the nonprofit Rewiring America, Mainers are replacing old furnaces with more efficient heat pumps at a rate three times faster than the U.S. average.

Their climate action plan is among the most robust in the nation, so we're keeping eyes on places like this to see how people are adjusting to this new abnormal.


AMANPOUR: Now, Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" won two Oscars back in 2007 and he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for raising awareness about climate change.

Former vice president Al Gore, welcome back to the program.

Can I start by asking you what you made of our correspondent Bill Weir, and how you assess, you know, some of the hopeful solutions and what grassroots people and organizations are doing?

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, first of all, thank you, Christiane, for devoting the time and attention you are to this crucial issue.

I remember when you were covering the Earth Summit back in 1992.

And I think Bill Weir is doing an outstanding job and I think he's got it about right.


AL GORE: It's tricky to balance the dire warnings that the scientists have been trying to get us to listen to for a long time. And of course, you know the scientists turned out to be spot-on correct in what they warned about years ago.

And so we should pay more attention to the warnings they're issuing now. If we do not sharply reduce the burning of fossil fuel, the climate crisis is really a fossil fuel crisis, that's 80 percent of it. And we have this mandate now to transition away from fossil fuels.

If we do not do that quickly, what the scientists are telling us is that things are going to get a lot worse and cause great havoc.

But there's great hope. And you have to balance the warnings with the fact that there is really good news. As Bill says, people are working on it.

But here is some good news from the scientists as well. Once we reach true net zero and stop adding to the overburden of this heat trapping pollution that we're spewing into the sky every day, then the temperatures will stop going up almost immediately, with a lag of as little as three to five years.

And if we stay at true net zero, then half of all the human caused greenhouse gas pollution will come out of the atmosphere in as little as 25 to 30 years. And the long, slow healing process can begin.

The challenge, of course, is to stop using fossil fuels as quickly as possible, but there again, there's really good news with the solar and wind and batteries and electric vehicles and green hydrogen is coming on now online, and regenerative agriculture, which is one of the real keys, and sustainable forestry and circular manufacturing.

The list is a long one. But investors and business leaders, particularly in the consumer-facing companies, where their customers are demanding it. And, by the way, the employees in these companies and the families of the executives, and some of the executive themselves, are saying, look, we've got to be a part of the solution instead of making the problem continually worse.

AMANPOUR: And you're also a politician. Do you agree that this will be top of mind for voters, certainly young voters in the United States and around the rest of the world?

GORE: Well, I think there is a big generation gap on it, and young voters and, by the way, in the U.S. young voters in both political parties, in large majorities, are demanding action on this.

But as you know, Christiane, the politics of climate have for decades been very challenging because it is, by nature, a global challenge and we're not always used to dealing with that kind of crisis.

It plays out over time periods that are a little bit longer than election cycles and the next polling results. And as a result, it has been a challenge for both political parties.

The Republican Party used to be part of the group searching for solutions, but that is -- we've now got a polarized situation in the U.S., which is tragic and unnecessary.

But I'm hoping that the young people you referred to, particularly the young Republicans, are beginning to heal that polarizing divide.

AMANPOUR: So I just want to ask you, you know, James Hansen, the NASA expert who was one of the first on climate warnings, has warned that, you know, unless there's some massively radical thing to happen very soon, the magic 1.5 degrees number will, you know, will be surpassed.

And there seems to be a struggle over the experts over that. Where do you come down on that?

GORE: Well, I have the deepest respect for Jim Hansen and also for his colleagues who have a slightly different view. But they agree on most things. You know, half of the calendar days in 2023 were actually above 1.5. And in November there were two days above a 2-degree margin above the pre-industrial temperature.

So yes, we're running out of time to solve this in time, and we're running some unacceptably high risks with large global systems that are important for the flourishing of humanity that are now being destabilized. So the sooner the better.

The issue you're referring to is over how sensitive the climate is to more and more greenhouse gas pollution, and ultimately they agree on far more than they disagree. They're all saying the same thing, we've got to switch away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible and stop using the sky as an open sewer.

That's the basic problem, we're putting 162 million tons up there every day and the accumulated amount, it stays on average, each molecule, for about 100 years.


GORE: And the accumulated amount today, Christiane, is trapping as much extra heat as would be released by 750,000 Hiroshima-class, Oppenheimer era, atomic bombs exploding on the earth every single day.

That's insane for us to allow that to continue, particularly when we have the alternatives available now that are cheaper, cleaner, create three times as many jobs per dollar invested.

All we have to do, really, is to overcome the political power and influence of the fossil fuel companies, which have, you know, been trying to persuade people this is not such a big deal, and they're trying to extend their business plan and the petro states put up a lot of resistance in the international negotiations.

We are getting there and we will solve this. People should be of good hope on this. But the question is, will we solve it in time? We have to speed up this process.

AMANPOUR: Ok. So stand by, Mr. Vice president, because there's also the political problem, not just in corporations, but actually in politics, particularly in the United States.

We're going to discuss politics and the election year ahead.

Also ahead on the program, can Congress really protect people from A.I. porn, after deepfake images of Taylor Swift flood social media.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Our continuing conversation with vice president Al Gore.

Mr. Gore, we've talked a lot about climate and how it matters, leadership matters, truth and lies matter. This year is a year of elections all over the world, that most people, you know, in recorded history will be going to elections, including in your country.

Can I ask you then, because you know, there's a lot of narrative in the air about, you know, about Biden. And a lot of sort of almost premature fatalism about a Trump victory.

What should they be saying to counter really Trump, who is a bigger master of the public information space and the information wars?

GORE: Well, Trump's mastery has been in doubt in the last couple of weeks with confusing Nancy Pelosi with Nikki Haley and confusing other things. And I think, you know, I don't want to get into talking about him. I

respect his supporters and I think it's really important in this campaign season for people to maintain respect for his supporters.

Many of them are using Trump as a vehicle to express their anger at how they don't think things have been going in the right direction.

But to answer your question, Christiane, I think that more and more people are just now beginning to wake up to the fact that things are beginning to go in the right direction.

Inflation has come down dramatically. Now, the political influence is still there, but ten months from now, if the trend continues, inflation may not be an issue.

Employment is at all-time record high levels. The unemployment has been at record lows. Inequality is being reduced. And the wages are going up faster in the lowest income brackets. That's something many of us have wanted and worked for, for a long time.

The presidency is a team sport, Christiane, and this team that President Biden has recruited is one of the best, if not the best, I think, we have ever seen in the United States. And the president personally is the leader of that team.

And I really believe that for those who have been feeling despair about his prospects, be of good cheer.

In my time in politics, I ran for president twice, ran for vice president twice. One of the things that I've learned is that ten months is a long time. It's a mistake to look at polls almost a year before the election.

And by the way, even the polls are beginning to change in Biden's favor. Now, the cure for election despair is activism. The cure for climate despair is climate activism.

By the way, you can do both of those things in the middle of April. April 12, 13, 14 -- the Climate Reality Project is having a training in the Javits Center in New York City for 5,000 people.

Anyone who wants to learn more about the causes and solutions for the climate crisis and ways to communicate better in case they want to get involved in the election season, whether they're Democrats, or Republicans, or Independents, go to and sign up.

We'll be glad -- I'll be there spending three days with you and we'll have great people telling you about how you can become more knowledgeable and more skillful.

AMANPOUR: Finally, you're a former senator, as well as all of the other roles you've held. There is a group of, you know, old-style Republicans, I guess I should put it, people like Adam Kinzinger, Lynne Cheney and others, who are quite, you know, anti-MAGA, anti what they call politics of performance. Kinzinger told me "The whole party, the Republican Party, has become a joke. It pretends to be a party of policy. Linking the issue of Ukraine and the border is very bad and very wrong."

I just want to know from you what you think for the United States and for the defense of democracy it means to hold up aid to Ukraine as Putin is literally just sitting there salivating waiting for that to dry up?


GORE: It's incredible. You know, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, Arthur Vandenberg, the great Republican senator who had the bipartisan support for our foreign policy in World War II and the Marshall Plan. They would be aghast at what's going on.

And I have the deepest respect for the Republicans that you mentioned. But let me also say, I have respect for some of the very ultra conservative Republican senators today who have been negotiating a package to solve the border crisis and unlock the funding both for Ukraine and for Israel. And they've done what our Congress is supposed to do under the Constitution.

Regardless of political and partisan differences, put the people's interest first. Put the interest of the United States of America first. They've done that.

And now Donald Trump says, no, no, don't do that, because the worse things are, the better my chances in the election. So don't solve this crisis. Keep it going, make it even worse.

At one point he said he hopes there's a depression in the United States before the election. Really? I mean, again, I have respect for his supporters, but I have to say in all sincerity, I hope that they will take a hard look at what's going on here and listen to some of the ultra-conservative Republicans in the Senate, particularly, in the House, who are saying, wait a minute, if you balance the interest of the United States of America against this petty political desire to have a disaster to enhance the election results, that's a pretty easy choice to make, isn't it?

AMANPOUR: Really interesting. Vice president Al Gore, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us.

And up next, A.I. pioneer Mustafa Suleyman's warning about disinformation as Congress wrestles with how to stamp out deepfake lies.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

It's one of the few things Congress can actually agree on these days, criminalizing A.I. deepfake porn, which bipartisan senators are now working on after explicit images of Taylor Swift flooded the Internet.

But we've been here before as regulators struggle to keep pace with new technology. A.I. disinformation like the fake Biden robocall telling Democrats not to vote last month is making it impossible to know what's real anymore. But it also means we're starting to question what is true.

Joining me in the studio is Mustafa Suleyman. He is the co-founder of A.I. lab, DeepMind, which Google reportedly paid hundreds of millions of dollars for in 2014.

He was in the room alongside other major tech players when President Biden announced new A.I. safeguards at the White House last year, and his book "The Coming Wave" envisions an era of both great prosperity and great uncertainty.


AMANPOUR: Mustafa Suleyman, welcome to the program.

2023, let's say, has been the year of A.I. Everybody was focused on it. And by and large, it was the catastrophizing of A.I.

People are worried about the elections, first and foremost. People are worried about knowing what truth is.

What should we know right now after this year?

MUSTAFA SULEYMAN, CO-FOUNDER, DEEPMIND: Look, I think naturally whenever we encounter new technology, we initially feel anxious and we're sort of afraid. Like, what are the benefits? How is this going to affect society? What does it mean for jobs and privacy and trust?

And they're all good questions to ask, but I think in the panic and the hype, perhaps, we're sort of losing sight of the very practical, real challenges we have in just getting this to work, getting it to be useful, getting it widely available, making it cheap so that anybody can play with it and experiment.

And I think that that demonstrates that we can actually control these A.I. systems. That we aren't at the mercy of them. This is not some technology that is taking place beyond us or outside of us. This isn't, you know, an emergent effect of life.

This is a tool. This is something that we make. These are real products that we have control.

AMANPOUR: And that is precisely what people are worried about, that we actually eventually will not have control.

You have no worries about that right now, even for the -- let's say -- let's just say the American election. We've already seen a fake robocall using a Biden voice, which wasn't his.

That's scary stuff. Nobody's controlling that. SULEYMAN: Of course. Right. New technologies bring new threats. There's no question about it, and this is a new threat that we all have to grapple with. What does it mean for an A.I. to participate in the electoral process? I mean, we clearly should not have that.

For all the weaknesses of the democratic process, democracy is for humans. You know, chatbots, A.I.-generated tools, these should not be allowed to participate in the elections.

And the good news is that we actually have many, many choke points around which we can focus these kinds of policies.

All of the big tech companies provide access to these services, right? And I think it should be an obligation on them.

AMANPOUR: Another thing that people are worried about, unions are worried about is the loss of jobs to A.I. The IMF Fund says the A.I. is set to affect nearly 40 percent of all jobs.

Where does that leave people?

SULEYMAN: I think more than two-thirds of CEOs interviewed at Davos just a few weeks ago came to the same conclusion that this is fundamentally a labor-replacing technology in the long-term.

In the medium-term, over the next decade, it's going to be labor- augmenting. It will make people smarter, more productive, more efficient with their time, more accurate with their engagements in working in an everyday office or organization.


SULEYMAN: But in the very long-term, that same A.I. is going to learn to do those tasks more effectively than a regular human. And that on its face should drive an enormous amount of value. That is good for everybody.

We are going to see the most productive decade in the history of our species. We're able to do much, much more with less. The question is, how does that value get redistributed?

AMANPOUR: It looks like President Putin, he fully understands what's at stake. In his end-of-year presser, he demonstrated the dangers and he had a sort of doppelganger, A.I. version of himself. I don't know whether you saw this.


AMANPOUR: Ok. Ok. He's saying don't even think about imitating me, folks.

I mean how does that sit with you.

SULEYMAN: Well, unfortunately for him, he's got no chance because these technologies, by default, proliferate. They spread far and wide because they're useful and everybody demands them. And so, people reproduce them in open-source models, software and code

that can be reproduced for free, copied and made widely available on the Internet, right. And so, unchecked, that is the default trajectory of this technology.

And I don't think that we are in that moment right now, but I can certainly imagine a time in five years or 10 years where these tools are just so, so powerful that left unchecked, they could cause enormous instability.

AMANPOUR: Finally, I just want to ask (ph), I don't know what you think with all the headlines about Elon Musk and his brain chip that was just implanted. Is that just a vanity project or do you see that as useful?

SULEYMAN: I think it's a pretty crazy project. I think it's, you know, pretty far out, and I don't expect to see any, you know, operational devices in the next ten years.


SULEYMAN: But hard to say, you know, over 20 or 30 years, it seems quite possible. I mean we have tools around us all the time. We have hearing aids, we have glasses. You know, we wear, you know, continuous glucose monitors. We augment our body all the time, not to mention with drugs and so on. And so you can imagine this, you know, happening in the long term.

AMANPOUR: Would you get your brain chipped?

SULEYMAN: Not yet. I don't know. Probably not for many, many decades.

AMANPOUR: Mustafa Suleyman, thank you so much to you for joining us.

SULEYMAN: Thanks so much. Great to see you.

AMANPOUR: And when we come back, from my archive, with military aid for Ukraine in limbo, we rewind to the supply struggles faced by the American soldiers I met in the first gulf war.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No parts, no roll.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back.

Now we all recall America and its allies vowing to stand by Ukraine for as long as it took when Russia launched its full-scale invasion. But nearly two years into the war, the situation is bleak. Now Vladimir Putin is pressing the advantage by ramping up attacks

along the front line. With Congress in a political deadlock on military funding, time and ammunition are running out fast.

So let's rewind to 1990 in response to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, the United States and its allies amassed the largest land, air and naval force seen since World War II. That was to repel him.

But despite the immense military might, there were still frustrating supply issues for American soldiers I met before the war actually began.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three.

AMANPOUR: By the time the sun's up, the men of Bravo Company are performing their early morning routine, the start of another day that it will be full of ups and downs.

Problems begin showing up at the morning meeting. These platoon leaders have just ended a night of security and reconnaissance training. They tell their commanding officer they're running out of basics such as batteries to power their night vision equipment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can look at my night vision devices to see my (INAUDIBLE) as my wife says.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh yes, we pointed that out to them, too.

AMANPOUR: Lieutenant Bill Owen complains that military supplies and spare parts are not getting to the forward units fast enough.

LT. BILL OWEN: We've ordered and requested it and everything else. And when they do they just say, yes, yes. Right on.

AMANPOUR: Lieutenant Robert Forte (ph) says it's plaguing every level of training here right down to individual weapons maintenance. Soldiers see the sand wearing out their rifles but their spare parts haven't arrived yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a result, we go out there, and they'll try and use that weapon, it's not going to work. It will work for a few minutes then it's stop.

It's not something that really makes it feel like we're combat ready.

AMANPOUR: If there is combat, these ground forces will take the fire on the front lines. They haven't even begun full training with their armored vehicles.

More than a month after being deployed, they have yet to train with live fire and they are still another month away from conducting combat maneuvers with their Bradley fighting vehicles and M1 tanks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The maneuver training is non-existent at this time. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Big time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's important that we get our tracks out there and we're rolling with training. I need to have a feel for that and that only happens over time and experience. I don't have that now.

AMANPOUR: The mighty M1s are supposed to be Iraq's worst nightmare. They've never been battle tested and so far, their desert training consists of checking their hydraulics and their sights.

They don't move much because commanders won't risk having parts break down before they get the spares. It's the same story with the Bradleys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No parts, no roll. It's the bottom line. And with our maintenance problems being so bad, that affects our training.

AMANPOUR: Four of this company's 14 Bradleys are down so the soldiers wave happily when the first supply trucks they've seen in weeks rolls in. But for mechanics working into the night, the new parts aren't always good.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got broken wire.

AMANPOUR: While some soldiers anxiously watch and wait, others smile knowing they needed more than just a day in the sun.


AMANPOUR: U.S. deliveries sharply amped up as the threat of Saddam Hussein became clearer for the whole region.

And President George H.W. Bush back then, like President Biden today, said the illegal invasion of a sovereign state would not stand.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no justification whatsoever for this outrageous and brutal act of aggression. A puppet regime imposed from the outside is unacceptable. The acquisition of territory by force is unacceptable.

No one, friend or foe, should doubt our desire for peace and no one should underestimate our determination to confront aggression.


AMANPOUR: Of course, those words echo now down the decades and perhaps recalcitrant Republicans in Congress would do well to remember these cautionary words when it comes to stopping Putin in Ukraine.

Don't forget, you can find all our shows online as podcasts and on all other major platforms.

I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. Thank you for watching.

And I will see you again next week.