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The Lead with Jake Tapper

High Stakes Talks Between Russia And The U.S. As Fear Of War Looms; Shortage Of Workers All Across U.S. Due To Omicron; President Biden Advocating For Voting Rights; McConnell's Memo Bashes Democrats Over Election Reform; U.S. Flight And Cruises Cancellations Soar Due To COVID-19; Price Tag For U.S. Climate Disasters Spiked in 2021. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 10, 2022 - 17:00   ET




ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The Russian side warned with growing risks of confrontation, but told reporters here in Geneva that Russia has no plans to attack Ukraine while complaining that their demand, that Ukraine never join NATO is falling on deaf ears.

SERGEI RYABKOV, RUSSIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: We underscore that for us it's absolutely mandatory to make sure that Ukraine never, never ever becomes member of NATO.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): On Sunday, Secretary of State Tony Blinken told Jake that is not on the table and Russia has a clear choice.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There are two paths before us. There is a path of dialogue and diplomacy to try to resolve some of these differences and avoid a confrontation. The other path is confrontation and massive consequences for Russia if it renews its aggression on Ukraine.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Those consequences would be unprecedented, expansive economic sanctions on Russia, as well as more military assets moving into Eastern Europe and Ukraine. While both sides emerged without any real victory, discussions did move forward on other issues. Including the positioning of missiles that point at each other and how the two countries could carry out military exercises with more transparency. But it remains to be seen whether Russia is taking this diplomacy seriously or intends to invade Ukraine regardless.

ANDREA KENDAL-TAYLOR, SENIRO FELLOW & DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: We have to be prepared that Russia was using this week of diplomacy and especially the meeting with the United States as a pretext for conflict. That they very well may walk away from these discussions and declare that diplomacy has failed.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MARQUARDT (on camera): And Jake, we have just learned from numerous sources speaking to our colleagues (inaudible) and to myself that in the lead up to these talks just a few weeks ago in late December, the Biden administration released another $200 million in military aid for Ukraine. Of course, that could go way up if Russia decides to invade Ukraine. For now, the focus is on diplomacy and the talks are moving from here in Geneva to Brussels and Vienna to include more countries including talks with NATO on Wednesday. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Alex Marquardt in Geneva for us, thank you so much. CNN's Matthew Chance is live for us in Moscow. And Matthew, Russia has not taken any steps to de-escalate the situation leading up to the talks. What does the Kremlin have to say about this week's negotiations?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, it's playing down frankly, Jake, any expectations of a really solid breakthrough when it comes to this whole raft of negotiations that's being engaged in over the course of this week. It says it's got these red lines that it's put out there. It's sort of extraordinary demands.

First of all for NATO not to be expanded any further towards its borders. It sees that as a national security threat. But also for military activity to be scaled back inside countries that join NATO after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Obviously, I mean, these are the kinds of demands that are characterized as nonstarters. Not just by U.S. officials but by western officials, NATO officials in general. And so it's pretty clear at this stage after this first day of negotiations at this time taking place in Geneva that Russia is not going to get that.

But, you know, that doesn't necessarily mean that's a green light for conflict in Ukraine. There are other things that Russia could get. For instance, I think it was mentioned in that report there, there's the possibility of a compromise from the U.S. on reviving a treaty on deploying nuclear missiles inside the continent of Europe.

There's talks about the possibility of scaling back NATO military exercises and more transparency when it comes to the NATO military alliance and Russia. More discussions about that. There's also that diplomatic issue.

Remember over the past couple of years, Russia and the United States have really expelled each other's diplomats and both countries want that diplomatic relations bit to be reset so they can get a sort of proper number of diplomats working in each other's respective embassies again.

And so, it's not going to get the big maximalist demands that it's been asking for, but it might get something less than that. And that would be an achievement.

TAPPER: Matthew Chance in Moscow, thanks so much.

Joining us to discuss, State Department spokesman Ned Price. Ned, thanks for joining us. There were no breakthroughs today we're told. Does the U.S. feel any progress was made? Were these talks worth the time?

NED PRICE, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Well, Jake, there were no breakthroughs but neither did we intend for there to be any breakthroughs. This was our first opportunity to test the proposition that the Russians are serious and steadfast and sincere as we are when it comes to the diplomatic path.

You heard from Secretary Blinken yesterday. You've heard from President Biden that insofar as we consider it, there are two paths that Moscow can choose to walk. The path of diplomacy, the path of dialogue that could in our minds have the potential to lead to de- escalation or the path of defense and deterrence.


So even today, as we were starting down this path of diplomacy and dialogue, to see if we can achieve progress through reciprocal measures with the Russian federation, we're continuing to work closely with our allies, with our partners, that includes NATO, that includes our European allies, that includes our Ukrainian partners on this path of defense and deterrence, if Moscow makes clear that they have no interest in this diplomacy.

What I can say about today, it was substantive, it was frank, it was candid, it was useful, it was also eight hours. So, it wasn't for the faint of heart. We are very fortunate to have representing us Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman who, of course, is no stranger to the Russians.

TAPPER: Right.

PRICE: She's no stranger to some of the most pressing challenges we have faced and we face now. That includes Iran, North Korea and just about everything else under the sun.

TAPPER: Right. Ned, so, Secretary of State Blinken told me that Russia has a gun to Ukraine's head. Why wasn't Ukraine at the table today? Its fate is what's being discussed.

PRICE: Jake, there is a principle that for us is sacrosanct. Nothing about them without them. Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. As you know, President Biden has now had a couple opportunities to speak to President Zelensky. Secretary Blinken has had a couple of opportunities to speak to President Zelensky and to the Ukrainian foreign minister, Foreign Minister Kuleba.

We have made very clear that we are going to continue to coordinate closely, not only with Ukraine but also with our European allies and with NATO. And so Ukraine will be at the table when the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, meets later this week. But we were also very clear that today's discussions would not broach issues that pertain to exclusively Ukraine or NATO or Europe.

This was a bilateral channel. A bilateral channel between the United States and Europe --

TAPPER: Right.

PRICE: Between the United States and Russia that was set up months ago. We've met twice with the Russians in this context already. We made clear that there may be areas in terms of strategic stability where we can achieve these so-called reciprocal measures where the Russians take steps that were done positively to our collective security.

TAPPER: Right.

PRICE: To the security of the United States, to the security of Europe, to the security of Ukraine and everyone else. And steps that might help to address what the Russians have stated are their own concerns.

TAPPER: Right.

PRIE: But we are very steadfast in this principle. Nothing about them without them. That's why we've undertaken more than 100 engagements. Many of those engagements taking part from the Department of State, meetings, phone calls, teleconferences, video conferences with our European allies and our partners, of course, to include the Ukrainians.

TAPPER: One of the things, and I'm sure you've heard from the Ukrainians has to do with Nord Stream 2. That's of course the controversial pipeline designed to bring Russian natural gas to Western Europe. Now, as you know, Republican Senator Ted Cruz is pushing for a vote this week for sanctions against Nord Stream 2 saying it will give Moscow too much power.

Ukrainian President Zelensky supports Cruz's bill. Our sources tell us that the State Department is actually lobbying Democrats to not support the Cruz legislation. Why not?

PRICE: So, Jake, we have been very clear that one of the most effective if not the most effective tools we have in our arsenal when it comes to Russian aggression and that includes energy coercion, is trans-Atlantic unity. Is having a united front with our European allies, with our European partners as well against Russia.

And that's what we've been able to put together in recent months. We do not wish to do anything that would undermine that most potent tool in our arsenal when it comes to Russia's potential use of energy as a weapon. And of course, we are concerned that this amendment would do just that. So, we're very clear that we want to take steps to buttress that trans-Atlantic unity.

And let me make one other point here, Jake. The Russian -- the Germans, excuse me, have spoken in no uncertain terms that if Russia were to move forward with continued aggression against Ukraine, it would be an extraordinarily unlikely prospect that gas would flow through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. There is a lot of talk in this town and elsewhere that Nord Stream 2

is a source of leverage for Vladimir Putin. Actually, the opposite is in fact true. Nord Stream 2, there is no gas running in it right now. If the Russians want to see -- if they want to achieve their ends with Nord Stream 2, they know that invading Ukraine, continuing to egress against Ukraine is not the way to do that.

And in fact, they know that they must not do so and they've heard that very clearly from the Germans, from the United States and clearly from the trans-Atlantic community, a community that we have spoken with one voice in recent weeks and recent months.

TAPPER: But Ned, Ukraine wants the sanctions on Nord Stream 2. Why does their concern matter so little?


PRICE: Jake, I don't want to lend the impression that any Ukrainian concern isn't a concern to us. Ukraine's energy independence and energy security is a paramount concern for us. That is why we have worked concertedly with our Ukrainian partners, with our German allies to provide a green climate fund for Ukraine, to ensure that the transit fees that Nord Stream 2 would otherwise deprive them of continue.

We have taken a number of other steps to help Ukraine with this energy transition. This is -- these are steps that are aimed not only at the near term but also at the long term. Longer term over the coming years and well beyond to make Ukraine much less dependent on flows of energy, including Russian gas through Ukrainian territory. That's our ultimate goal. That's what we're working very closely with Ukraine, Germany and others on and we've made tremendous progress on that.

TAPPER: All right. State Department spokesman Ned Price, thanks so much for your time today. Appreciate it.

Life interrupted. Not enough EMT's to respond to non-urgent 911 calls. Kids taking city buses instead of school buses because so many school bus drivers are out sick. A look at the ripple effect of omicron.

Then, it is the $750 billion prediction no one wanted to come true. The price tag of climate change. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our "Health Lead," teachers, police officers, hospital staff, airport officials, just some of the 700,000 Americans testing positive for COVID every single day, meaning millions are stuck at home sick, isolating, quarantining. As CNN's Nick Watt reports, that is fueling major disruptions to everyday life and the economy.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Los Angeles, more than 60,000 schools, staff and students have tested positive in the run up to reopening. In New York, trash lies uncollected, three subway lines are closed. So many city staff are out sick.

Across Colorado, so many EMT's are out, they're now turning away some non-urgent callers. Upwards of 5 million Americans will be stuck at home over the coming days says one economist all down to the omicron tsunami.

Nearly a quarter of American hospitals are now reporting a critical staff shortage with nearly 140,000 patients in those hospitals fighting COVID-19.

PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR & DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Much of our hospital workforce is getting knocked out at home with symptomatic COVID.

WATT (voice-over): Some overwhelmed testing labs now forced to prioritize results just for the symptomatic.

HOTEZ: Diagnostic testing is in shambles. And so when you add up all of that together, we've got a very serious situation facing our nation this month.

WATT (voice-over): This country is now averaging a stunning 700,000- plus new COVID-19 infections every day. An all-time high and still rising. Thousands of schools didn't open last week after winter break due to COVID.


WATT (voice-over): Others closed to slow the spread elsewhere. Strikes because teachers want more safety measures.

UNKNOWN: I agree that the best learning happens in schools but I don't feel safe at work right now.

WATT (voice-over): One North Carolina district now telling some high schoolers to ride city buses because they are out of drivers for the yellow ones. Meantime, city bus services slashed in the likes of Washington, D.C. and Portland, Oregon. Cruises also being canceled and more than 25,000 flights canceled since Christmas due to weather and omicron.

How long might all this last? Well, Alaska Airlines has cut 10 percent of its flights through the end of January.


WATT (on camera): Now some experts are saying they think that the omicron surge may have peaked in certain areas. The northeast, for example, but that is not yet a consensus view. We just don't know. The only way we will know is with more testing and, of course, testing is also snowed under by the omicron surge. Here in Los Angeles, county officials now talking about opening new testing sites in libraries and drafting in "disaster service workers." Jake? TAPPER: All right. Nick Watt, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Let's talk about this with Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison. Commissioner Harrison, first of all, we should note you tested positive a couple of weeks ago. How are you feeling?

MICHAEL HARRISON, COMMISSIONER, BALTIMORE POLICE: Well, first of all, thank you for having me. I'm feeling great, Jake. My family travelled to our home city of New Orleans over the Christmas holidays and on the day we were supposed to return on the 28th, I believe, 27th, I began to feel symptoms and got tested the next day and tested positive.

Now, my symptoms -- my wife tested positive also, but our symptoms were very mild. Only for about three or four days and then we began to recover really quickly and then I, of course, worked remotely the next week and stayed home as a precaution, and then went back to work this past Monday. Feeling great now. So residue, no lasting side effects, but thank you.

TAPPER: Last week, your department spokeswoman said that more than 300 Baltimore police officers and other employees were quarantined because of COVID. That's roughly 12 percent of your force. How has that impacted your department and its ability to keep the citizens of Baltimore safe?

HARRISON: Well, the number is different every day. As of today it was 382 members quarantining -- 317 actually positive with 65 cases still pending the results.


We have to adjust staffing, manpower. We have to adjust it both in uniformed services and in detectives to put them back in uniform to make sure that it doesn't have a negative impact on our ability to respond to 911 calls, violent crime. We have to make sure we can still investigate and get those investigations under way and keep those investigations moving forward.

So it has affected us, but it has not come to a 911 crisis as of yet. It is costing us a lot of overtime because we have to make so many moves to make sure that it doesn't negatively affect us. So we're staying ahead of it, but it is becoming pretty critical with nearly 400 people quarantined every single day.

TAPPER: So you say it hasn't affected your ability to respond to 911 calls, but are you having to triage other kinds of calls, for instance, lesser crimes, things that, you know, like vandalism? Are you having to not report and stop crime of a lesser nature?

HARRISON: Not necessarily crime, but there are some calls that are not calls about crime, but they are all calls about quality of life issues, nuisance issues. Things that people call the police for that they probably don't have to call the police for.

Yes, we are prioritizing the non-emergency calls so that we can respond to all of the emergency calls. And so while we've moved a number of people around, we've worked on re-staffing and re-allocating all of our resources to make sure each of the nine districts are adequately staffed and prepared to respond to any kind of emergency call. We've had to prioritize the non-emergency calls so that we can deal with the emergencies.

TAPPER: So, according to a recent department data, Baltimore saw a net loss of 92 officers last year. Why is that? Are you worried that that trend is going to continue?

HARRISON: Well, last year in '21 was a unique year. We had a large number of people who had medical separations. They could not be a police officer ever again because of spinal injuries, all types of serious injuries. And there were a larger number of separations because of terminations or resignations in lieu of terminations.

When you put those two together, that number made the attrition number much larger than in previous years. We don't think that's going number the case this year, but '21 was an outlier year because of those two unique reasons.

TAPPER: All right. Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, thank you so much for your time. Glad you're feeling better, sir.

Democrats hope to vote on a key rule change that will give them what they want now, but might they pay the price later? Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our "Politics Lead," a deadline in the battle for election reform just days away. In 2021, 19 states passed a total of 34 laws that made it tougher to vote according to the progressive Brennan Center for Justice. That includes tougher voter I.D. requirements, shorter windows for applying for mail-in ballots, increasing barriers for voters with disabilities.

As CNN senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly reports, President Biden is eyeing a tougher approach to passing legacy-making election reform legislation despite two possible Democratic holdouts on changing the rules so that the bill can ultimately pass on a partisan vote.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He's quite focused on how ensuring the American people understand what is at stake here.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A White House sharpening its message.

PSAKI: The president will forcefully advocate for protecting the most bedrock American rights. The right to vote and have your voice counted in a fair, free and secure election that is not tainted by partisan manipulation.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): It launches its most aggressive push yet to unlock President Biden's agenda.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Those who stormed this capitol and those who instigated and incited, and those who called on them to do so held a dagger at the throat of America, at American democracy.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): With critical priorities frozen in the U.S. Senate, Biden shifting directly to bringing the fight to Republicans. All as he pushes to secure two Democratic votes.

PSAKI: Everyone is going to have to take a hard look at where they want to be at this moment in history as we're looking at efforts across the country to prevent people from being able to exercise their fundamental rights.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Georgia Tuesday, set to make the case for Democratic voting bills that expand voting options and implement sweeping federal changes to voting laws. All as Senate Democrats prepare to vote on both as soon as this week. But with unified GOP opposition --

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): This was the takeover that Democrats have sought for multiple years using multiple different justifications.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Only one real path forward, a change to Senate rules, one opposed by Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Being open to a rules change that would create a nuclear option, it's very, very difficult. It's a heavy lift.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Both also not on board yet with Biden's $1.75 trillion Build Back Better plan.

MANCHIN: I'm not going to talk about Build Back Better anymore because I think I've been very clear on that. There is no negotiations going on at this time.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Manchin's explosive decision to shut down those talks leaving the bill in the same limbo as voting rights. At a moment, Biden's top allies on Capitol Hill are ramping up their own pressure campaign.


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): Joe Manchin has all the cover he needs to now step away and do what we need done. And that is provided before the night a vote and I hope that the fifth vote will come along.


MATTINGLY: And, Jake, despite the public push this week from the president private calls from former presidents Clinton and Obama, private calls from Oprah urging Joe Manchin to change his mind on the filibuster. Just a short while ago, he reiterated to our colleague Manu Raju that he has not changed his mind, it is still a heavy lift. And despite Democrats clearly moving in that direction yet to try and change the Senate rules, Manchin simply is not there right now, Jake.

TAPPER: Phil Mattingly at the White House. Thanks so much.

Joining us now, California Democratic senator Alex Padilla. He previously served as California's Secretary of State. Senator Padilla, so this vote on a rules change coming up. How worried are you that any rule change could backfire when Republicans inevitably take control of the Senate again, and then they use this precedent to pass a nationwide ban on abortion or nationwide concealed carry gun laws with only 51 votes?

SEN. ALEX PADILLA (D-CA): Yes. Good to be back with you, Jake. And look, I've been hearing that question since even before I joined the Senate last year. And here's my take, I think it's worth the risk if we're able to massage the rules of the Senate to advance critical issues like voter protection, and defending voting rights, things like an aggressive climate change agenda, things like labor protections, protecting equality, and so much more than I don't worry about losing the majority in the Senate. So I do think it's worth the risk.

But let's be clear here. I think what Senator Manchin has made clear is not a wholesale change, but potentially, it's a long shot, a pathway for voting rights legislation only to advance which is so critical. You know, you had your special this last Thursday on the anniversary of the insurrection, which was based on the big lie, so shoring up the right to vote and the integrity of our elections. It's critical and it's urgent.

TAPPER: There's no indication that either Senator Manchin or Senator Sinema are willing to change the filibuster rules on this, none, zero. So, I do have to wonder about the strategy of this of Biden giving a big speech about it. Isn't he just setting up Democratic voters for disappointment which might deflate turnout in November?

PADILLA: Look, first and foremost, we got to fight for it. And that's exactly what we're doing. We're (INAUDIBLE) you're doing it very publicly, including President Biden, tomorrow in Georgia. And of course, a lot of us are involved behind the scenes as well.

And while Senator Manchin, Senator Sinema may not be there right now, you're absolutely right. That doesn't mean that we're not trying that there's not active conversations happening each and every day. That's why we haven't been very public on what the specifics of a rule change might be.

But I will share this. My colleague from us, Virginia, Senator Manchin, just like I a former State Secretary of State, he has shared with a number of our colleagues as respectful as he's been to the filibuster in the past. That means a lot to him. He understands how important our fundamental right to vote is.

And frankly, the Republican Party is nowhere near what it's been in the past. You know, the reauthorization of the Federal Voting Rights Act has been bipartisan each and every time until recent years and tonight get a Republican vote to just have a simple debate about it on the floor should tell senator Manchin a whole heck of a lot. You can't allow Republicans to obstruct progress in Washington, DC while Republican legislators or Republican governors are decimating access to the ballot in state house after state house.

TAPPER: So Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, he released a memo saying that there was record turnout in the 2020 election, which is true, and that the Voting Rights Act is still intact. And then he then said this quote, so it's appropriate to ask the question, What's going on here? I think this is an excuse to try to break the Senate. Why doesn't the Voting Rights Act go far enough?

PADILLA: Look, that's not even a good try. If he thinks why are Democrats trying to protect the right to vote at the federal level, if we had record turnout in the last election, then why are Republican governors and legislatures making it harder for eligible Americans to register to vote, stay registered to vote and cast their ballot in state after state. You can't have it both ways.

And yes, we did have record turnout in the last election. But is it right to have people wait two, four, six, eight, 10 hours in line to be able to exercise their right to vote, of course not. So the voter suppression practices that are in place around the country need to be undone and that's what we're seeking to achieve through the Freedom to Vote Act.


TAPPER: Your fellow Senator Republican Mike Rounds said this on Sunday, take a listen.


SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD): While there were some irregularities, there were none of the irregularities, which would have risen to the point where they would have changed the vote outcome in a single state. The election was fair, as fair as we've seen. We simply did not win the election as Republicans for the presidency.


TAPPER: Senator Mitt Romney just tweeted backing up Senator Rounds after Trump criticized Rounds and insulted him for making the comment. How concerned are you about this big lie loyalty test impacting this year's midterm election?

PADILLA: Good for Senator Rounds for standing up for the truth. Because what he said is absolutely true. You know, this boogeyman of voter fraud, let's get the facts straight. Voter fraud is exceedingly rare across the country, which means our current protections are working.

So when you have these changes in state law that makes it harder for eligible people to vote, it's a solution in search of a problem. So what we have in California, you mentioned my prior experiences as Secretary of State's multiple options for how to register to, all very secure, multiple options for how voters can cast their ballot including vote by mail. Also very secure.

Every eligible voter in America deserves the same option because it comes down to what we all supposedly learned in high school, Jake, our democracy works best when as many eligible people get to participate. The better the turnout, the better the outcome of the election reflects the will of the people.

TAPPER: Senator Alex Padilla from the great state of California, thanks so much. Appreciate your time, sir. It's only the second week of January but the travel industry is already facing a plane load of problems. What do you need to know before you take a trip? Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our Money Lead to taking a trip soon. Well, you might want to double check that refund policy as the Omicron variant takes off an increasing number of American travelers have been grounded since Christmas more than 30,000 U.S. flights have been canceled. Norwegian Cruise Line has docked eight of its ships with Royal Caribbean powering down for others. CNN's Pete Muntean joins us. Now Pete, how much of a hit is this variant, the Omicron variant for the travel industry?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, that shows how quickly things can change in the travel space in this new Omicron era. This is what's happening for airlines. Not only have they been hit with back to back thunderstorms of last week, but also huge numbers of employees are calling out sick because they've been either exposed to or infected with Coronavirus.

These are the latest numbers from FlightAware airlines canceled 5,300 flights nationwide between Friday and Sunday over the weekend. Another 800 cancellations today. It seems that these numbers are tapering off a little bit, but airline experts consciousness this is a really difficult thing to forecast when it comes to these crew call outs.

Southwest Airlines canceled about one in every five of its flights over the weekend. And in a new statement, it says our operation has seen steady improvement on Monday as we continue recovering from staffing challenges and severe weather that impacted several of our largest bases of operation over the past week.

Now as these airline cancellations are going up, these cruise line cancellations, sorry, cruise line cancellations are going up as airline cancellations are going down a little bit but a dozen cruise ships have been docked over the last week at major cruise lines.

Royal Caribbean just got four of its ships. It says out of an abundance of caution. That cruise line requires that passengers be fully vaccinated. But just last week, one of its ships had to turn back to Hong Kong because of a COVID scare on board. Remember that the CDC just two weeks ago advised Americans not to go on cruises, regardless of their vaccination status, Jake. TAPPER: So our most airlines cruise lines, et cetera, refunding travelers if they have to cancel trips, or should everybody be just automatically buying traveler's insurance whenever they buy a ticket?

MUNTEAN: What's so interesting here, Jake, is that travel insurance companies say they have seen inquiries go up over the last few weeks. These cruise lines are offering refunds to passengers although they say it may take as long as 45 days for folks to get their money back just because of the sheer volume of calls that they're getting right now.

Airlines may default to offering you a credit, a bit of sleight of hand on their part. Although the DOT regulations, federal regulations state that if your flight is canceled, you are owed a full refund if you do not elect to fly again.

TAPPER: All right, Pete Muntean, thanks so much. Fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, just some of the natural disasters in recent years that come with an increasingly steep price to pay. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our Earth Matters series, staggering new proof that weather and climate disasters are wreaking unprecedented havoc across the country. Hurricanes out of season tornadoes, nonstop wildfires last year, the U.S. was battered by 20 weather events, each one causing at least a billion dollars worth of damage. That's not even a record. But as CNN's Rene Marsh reports for us now the total price tag of 2021 weather damage was far higher than in previous years in both dollars and in human lives.


RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From a rare winter firestorm in historic drought, to devastating hurricanes and unusual late season, tornado outbreak, and unprecedented snow and ice, the full range of billion dollar weather disasters seen across the nation in the past 12 months is now quantified in a newly released Climate report. 2021 was deadlier than 2020 and one of the most expensive years for a billion dollar weather disasters. That's according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

Nearly 700 people died in 20 separate billion dollar disasters. That's more than double 2020 deaths. The staggering economic toll totaled $145 billion. The new data crystallizes the human and financial impact of climate change now.

DR. RACHEL CLEETUS, UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS: It's an alarm bell and it should point out why we should have taken action years ago, but now absolutely. We have to do this.

MARSH: The new report only captures the most costly disasters which is only about 80 percent of the total economic loss. Hurricane Ida, a deadly category four storm that slammed Louisiana and triggered tornadoes and flooding as far north as New York City was the most expensive costing the U.S. $75 billion.


The winter storm that froze the Deep South, including Texas last February with the second costly 24 billion, and the Western wildfires cost the U.S. 10.6 billion.

CLEETUS: We cannot adapt to runaway climate change. That's why we have to sharply curtail our heat-trapping emissions.

MARSH: In 10 years, these disasters have cost the United States just over a trillion dollars. To put this in perspective, that's double the cost of the currently stalled climate legislation. The climate provisions in the bill aimed to slash greenhouse gases by half of 2005 levels.

VICTORIA SALINAS, FEMA: And if the Build Back Better bill passes, those are all tools to make sure that we are truly leveraging our dollars and our taxpayer, dollars to have more communities be safer.

MARSH: FEMA, the Federal Disaster Response Agency is now doubling down on helping communities better prepare on the front end, issuing grants for more weather resistant infrastructure, but climate change it's also spawning unusual weather phenomenon and weather whiplash that's difficult to predict and prepare for, like this rare event in Colorado late last month, flames fueled by warmer temperatures and drought conditions and 100-mile per hour winds were smothered less than 24 hours later, by several inches of snow.

Scientists say if we don't cut emissions, the root cause of climate change we're facing a losing battle.

CLEETUS: Let's make the investments ahead of time so we're not just picking up the pieces.


MARSH: And, Jake, the other part of the devastating impact of climate change that the United States is experiencing is compounding impact of the frequency of these climate events. In the 1980s, these sort of events happened to every 82 days. Now we're talking about every 18 days. Jake.

TAPPER: Rene Marsh, thank you so much. Appreciate it. With me to discuss further CNN chief climate correspondent Bill Weir, Bill, I want to start by getting your reaction to today's reporting about the exploding costs of these severe weather events.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: It's staggering, Jake. We knew it would be bad. We didn't know it would be $50 billion more bad. We didn't know it'd be twice the number of human lives lost. And imagine all of those just shattered over these events. But sadly, this is just the beginning of these bills becoming due.

TAPPER: And the weather disaster events they're growing constantly are more frequent, but the forces caught on -- sand the forces causing them are not improving. They're getting worse. There's this new analysis by European experts, showing that the last seven years have been the warmest on record for the planet. We've never been in a more precarious climate position, it seems.

WEIR: No not at all, not at all. And not in human history. Not in all of history as it happened this suddenly. We are the volcano. We are the force that's changing this. And yes, Copernicus is sort of the EU's version of NOAA. They rank 2021 as the number five warmest of all time and La Nina, the cooling effects of the Pacific kept those numbers down and probably kept it out of the top one or two spots. NOAA is expected to put it at about number four.

But what's more alarming is that now land is heating up faster than the oceans for so long. The oceans absorb so much heat. They sort of hid the severity of this, and that's now tipping over. But what's more troubling to think about is what if these are the coldest seven years for the rest of our lives.

TAPPER: Yes. And another new report shows that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have surged back up obviously, there was a dip during the pandemic. What might that mean for President Biden's overarching climate goal to slash U.S. emissions by the end of the decade?

WEIR: It makes it so, so, so much harder. You know, he wants to have emissions of the planet cooking pollution by the end of this decade, just in eight years or so from 2005 levels. With the Build Back Better plan, he'll only get about 43 percent of the way there.

But last year, the curve went up instead of down. It went up 6 percent. We knew that would be sort of a vengeance economy with as factories roared back to life, as economies rolled back to life. What we didn't anticipate is that the United States for the first time since 2014 would burn more coal than the year before. And that's because there is no policy backstop. There is nothing to stop a utility from cutting costs when natural gas prices go up. They just revert to the dirtiest fuel of all and burn it with a vengeance there.

The Build Back Better plan though, has been chipped away at so much. It's $555 billion worth of carrots with not a lot of sticks to force it through.

Now, Joe Manchin said last week that the climate provisions there are the one thing he and others could agree on the most. Whether or not the White House breaks that often tries to do a separate climate package or tries to, you know, do it all together, remains to be seen right now.


But the bottom line is, the more of those emissions reports keep going up, the heroin price tag that we saw in Rene Marsh's piece is only going to follow.

TAPPER: All right, Bill Weir, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Coming up. Will Chicago schools be closed for yet another day as the city and teachers union struggled to reach a deal? That's next with Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, growing anger and confusion as America's schools struggle with reopening plans due to the Omicron crisis, Chicago canceling classes now for more than 300,000 students for a fourth day.