Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Federal Aid for Louisiana Approved by President Biden; Staff Abandoned Elderly People; COVID-19 Cases in Cases Now Average 160,000 Daily; Minorities Targeted by new Texas Election Law; Afghan Women Protested Against Taliban; U.S. A.G. Garland Pledge to Protect Women's Rights; Ex-Marine Sentenced Over Heinous Crime. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired September 07, 2021 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN Newsroom. And I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead. Assessing the aftermath of Hurricane Ida after issuing a major disaster declaration for counties in New York and New Jersey the president will get a firsthand look.

The fierce battle for the one province the Taliban did not claim in their march to Kabul, the leader of the resistance calling for a nationwide uprising.

And later, California's majestic sequoias have thrived for centuries. Now, fires and climate change threaten their very existence.

Good to have you with us.

Well, later today, U.S. President Joe Biden will tour the devastation left by the remnants of Hurricane Ida in New York and New Jersey. He has already approved federal aid for people severely affected by the storm in both states.

Meantime, flooding still poses a danger to areas of the Gulf Coast devastated by the hurricane. More rain and storms are in the forecast for a region that's also under a heat advisory. Nearly 500,000 utility customers face another day of scorching temperatures, without electricity.

CNN's Martin Salvage is following the recovery efforts in New Orleans, including a gruesome discovery made by the city's health department.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a pod, point of distribution, Jefferson Parish around near the airport just outside the city of New Orleans. And as you can see, what happens here is the National Guard set up. You got the Louisiana National Guard. They will basically ask you how much do you need. All right? And then

you tell them you got five family members and then you come on down the assembly line and essentially you're going to get to MREs per family member, you're going to get a box of water right here and then after that, eventually down the way something much needed, you're going to get ice.

It's an emergency drive-through. It's the basics, and people are pretty much coming here every single day. There are many of these set up all throughout the area damaged by hurricanes.

One of the big issues in New Orleans today, is talking about the situation that happened over the weekend, where the city of New Orleans and its health department began evacuating hundreds of seniors that were found in at least 10 buildings in the New Orleans area.

These are privately owned, or run by nonprofits, and primarily for elderly living. And what they found in those units were just deplorable conditions, according to the mayor. No air conditioning. People were trapped in the upper floors because the elevator didn't work. Many of the elderly relied on medical devices. They were truly suffering in the heat.

So, hundreds of them were evacuated and taken to the shelters over the weekend for the north into Louisiana. The mayor is not ruling that there could be legal ramifications for those who own the buildings, especially in case where the staff just simply left the building and left the elderly to their own resources. At least five people were found dead over the weekend, but that number continues to rise.


CHURCH: And our thanks to Martin Savidge for that report.

Meantime, Louisiana's lieutenant governor is speaking out about the hurricane evacuation that went tragically wrong. You will of course recall hundreds of nursing home residents were moved to a warehouse. We just heard that. That officials say were in deplorable conditions. Seven died as a result, with five of those deaths classify as storm related. The lieutenant governor calls the entire incident unthinkable.


LT. GOV. BILLY NUNGESSER, LOUISIANA: We're learning about the incredible number I think over 50 calls to 911 of the alarming relatives of those people cries for help. And to pack that many people into one warehouse is just unthinkable. And how can this happen after we've gone through Katrina and had those deaths in the nursing homes in and set things in place so this would never happen again.

It's just unthinkable. It's embarrassing, and I don't know what you tell the people or these loved ones that lost their family members because of these horrible conditions, and the way these people were handled.


CHURCH (on camera): The remnants of Hurricane Ida claimed dozens of lives and severely damaged homes in New York and New Jersey. Now, residents in those areas need help getting temporary housing, and making repairs.

Athena Jones has our report.



ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): New York officials and FEMA's administrator toured storm damage in hard-hit Queens Monday. As communities across the region began to put their lives and homes back together, after the devastation rocked by the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

BARBARA AMARANTINIS, RESIDENT, QUEENS, NEW YORK: If you drive around Queens, it looks like a bomb went off. Everybody's personal belongings are on the street. We just need someone to help us out.

DEANNE CRISWELL, ADMINISTRATOR, FEMA: What we saw today was absolutely heartbreaking, the amount of damage and destruction that these families have experienced.

JONES: State and federal officials say help is on the way. With President Biden is set to visit New York in New Jersey Tuesday, after approving federal disaster relief for five New York counties, and six in New Jersey, to help families and businesses repair and rebuild.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): Where at least $50 million in damages, and we anticipate the numbers to go up. But that did trigger the threshold that we are eligible to apply for a major declaration assistance.

JONES: The true extent of the storms impact is still being realized, Ida claiming the lives of at least 50 people across the region, with heartbreaking stories of loss. New York police sharing video of their attempt to rescue a Queens couple and their two-year-old, all three later found dead in their flooded basement apartment.

Two other Queens residents died when a wall in their home collapsed in the flooding. At least four died in Pennsylvania and at least 27 people lost their lives in New Jersey where Governor Phil Murphy toured flood damage, telling reporters he plans to ask the president to provide federal disaster relief to more counties.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): There were 15 other counties in New Jersey and we're in there fighting on behalf of any of those counties that were impacted.

JONES: State and local officials now focus on how to be better prepared for the next storm. By improving infrastructure, and putting better warning systems in place to alert people of the danger.

MAYOR TOM MURPHY, MAMARONECK, NEW YORK: We have seawalls that need to be raised. We have -- we have sewers that were built 100 years ago. We really need help from the federal government to get back on our feet and get ready for the future, because we can't live in communities like Mamaroneck, New York.


JONES: The federal disaster assistance to individuals and businesses includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs, and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses. Mayor Bill de Blasio is saying the city plans to send teams to go door to door in al storm affected areas to make sure people sign up for federal storm relief benefits.

Athena Jones, Queens, New York.

CHURCH: United states marked the unofficial end of summer over the weekend, but the country's COVID crisis is far from over. The U.S. is now averaging nearly 164,000 new cases each day. And the seven-day average of new cases Monday was more than 300 percent higher than Labor Day last year.

Hospitalizations and deaths are also up compared to a year ago. On average, more than 1,500 people are dying from COVID every day here in the United States. And the CDC says that number is likely to rise. The country is also in a worse position than it was at the start of summer. And that's adding new pressure on America's plans for vaccine boosters.

CNN's Nick Watt has our report.


UNKNOWN: Good morning.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Summer is over. This week in the northeast many schools start back, but ominous signs from the south, Kentucky schools opened already, and already one in five districts have closed at some point due to case counts, quarantines or just lack of stuff.

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): We have a record number of Kentuckians in the hospital battling COVID, in the ICU battling for their lives.

WATT: And they are overwhelmingly unvaccinated. South Carolina has among the lowest vaccination rates in the country, and the highest infection rate.

UNKNOWN: We'll have another uptake with the universities opening up. We'll have a further uptake where the schools not having masks on and we'll have Labor Day travel on top of this. So yes, there will be a further update.

WATT: Meantime, more data that vaccine booster shots are now necessary due to the Delta variant.

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The data from the Israeli studies are that there is a substantial diminution and protection against infection and then an unquestionable diminution in the protection against hospitalization.

WATT: With the booster that protection bounce back and then some, the plan was to start third shots here in two weeks, but it might only be Pfizer that rolls out then. Moderna is delayed by a data review.

GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R-WV): We've got people that are well beyond six months, that are 60 and older, that need a booster shot. And we can't give it to them because we're being held up by, you know, the nation and on the federal level right now.


WATT: More evidence boosters are needed. The beginning and end of summer comparison, four times the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19. Average new daily cases, up over 800 percent, back then, we were losing an average of 594 lives a day, now 1,561, the difference fewer mitigation measures and Delta.

CHRIS PERNELL, PUBLIC HEALTH PHYSICIAN: We need to rev up our gain around getting unvaccinated persons vaccinated.

WATT: Worldwide officials now are watching the Mu variant, not a threat not yet, but could partially evade the current vaccines.

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: The virus will continue to mutate until we have a level of immunity in our communities around this country and around the world.


WATT (on camera): Now Israel's health chief has been asked to address FDA vaccine advisers here in the U.S. that they're meeting next week, present more data on those boosters. But meantime, more than a quarter of eligible Americans still haven't had their first vaccine shot.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.

CHURCH: Texas Governor Greg Abbott is set to sign a controversial new election bill into law today. It restricts early voting, establishes new I.D. requirements for mail-in voting, and allows for an increased number of partisan poll watchers.

Democrats call it a blatant attempt to suppress the minority vote. Republicans claimed the new restrictions will make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is pledging to protect women's clinics in Texas that may come under attack. It's part of a Justice Department's effort to counter the state's controversial new ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

Garland plans to use the FACE Act, which stands for Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances. It prohibits the use of force, intimidation and interference outside clinics. But CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers says the effort may not be a



JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is unusual for the attorney general to need to weigh in our system, it's the courts that usually block laws that are blatantly and thoroughly unconstitutional, which this law is. So, it's really unusual for the attorney general to have to say anything.

I think it's important given the Supreme Court's refusal to block this law that he does do what DOJ can do. The problem is the FACE Act which is the act that he referenced the DOJ would be utilizing resources to enforce isn't really a good fit for this, because it's designed to stop people from blocking access to clinics, from threatening people who want abortions and abortion providers.

It's not really designed to stop people from filing lawsuits. It requires force or threat of force or physical obstruction. So, you know, I know DOJ should do what it can, the problem is that they're very cleverly drafted this law so that the FACE Act doesn't really apply very well to it.


CHURCH (on camera): Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the Texas abortion ban from going into effect.

Still to come this hour, on patrol with the Taliban in the streets of Kabul, how life is changing for the millions of people in Afghanistan's capital.



GRADY JUDD, SHERIFF, POLK COUNTY, FLORIDA: He just explain that they begged for their life, and that he shot and killed them anyway.


CHURCH (on camera): This former marine is accused of killing four people he didn't know, including a three-month-old baby. You will hear what he told police about the shootings.



CHURCH (on camera): America's most senior diplomat is sitting down with top officials in Qatar, a country that played a key role in the massive evacuation efforts in Afghanistan. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, along with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are now meeting with Qatar's foreign minister and defense minister. They are discussing future relations with Afghanistan, and how they will respond to the new Taliban rule.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the Taliban appear closer to announcing a new government. With a spokesman saying that that will likely come in a few days. The Taliban also claim they have taken control over the final stronghold of resistance, the Panjshir province. But the leader of the National Resistance Front, an anti- Taliban group, says the fight is not over yet. And he is calling on Afghans to join a national uprising.

And we are now learning the U.S. helped four American citizens flee Afghanistan overland. A State Department official says it's the first time that has happened since that withdrawal of U.S. troops one week ago.

So, a lot to cover here. And CNN's Anna Coren has covered Afghanistan for years. She is following all of these developments and joins us live with the very latest. Good to see you, Anna.

So, I do want to start with these street protests underway right now in Kabul, brave women getting out there on the streets, stating their case to live their lives freely. Talk to us about what you are learning about these protests, and how the Taliban is likely going to respond to them?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's a very interesting point, Rosemary. Because we don't know how the Taliban is going to respond. Looking at the images coming to us from Kabul, some of these Taliban militants are looking quite overwhelmed.

On the weekend, we saw those protests of a handful of women, and it was brutally put down. You know, the Taliban hit out a number of those women. Today, Rosemary, we are seeing thousands of people take to the streets, not just women, but also men. Speaking out against these Taliban leadership, speaking out against the Pakistanis.


There is a feeling that the Pakistanis are meddling very heavily in Afghanistan's affairs. You hear chats of supporting the people of Panjshir, which is this last stronghold, if you like, of the resistant movement, that anti-Taliban movement, the National Resistance Front which has now fall into the Taliban.

But we're hearing from its leader Ahmed Masoud saying he wants there to be a national uprising. Perhaps that is what we are seeing now on the streets of Kabul, the images coming to us are really quite extraordinary. There are women who are yelling at these Taliban fighters just wearing a hijab, telling them that we will not be oppressed. We will not be put down.

You know, so much has changed in Afghanistan in the last 20 years. These women are educated. They speak out. They know what their rights are. They are refusing to go back to the dark ages. We saw protest in the north of the country in Mazar-i-Sharif yesterday where women were saying we need to be part of the government. The Taliban has explicitly said that will not be taking place, there will be no women in high-profile positions, no women part of the cabinet.

Mazar-i-Sharif we're hearing that protest are happening again today. Now if these takes place around much of the country, what is the Taliban going to do, Rosemary? I mean, there are plenty of journalists, there are plenty of cameras there. There are plenty of people just with phones, you know, putting this on social media. The eyes of the world are watching what is taking place in Kabul right now. Perhaps, this is a first true test of how the Taliban is going to handle this very precarious situation.

CHURCH: And as you say, with the eyes of the world watching. And we will continue to watch this too. Anna Coren, many thanks. Bringing us the very latest on those very brave women out on the streets in Kabul. I appreciate it.

Well, in Florida, a former marine charged with fatally shooting four people he didn't know, including a baby is being held without bond. Thirty-three-year-old Bryan Riley told police that God told him to do it.

CNN's Randi Kaye is following the story from Lakeland in Florida, and a warning the details in her report are disturbing.


JUDD: He's evil in the flesh. He was a rabbit animal.

RANDI KAYE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Polk county Sheriff Grady Judd is talking about a 33-year-old ex-marine who is now charged with killing four people in a horrific predawn shooting.

LIBERTY ULRICH, NEIGHBOR: It was just, yes, it's continuous, pop, pop, pop, pop.

KAYE: It happened about 4.30 in the morning Sunday at this house in Lakeland, Florida.

JUDD: In the main house, we discovered a man, a woman and an infant and the mother's arms, all shot to death.

KAYE: Authorities say the baby boy was just three months old also dead, the baby's 62-year-old grandmother who was hiding in her closet in another house on the property. The family dog, also shot and killed. When deputies arrived, there was a shootout involving dozens, maybe even hundreds of rounds, says the sheriff. Windows doors were left riddled with bullet holes. And deputies heard a woman scream and a baby whimper.

JUDD: He was a coward.

KAYE: Investigators say the suspect was wearing body armor, but surrendered after he was shot.

JUDD: And it would have been nice if he'd to come out with a gun, and then we'd have been able to read a newspaper throwing but when someone chooses to give up, we take them into custody peacefully. If he missed the opportunity, we will shoot him a lot.

You see it's easy to shoot innocent children and babies and people in the middle of the night when you got the gun and they don't. But he was not much of a man.

KAYE: When deputies finally got inside, they discovered the bloody scene. Along with an 11-year-old girl who had been shot multiple times, but is expected to recover. Investigators say it does not appear the shooter knew his victims.

ULRICH: That's the scary part for me, since it was random, I'm literally the next driveway and it could've been -- it could've have been me and my family.

KAYE: The suspect now faces four charges of murder, as well as other charges, including attempted murder. The sheriff says the suspect told them he was a survivalist, and high on meth, and this terrifying detail.

JUDD: He just explained that they begged for their life, and that he shot and killed him anyway.

KAYE: The suspect served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was a designated sharpshooter. His girlfriend told investigators the suspect recently started to believe he was communicating with God.


JUDD: She said he had PTSD, I've seen him depressed, and he said, you know, God spoke to him and now, he can talk directly to God. And she said I've never seen that kind of behavior.

KAYE: According to the criminal affidavit the suspect told authorities voices and God told him to do it. He allegedly said he shot the infant because I'm a sick guy, adding, I want to confess all of it and be sent to jail.


KAYE: What makes this even more bizarre is that investigators say the suspect actually came here on Saturday night hours before the shooting. He confronted a couple of people on the front lawn. He told them that God was speaking to him, according to what the sheriff said. And that he knew of someone named Amber who was here, who is going to take her life.

The people on the laws said there's nobody here by that name. We're going to call the police. Go away. This isn't true. You can't communicate with god. He apparently got so angry he drove closer to home near Tampa, Florida about 45 minutes away, and then returned nine hours later, and killed the people that he had met on the front lawn along with others inside this house.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Lakeland, Florida.

CHURCH: A three-year-old boy who went missing in rural Australia on Friday has been found unharmed.


UNKNOWN: (Inaudible) stable --


UNKNOWN: Stable. I got the boy.


CHURCH (on camera): Hundreds of authorities and volunteers organize an extensive three-day search for young A.J., a police helicopter finally spotted him on Monday, drinking water from a creek in rugged bush land about half a kilometer from his home. A.J. is reportedly autistic and nonverbal. His father says A.J. has a few scrapes, ant bites, and a diaper rash, but is otherwise OK. It's a happy ending there.

Well, emergency pandemic assistance runs out for the U.S., but that's just one of President Biden's worries at home and abroad. September is set to be his busiest, and most crucial month yet in office. What's at stake? Just ahead.

Plus, thousands of people on the run from the Taliban forced into filthy refugee camps outside the Afghan capital.

You're watching CNN Newsroom.



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Welcome back everyone. Well, U.S. President Joe Biden is suddenly facing rising challenges on multiple fronts. And it all comes with his approval ratings falling sharply.

CNN's Phil Mattingly reports on what the president is up against at home and overseas.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Biden is set to return to Washington at the start of a critical month. His administration is facing a series of major crises, from natural disasters in a foreign policy crisis to a resurgent pandemic, and critical hurdles to his sweeping legislative agenda, a president facing the ultimate test.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, landing Monday in Doha.


MATTINGLY: As the U.S. grapples with more than 100 American citizens on the ground in Afghanistan.

BLINKEN: We're going to find ways to get them, the ones that want to leave, to get them out of Afghanistan.

MATTINGLY: The U.S. facilitating the departure of four Americans through an overland route, according to a senior State Department official. But with reports of some Americans stuck at an airport ready to depart, concerns on Capitol Hill about what happens next.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): You're not allowed to leave. We know the reason why is because the Taliban want something in exchange.

MATTINGLY: A persistent headache for a president facing a tangible dip in approval over the last several weeks. Numbers on the economy and handling of the pandemic, dropping alongside. The driving factor, the dramatic surge in COVID cases. Average daily cases up more than 1000 percent compared to the level on July 4th.

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: The first thing we have to do, we can't be having 150,000 new infections per day. That's pandemic numbers. That's the first thing we've got a crack that one right away.

MATTINGLY: White House officials saying Biden plans to lay out more aggressive steps in response in the days ahead. Keenly aware of the direct correlation to a robust economic recovery that is now showing signs of slowing in the latest jobs report.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I know people were looking, and I was hoping for a higher number.

MATTINGLY: The U.S. adding 235,000 jobs in August, a major drop off for more than the 1 million in July. Driven in large part by hospitality, services and retail industry sharply affected by the pandemic.

BIDEN: There's no question that the Delta variant is why today's job report isn't stronger.

MATTINGLY: All, as millions face the loss of pandemic emergency unemployment benefits.

BLINKEN: We have more unfilled jobs in this country than any time on the record of measuring unfilled jobs. So we think the jobs are there, and we think the states have the resources they need to move people from unemployment to employment.

MATTINGLY: And as President Biden ramps up his aggressive approach on the pandemic, expected parallel effort, White House officials say in ramping up their pressure to get the president's domestic agenda passed through Congress. Over the course of the last several weeks, White House officials, their counterparts on Capitol Hill have been working feverishly to draft the details of the president $3.5 trillion expansion of a social safety net. That's moving in tandem with a $1.3 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. The White House, and their counterparts on Capitol Hill want both

across the finish line as soon as the end of this month. That is certainly an aggressive timetable. That's one White House officials want to stick to. There's a recognition inside the White House, inside the West Wing that for their purposes, their agenda, their legislative agenda and what they can do in that agenda in terms of reshaping the economic piece of the country going forward is critical, perhaps, the most critical issue aside from COVID. Both, will be a focus in the weeks ahead.

Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: To Afghanistan now, the Taliban spokesman says women are back at work in both health care and education. And more occupations will be added soon, that life in the capital has changed dramatically, compared to just one month ago. Lindsey Hilsum from the U.K.'s "Channel Four" news has this report.


LINDSEY HILSUM, U.K.'S CHANNEL FOUR NEWS (voice over): Taliban fighters in Kabul, freshly arrive from their victory in the Panjshir Valley. The cruise the streets and rule the roost. Young bucks with newly acquired American weapons. It's their moment, their city, their country.


This morning, they raise the Taliban flag in the Panjshir provincial capital. They've defeated the last resistance. The late warlord Ahmad Shah Massoud, the lion of the Panjshir looks down from the walls of the provincial governors of this as the Talibs celebrate. Back in the 1990s, the Taliban never defeated his militia. But today, they say they vanquished fighters under the command of his son.

At a hospital run by the Italian NGO Emergency, the wards are full of injured people. A few years back, (inaudible) was paralyzed by a stray bullet. He himself was one of a few people wounded in a crossfire, as the Taliban entered Kabul three weeks ago.


HILSUM: But the legacy of conflict is poverty. About 600 families who fled their homes in the provinces are surviving in a filthy field on the outskirts of the capital. Abdul Malik and his family fled backland after his home was blown off in fighting.


HILSUM: Everyone wants to tell me their story. No food, no work, sons killed. Five million Afghans have been displaced into decades of war. The U.N. says 18 million, nearly half of the population, will need humanitarian assistance this year. Some people here have fled war, others had fled poverty, but most have

fled both. They have lives and terrible deprivation. This camp was bigger about a week ago because some people feel that they could now go home because the war has over. But the people I've been speaking to say they don't dare go home. And although violence may now be decreasing, because of the terrible economic problems that the Taliban is facing, poverty is only going to get worse, and the humanitarian needs greater than ever.

Yesterday, the head of the U.N. humanitarian agency flew to Kabul to meet the Taliban.

MARTIN GRIFFITHS, U.N. HUMANITARIAN CHIEF: I think they were surprised that they are where they are today. I think we're going to get quite difficult questions of their capacity to rule, in terms of humanitarian issues in the coming weeks. I came here 23 years ago to negotiate the same issues with the Taliban in Kabul in 1998. They're different now clearly from then, they're making the right (inaudible), they are making commitments.

HILSUM: But some people say by doing all this, you just normalizing these people, and it should not be normalized.

GRIFFITHS: Humanitarians don't normalize. Humanitarian community does not recognize. Humanitarian communities focused on one thing and one thing alone, and that's delivering to the people in need, what they need, at the right time.

HILSUM: Every day, hundreds of people crowd around the banks. They are not getting salaries, and can only withdraw a limited amount from their savings. The middle class are becoming poor, and the poor are becoming destitute.


HILSUM: The Taliban are enjoying themselves, but running a country is not the same as winning a war. And forcing your ideology young people won't feed their families will soon find out what really matters to Afghanistan's new rulers.


CHURCH: Lindsey Hilsum, with that report. Well, the world's medical experts issue an urgent call to action. They say the climate crisis is making us sicker, and time is running out to do something about it. That's just ahead.



CHURCH: Welcome back. Well, hundreds of medical journals have published a united call for action on climate change. The editorial points to establish links between the climate crisis and a wide range of adverse health effects over the past 20 years. It warns the scientists unequivocal, a global increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, above the preindustrial average, and a continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.

The editorial says, current climate action is insufficient, and that despite the world's necessary preoccupation with COVID-19, we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions. Well, for more, we are joined by Dr. Fiona Godlee, she is the editor in chief of the British Medical Journal. Thank you doctor for being with us.


CHURCH: So this united call for action on climate change comes from doctors and scientist in this joint editorial, asking officials to do more to address global warming, because it is causing serious health issues. But no one appears to be listening. With most leaders, of course, focus on the COVID pandemic right now. How do you draw more attention to this issue during a pandemic like this, and just how serious is?

GODLEE: Well, thank you. I think that the purpose of this editorial which is an unprecedented event in clinical medical academics history it's to curb more than 200 medical journals contributing, they're willing to publish the same editorial and really calling on governments to take urgent and fundamental action as you say, because what's being done at the moment or planned at the moment is not adequate. We've timed it to coincide with United Nations' general assembly, where countries will be gathering to make their plans for their contributions, the discussions at the COP26 meeting in Glasgow in November.


So the aim is to really try influence those delegates and to inform the public in general about the severity of the situation. And that doctors around the world and clinical academics around the world are deeply concerned that a less major fundamental changes are made to the way that we live. That 1.5 degrees centigrade increase in temperature will overshoot, and we will be in to catastrophic, irreversible climate change.

CHURCH: So let's talk more about these health issues that the joint editorial warns about. Establishing a link between the climate crisis and serious health issues. What's sort of diseases are we talking about here? And what is that unequivocal signs that they point to?

GODLEE: Well so, to the types of disease we are already seeing or increases in death and early death and ill health are sort of things you would have heard about increases in lung and heart disease, obesity, dementia, cancer, damage to pregnancy, and the development of the young children and problems with increases in mental health.

These are all things that are very well documented around air pollution. And then we've got the problem of extreme heat, which in some parts of the world is making, you know, life almost un-survival. You can't work in those kind of temperatures and people are dying in greater number. And then you've got the broader issues that climate change, climate

emergency is bringing which are things like the floods in New York, the floods in Germany, the fires in western and North America, in Australia and Greece. And these are events that are increasing in scale and in frequency. And we also are seeing conflict over fertile land, and water resources which are causing a large number of people to be displaced from their homes and refugee crisis are another pressure that the world is having to absorb. So it's not just diseases in the kind of a purely medical sense. It's major disruption to people's lives and risk to their lives.

CHURCH: And the editorial, the joint editorial in this medical journals, points out that current climate action is insufficient. So, what more do governments, private enterprise, and of course individuals need to be doing to stop this increase in temperature of planet earth?

GODLEE: Well, I think a lot of the efforts to bring us to net zero as a world by the mid-century are focused on shifting from dirty fossil fuel driven technology, to cleaner sustainable technologies. And that's very good but it's by no means going to be sufficient. There are ort of things that will be needed to bring that temperature rise below the 1.5 degrees centigrade. Will be things like rethinking our cities, our housing, our transport. Rethinking our health systems work. Rethinking how financial markets work. And really radically changing the way in which we live.

And that the benefits of that, I think we shouldn't forget, will be more, you know, better lives in many ways, if we can get that right to a greener spaces, more equitable societies, better diets, better housing and better communities, compared to many of the illnesses of society that we currently face.

CHURCH: Yes. It is certainly a huge challenge. Dr. Fiona Godlee, thank you so much for talking with us. We appreciated it.

GODLEE: Thank you.

CHURCH: And still to come, we will explain how climate change is threatening California's ancient and massive sequoias trees. We're back in just a moment.



CHURCH: Actor Michael K. Williams there, most famous for his role as Omar Little on "The Wire" has died at the age of 54. Williams was best known for his work in television, including shows like Boardwalk Empire, and most recently Love Craft Country. Authorities found Williams dead in his home on Monday, with drug paraphernalia near his body. The award winning actor had spoken openly about his struggle with substance abuse in the past. Celebrities and fans have taken to social media to praise the complexity and humanity Williams brought to his role. An investigation into the cause of his death is ongoing. Well a massive wildfire that has burned through northern California

this year have not only threatened life and property, but also one of the world's great natural treasures, sequoias.

As Stephanie Elam reports these ancient and massive trees are more vulnerable than ever to fires, thanks to climate change.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): From their size --

UNKNOWN: General Sherman is 275 feet tall. Holy cow.

ELAM: To the longevity --

CLAY JORDAN, SUPERINTENDENT SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS: Before ancient Rome, before Christ, I mean these trees were mature.

ELAM: Much about giant sequoias trees is on a grand scale, with that distinctive red brown bark, covering their thick trunks, sequoia trees can only be found in California Sierra Nevada Mountains.

JORDAN: This is a resilient tree. They are tough. Almost nothing can kill them.

ELAM: But climate change is changing that. Shrinking the giant sequoias footprint.

UNKNOWN: A giant that sequoias that was first we can buy drought was then subject to impact by the (inaudible) which then further weaken the tree and potentially made it more susceptible to mortality from fire.

ELAM: The statutory said to be the 5th largest tree in the entire world. It has lived more than 3,000 years. And yet, we're seeing that wildfire is threatening these giant sequoia's more than ever before.

JORDAN: The castle fire was a (inaudible). It is estimated 7500 to 10,600 trees were destroyed in that one fire alone.


ELAM: Started by lightning in August 2020, the castle fire was part of the sequoias complex that burned more than 174,000 acres, scorching several sequoias grows.

UNKNOWN: It was devastating, heartbreaking. Everything had been incinerated. It was a field of the world's largest burnt up toothpicks.

ELAM: After decades of suppressing forest fire, other trees in brush have grown rapidly around the sequoias.

SAM HODDER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, SAVE THE REDWOODS LEAGUE: The fires that used to burn every 5 to 10 years in the sierra would just keep down the competition and reduce the fuel naturally. ELAM: On land owned by the Save The Redwoods League, we hiked out to

see just how deadly the castle fire was here.

TIM BORDEN, SAVE THE REDWOODS LEAGUE: For us to see 10 to 14 percent of the total of giant sequoias alive killed in one year, in one fire is -- there's nothing you can compare that to.

ELAM: Yet fire in and of itself, is not the enemy of the giant sequoias.

UNKNOWN: The cones open up, their seeds start to germinate after a fire.

ELAM: So near those lost giants, where the fire wasn't too intense, small shoots of hope take root.

BORDEN: When I see there's a lot of these little baby giant sequoias that have sprouted up since the fire happened --

ELAM: Without an urgent response to the climate crisis, and increased forest maintenance, experts worry, more of the once seemingly impervious sequoias will be lost.

UNKNOWN: The biggest worry for me is we have two fires burning right now that are threatening growths that we haven't been not able to treat. The risk is still there.

ELAM: Stephani Elam, CNN, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.


CHURCH: and thanks so much for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. I'll be back with more news in just a moment.