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U.N. Taking Note of Afghanistan's Dire Situation; Secretary Blinken Defended U.S. Exit from Afghanistan; Taliban Deprive Women's Rights; U.S. Looking at Israel for Booster Guidance; Hurricane Nicholas Battered Texas. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired September 14, 2021 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead here on CNN Newsroom, the global appeal to help a war-torn nation. Afghans now facing political upheaval in addition to hunger and poverty.

Meantime, America's top diplomats forced to answer tough questions on Capitol Hill about the chaotic withdrawal and the aftermath.

And warnings that climate change could create a migration emergency. A new report predicts a warming planet could force tens of millions from their homes.

Thanks for being with us.

Well, the U.N. secretary general is warning that the people of Afghanistan are facing the collapse of their entire country all at once. Antonio Guterres delivered the assessment during a donor conference that raised more than a billion dollars for Afghanistan.

The World Food Programme estimates 14 million Afghans are on the brink of starvation. Guterres says food could run out by the end of this month, and an economic collapse would create a mass exodus threatening the stability of the entire region.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: My appeal to the international community is to find ways to allow for an injection of cash in the Afghan economy, allowing the economy to breathe and avoiding the collapse that would have devastating consequences for the people of Afghanistan.

If we want to protect the human rights of the people of Afghanistan, the best way is to move on with humanitarian aid and engage the Taliban and take profit of that humanitarian aid to push for those rights to be implemented. Let's have no illusion. We're not trying to transform Afghanistan into

Sweden or Switzerland. But we know that there are a number of basic rights that is essential to implement, and they are in the center of our engagement with the Taliban.


CHURCH: Even before the Taliban takeover, 18 million people, about half of Afghanistan's population, depended on aid. Severe drought, the lack of cash, and years of conflict will only make the crisis worse. UNICEF says at least one million children could die of severe malnutrition without treatment.

About $200 million of the pledge money is earmarked for the U.N. World Food Programme. The organization found 93 percent of these 1,600 Afghans surveyed in August and September were not getting enough to eat.

Well, Babar Baloch is the spokesman for the U.N. high commissioner for refugees. He joins us now from Islamabad. Thank you so much for talking with us.


CHURCH: So, in the wake of these dire warnings from the U.N. chief about Afghanistan facing economic collapse, food shortages, a mass exodus, what are the immediate needs for aid, and can the funds pledged at that donor conference help turn this around in time do you think?

BALOCH: Indeed. I mean, the consequences of non-action in Afghanistan in terms of humanitarian support could be just unimaginable. We are reaching a point where Afghans are now really, really stretched in terms of their coping mechanisms. We are talking about 3.5 million Afghans that have been displaced inside their country, more than 630,000 during this year.

This number includes 80 percent of women and children, and those needs are huge and they are mounting day by day. So, all the pledges now need to turn into real cash and they need to materialize in terms of providing the humanitarian assistance.

You heard the warnings and we have been trying to highlight this again and again to the world, that stay engaged, stay focused inside Afghanistan. Don't leave Afghans or Afghanistan at this critical juncture.

CHURCH: Yes. A very important point, because pledges are one thing, reality of that money turning up. That is indeed another.


And of course, the World Food Programme estimates that 14 million Afghans are on the brink of starvation, so how do you organize and aid it on that massive scale? And what role would you expect the Taliban to play in the midst of all this? BALOCH: Yes. For us as humanitarians that effort should have started

a long time ago. It's not too late. We can still kind of work together with the international communities with the local authorities on the ground and also in the region as well.

I'm talking to you from Islamabad in Pakistan, and Islamabad here what we have seen is that authorities, even before this crisis, Pakistan is a country that have been hosting 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees. They are also trying to contribute to efforts in terms of getting in aid through my organization, UNHCR. We have been taking supplies through to Pakistan's border point in terms of trucks going in with all essential supplies.

That effort needs to be strengthened. We need to see that logistics support in terms of supplies getting in through. But as you mentioned, Afghans inside the country are not sure if they're going to get their meal of the day, or their first or the second meal of day today yes or no. And tomorrow could be seen. I mean, they must be worried if they are not getting it today, what about tomorrow?

I mean, Afghanistan is a population of 40 million. Eighteen million of those were already relying on humanitarian assistance, and that situation is getting dire day by day.

CHURCH: Yes, absolutely. And of course, if food and other aid doesn't arrive in time or get distributed equitably, and if the economy collapses, what would be the impact of all of this, as well as a mass exodus in the region?

BALOCH: Exactly. I mean, a collapse of the economy and social infrastructure, social services can be avoided. It must be avoided otherwise we could see the consequences in terms of Afghans who are just going through so much uncertainty right now. They're just not sure what's going to happen in their country tomorrow.

So, we are fearing that if that support in terms of humanitarian need is not there, it is a collapse of the economy and in social services. Afghans could try to find safety, security, somewhere else. So far, we have not seen that refugee exodus. I have been to the border points. I was in Pakistan, southwest of province of Balochistan when Pakistan's border with Afghanistan we see the usual back-and-forth movement. We have not seen the live number of refugees so far, they bring in every countries and beyond.

CHURCH: Babar Baloch, thank you so much for talking with us. We do appreciate it.

Well America's top diplomat is facing Republican calls to resign over the Biden administration's handling of Afghanistan. But Antony Blinken is defending the military withdrawal, calling it a choice between ending the war or escalating it.

CNN's Kylie Atwood has the details.


REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY): Secretary Blinken --

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER (voice over): Facing fierce bipartisan criticism, Secretary of State Tony Blinken defending the Biden administration's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There is no evidence that staying longer would've made the Afghan Security Forces or the Afghan government any more resilient or self-sustaining if 20 years and hundreds of billions of dollars in support, equipment, and training did not suffice, why would another year, another 5, another 10?

ATWOOD: And how it was done.

BLINKEN: The evacuation itself was an extraordinary effort, under the most difficult conditions imaginable, by our diplomats, by our military, by our intelligence professionals.

ATWOOD: But Republicans on the House foreign affairs committee weren't buying it.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): This was an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions. I never thought in my lifetime that I would see an unconditional surrender to the Taliban.

ATWOOD: Blinken also received critical questions from Democratic lawmakers about what could have been done better, although the evacuation of more than 124,000 people from Afghanistan was one of the biggest airlifts in history, it was marked by chaos and the death of 13 American servicemembers.

MEEKS: Now are there things the administration could've done differently? Absolutely yes, as always.

ATWOOD: At times the hearing became a partisan battle. Democrats pointing their fingers back at the Trump administration's Afghanistan policies.


ATWOOD: Accusing Republicans of relying on selective memories.


REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): I'm going to assert that the events of August 14th had a direct antecedent with the bad decision by President Trump and Secretary Pompeo in 2018 to elevate and legitimize the Taliban in Doha, Qatar by agreeing that face to face negotiations.

ATWOOD: Blinken agreed that the Trump administration official did strike the deal with the Taliban, forcing the U.S. exit.

BLINKEN: We inherited a deadline. We did not inherit a plan.

ATWOOD: And now the Biden administration must decide how to work with the Taliban, which is now in control of the country, and how to defend against any potential terrorist threats emerging in Afghanistan without U.S. troops, diplomats, or intelligence officials in the country.

BLINKEN: We lost some capacity, for sure, and not having those boots on the ground in Afghanistan, but we have ways and we are very actively working on that to make up for that, to mitigate for that, to make sure that we have eyes on the problem, to see if it reemerges in Afghanistan.


ATWOOD (on camera): Now Secretary Blinken repeatedly commended the State Department officials who have worked on this evacuation effort, and many lawmakers echoed him in doing the same. But there are still questions about the continuation of these evacuations from Afghanistan. There are about 100 Americans still in Afghanistan that are in touch with the United States State Department.

And Secretary Blinken heard from lawmakers who are urging the department to continue to work with private individuals and nongovernment organizations who are trying also to get these Afghans and Americans out of Afghanistan. We are waiting for details as to how that partnership will work out.

Kylie Atwood, CNN, the State Department.

CHURCH: The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights warns Afghanistan is now entering a new and perilous phase. Michelle Bachelet says in addition to a worsening humanitarian and economic crisis, the Taliban are now reneging on their promises.

One major concern, the slow removal of Afghan women from public life. In some parts of the country Bachelet says they are being prohibited from appearing in public spaces without a male chaperone.

CNN's Arwa Damon joins us now live from Istanbul. Good to see you, Arwa.

So, a lot of women activists warned about this being the likely outcome. What is the latest on the situation for Afghan women right across the country?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Quite difficult to put into words, Rosemary, especially given the relative freedoms that they have been able to enjoy over the last 20 years. Many women are afraid to go out into the streets, and many of them are fully believing right now that no matter what the Taliban may have said when it took power the rules aren't going to be all that different than they were when the Taliban was last in power 20 years ago.

And that is something along the lines of no rule for women in public life, no access to an education, no ability to even go outside without some sort of a male chaperone, and this is exactly what so many, not just women rights activists in Afghanistan but elsewhere had been warning about, the dialing back of these basic rights when it comes to girls and women. But what is of great concern also is this mixed messaging that is

coming from the Taliban. You know, you had one of the top Taliban political leaders in Mazar-i-Sharif just a few days ago saying, you know, the rules haven't changed. We are governing the exact same way we were 20 years ago.

And this is not just an issue for women. This is broadly speaking an issue for the entire population when it comes to upholding specific human rights. Here is more of what the U.N. high commissioner for human rights had to say.


MICHELLE BACHELET, U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: Although the Taliban has issued public statements referring to grant amnesty to former security personnel and civil servants, prohibiting house to house searches and assuring women's rights under Islamic law. Information that we have cross checked to the extent possible, in which we assess to be well founded indicates that practice on the grounds has often contradicted these stated commitments.


DAMON (on camera): And, Rosemary, we also have reports of journalists who believe that they would be allowed to do their jobs being beaten up. There are also reports and some images that have been coming out reporting to show members of the Taliban beating women as they are going out to protest.


The great concern, though, is, rosemary, what is the international community, what are global leaders actually going to do about these violations? And the fear is that given America and other allies eagerness to get out of Afghanistan, they will be willing to turn a blind eye to these serious human rights violations as long as the Taliban does ensure that there is no security threat posed to the west from Afghan territory and makes the most minimum, enforces the bare minimum of improvements on the way that it ruled 20 years ago.

CHURCH: Yes. Arwa Damon bringing us the latest on the situation in Afghanistan from her vantage point there in Istanbul. Many thanks.

And still to come, the U.S. is looking to Israel for guidance on COVID booster. What Israel has to say about containing the pandemic, that's next.

Plus, Hurricane Nicholas has made landfall in Texas. We will have the latest on the impact it's having there and where it might go next. We are back in just a moment.


CHURCH (on camera): China is taking drastic measures to fight a growing coronavirus outbreak. More than eight million people across two cities will be forced to undergo testing in the coming days. Chinese state media is reporting that the outbreak fueled by the Delta variant is severe and complicated as it's centered around schools.

The U.K. has now approved COVID vaccinations for children aged 12 to 15. The move was recommended by the U.K.'s top medical officers in an effort to keep students safe at school. Eligible children will be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine with opportunities to get their first shot in school starting next week.

Here is what the U.K.'s chief medical advisor had to say on the benefits of vaccinations.


CHRIS WHITTY, U.K.'S CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER: It will reduce our education instruction. We did not think that this was a panacea, this is not (Inaudible), this is not a single thing that on its own will do so, but we think it is an important and potentially useful additional tool to help reduce the public health impacts that come through educational disruption.


CHURCH (on camera): Meantime, the U.S. still hasn't decided whether it will approve vaccine boosters for wide public use. The Food and Drug Administration will meet with Israeli scientists on Friday to find out about Israel's experience with administering booster shots.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has more from Tel Aviv.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We can and we will turn the tide and COVID-19.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Biden anxious like all of us to get out of this pandemic. And to do that, he and his top health advisers are looking --


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: When you look at the Israeli data, and they are about a month or so ahead of us in every aspect of this --

COHEN: -- to Israel. At the beginning of the year, the vaccination rollout started much more quickly in Israel than in the U.S.

Dr. Ran Balicer is chair of Israel's COVID-19 national expert advisory panel.

RAN BALICER, CHAIRMAN, ISRAEL COVID-19 NATIONAL ADVISORY PANEL: By the end of May Israel thought it was out of the woods.

COHEN: But even with the rigorous vaccination campaign, a dual threat arrived this summer. The delta variant posed a challenge to the vaccine, and at the same time, the Israeli say protection from the vaccine has started to wane overtime, becoming less effective. Cases in Israel, now higher per capita than in the U.S., and that made

Israel move quickly. They started administering booster shots August 1st. In the U.S., the FDA and the CDC are still reviewing boosters.

Up until the booster shots, Israel waited for the FDA and for the CDC to chime in, but you guys offered boosters without the FDA and the CDC chiming in.

BALICER: I think there was a different level of urgency felt in the two countries. Decisions by the FDA have been made, and we could have followed them. But in the situation that we were at, it was obvious that action was needed urgently. Decisions need to be made.

COHEN: Balicer and other Israeli health officials are in constant contact with U.S. health officials, sharing their data on COVID-19 after boosters.

BALICER: With the third dose they are much better protected against severe illness. So, this is one reason to go through with a booster campaign.

COHEN: Now, while hospitalizations are skyrocketing in the U.S., the number of severe cases in Israel has plateaued recently. And per capita deaths in Israel are lower than in the U.S., offering a glimpse of what could happen if the U.S. takes certain steps.

I was vaccinated in Israel and received my booster shot last week. And it's not just the boosters that are different, no paper vaccine cards here, instead electronic vaccine passports or a tab Yarek (Ph) and Hebrew that have a QR code. Restaurants scan it and also ask for an I.D. to make sure it's really you before letting you in.

Other rules also much stricter in Israel than in many parts of the U.S. Masks have to be worn indoors and at large gatherings. University students have to be vaccinated or test negative every few days, same for school teachers and staff.

BALICER: All of this needs to be put in place, and I think that boosters are just one component of it. It's definitely not one panacea that would solve all of the problems that we have in living with COVID-19.

COHEN: You say we're going to live with COVID-19. So, you think COVID-19 is here to stay.

BALICER: I think COVID-19 is here to stay.

COHEN: A word of warning from the Israelis. As the United States grapples with COVID-19 numbers that at this point seem difficult to control.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Tel Aviv.


CHURCH (on camera): Well, right now Hurricane Nicholas is battering the Texas coast after making landfall last hour. More than 130,000 customers are without power at this moment as the state braces for fierce winds and heavy rain. The governor has signed an emergency declaration and local officials are urging residents to seek shelter and remain off the roads.

Let's turn to CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri, he joins us now with more details on this. So, what are you seeing, Pedram?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, Rosemary, this was a storm system that just in the final hours of landfall strengthened to a category one hurricane, it still sits there at this hour 120 kilometer per hour winds, and the biggest concern with the storm system is going to be the excessive rainfall risk along this region of southern Texas.

Of course, Houston metro not too far away already seeing quite a bit of thunderstorm activity across the Houston area into the early morning hours.

And again, coming ashore just as a category one, so you can kind of think maybe it's not a significant player but I often talk about the rain element being the biggest concern. And look at the weather prediction center. They have issued a high level of four out of four here which only happens on 4 percent of all days across the year.

So, these particular alerts here that sits at four out of four occurs about 4 percent of the time but is responsible for 40 percent of weather-related fatalities. And we saw the same alert play out across the northeastern U.S. when remnants of Ida moved ashore, moved across that region, level four was issued.

And of course, we know what happened any time you get a significant rainfall in a metro environment, but also comes concerning. And that's exactly where we are here with Houston into the early morning hours seen some of this heavy rainfall that's in store.

Flood watches? About 12 million Americans underneath the risk. Much of the state of Louisiana, the southern tier of it. underneath these flood alerts we know how wet it's been in recent weeks and it's going to continue over the next several days, but it is right there across north central Texas where we expect some very heavy rainfall over the next 24 to 36 hours.


And Rosemary, you'll notice how slowly this system moves off towards the north and east. In fact, by 7 a.m. you kind of see where it is across just south of Houston, by 7 p.m. barely north of Houston. So, a full 12 hours that it's going to pull quite a bit of tropical moisture right into this region of eastern Texas and eventually across parts of Louisiana. Which again, the last thing they need to see is the excessive rainfall.

And if you take a look, we are now 14 storms into the season. Climatologically, the 14th storm should be named on November 18th. Of course, the system just made landfall. You notice but quickly going to move through some of these numbers and names over the next several weeks as couple of other areas of interest that we're looking at into the Atlantic Ocean right now. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right. As always, thanks for staying on top of all of this. I appreciate it, Pedram.

Well, a lawyer for Prince Andrew is arguing his client was not properly served a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse, and he says the case can't proceed until judicial authorities in the U.K. weigh in on whether the papers have indeed been legally served.

Virginia Roberts Giuffre filed a civil suit last month in New York against the prince. She claims he had sex with her when she was 17 at some of Jeffrey Epstein's private properties. Prince Andrew denies any wrongdoing. His lawyer also argues that a settlement between Giuffre and Epstein, who was a convicted sex offender, released Prince Andrew from any and all potential liability. The court has given both sides more time to prepare. They will appear for another hearing next month.

Apple is now urging users to update their devices after a critical spyware vulnerability was discovered. The update fixes a flaw in the i-message software that allows hackers to infiltrate a user's phone without even clicking on a link. That's according to the University of Toronto's Citizen lab which is credited with finding the vulnerability. They say it allows spyware from an Israeli firm to infect a device. The searchers say it's already been used to spy on a Saudi activist.

Well, coming up, the climate crisis could displace hundreds of millions of people. And a new report finds that it will be the world's most vulnerable who pay the highest price.

But first, hundreds of Afghan air force personnel were among those who fled the country as the Taliban took control. An update on their journey, that's next.



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Welcome back, everyone. Well, among the tens of thousands of Afghans who fled the country were Air Force pilots and crew members, who escaped across the border with their aircraft. We've now learned some who had been waiting in Uzbekistan for the U.S. to process them have flown to the UAE.

CNN's Alex Marquardt has more.


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They are among the most highly trained Afghan forces, pilots and crew members of the Afghan Air Force. For the past month, they've been stranded after fleeing the Taliban advance with their valuable planes and helicopters across the border into neighboring Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. They feared they would be sent back where the Taliban is hunting for them.

UNKNOWN: There were so many rumors that the Uzbekistan government will send us back to Afghanistan that is why everyone was afraid and everyone was worried about that.

MARQUARDT: We've spoken with Afghan pilots themselves and American veterans working to get them to the United States, including Retired General David Hicks, who led the training of Afghan pilots in the U.S. and has criticized the State Department for moving too slowly.

GEN. DAVID HICKS (RET.) OPERATION SACRED PROMISE: The problem was they started to become members that wanted to go back to Afghanistan because they were worried about their wives or their families. And so, you know, they were headed back and we're going to go back for that reason.

MARQUARDT: We brought you their story last week. Then, over the weekend, word came they were finally on the move after four weeks. More than 460 pilots, maintainers and family members loaded on to buses and charter planes, flying Uzbekistan airways to Abu Dhabi for further processing, one step closer to making it to the U.S., where many want to end up but fears remain.

How worried are you that the remaining Afghan Air Force personnel, family members are targets of the Taliban now and won't be able to get out of the country?

HICKS: We know Air Force members or family members have been either detained or killed by the Taliban. So, it's not like it's something that may happen. It is something that is happening right now. So, time is of the essence.

MARQUARDT: Those concerns weighing on the pilots.

UNKNOWN: If Taliban understand that our families, parents are in Afghanistan, they will catch them and until that we show up.

MARQUARDT: Since many had already been to the U.S. for training and fought so closely with American forces, the visa process is expected to go smoothly, which would be a huge relief for the men who were forced to dramatically flee their native country and start life in a new one.

UNKNOWN: I can't explain how happy I am, and it is a big pleasure not only for me but for all those that who were in Uzbekistan.

MARQUARDT: On top of those Afghan Air Force personnel who have now gotten out of Uzbekistan, there are still around 140 more in neighboring Tajikistan. General Hicks, who we spoke with there for the piece, has been tracking their case as well and has told us that processing on them has started.

Between those two countries, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, around 60 planes and helicopters were flown out of Afghanistan. What will happen to them remains unclear, but thanks to those pilots, the Taliban will not get their hands on them. Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: Afghan women around the world have started an online campaign to protest the Taliban's new hijab requirements in schools. Many are posting photos wearing their traditional colorful dresses on social media, using hashtags like, do not touch my clothes.

Our Becky Anderson has our report.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The issue of women's rights has been a huge concern in the wake of the Taliban takeover all of Afghanistan. Many feared a return to the repressive period of Taliban rule in the 90s and some strict rules on women's attire have already been re-imposed. So, dozens of Afghan women are taking to social media to show the world their version of traditional and colorful Afghan dress.

Bahar Jalali, the founder of the First Gender Studies Program in the country, started the trend on Twitter when she shared this picture of herself. Jalali says she wants to, quote, "Inform, educate, and dispel the misinformation that is being propagated by Taliban."

British politicians, Peymana Assad, was visiting her family in Afghanistan when the Taliban swept into Kabul. She managed to get out of the country just in time.

PEYMANA ASSAD, COUNCILOR, HARROW COUNCIL: I believe that this is an attack on Afghan identity and Afghan culture, and it's trying to take Afghan -- Afghanistan back into a more extreme version of Islam.


ANDERSON: That version was on display in Kabul, where hundreds of women covered from head to toe in black, sat in a University lecture hall to express their support for the new government.

A Taliban spokesperson shared this video of a rally in the capital in which this woman spoke out against so-called western ideals.

UNKNOWN (through translator): Those women who are west in kind and are dictated by the west cannot represent the Muslim and pious women of Afghanistan.

ANDERSON: But women's clothing isn't the only thing being debated. The Taliban have said women will still be allowed to study at universities but not alongside men. In the past, the Taliban would not even allow girls and women to go to school. But the education minister says the new government does not want to turn the clock back 20 years.

ABDUL BAQI HAQQANI, TALIBAN'S ACTING HIGHER EDUCATION MINISTER (through translator): We have recently started applying the proposals the universities had suggested in terms of male, female segregation and we see no negative impact.

ANDERSON: Women who wear traditional Islamic dress are not necessarily pro-Taliban, but that could be the point. In a free society, women should have the choice to wear what they want and enjoy the same rights as men. Clearly, Afghanistan is no longer free for women.

Becky Anderson, CNN, Abu Dhabi.


CHURCH: Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, is in Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart. Vladimir Putin took a swipe at the U.S. and Turkey saying, foreign troops stationed in Syria without a U.N. mandate are a threat to the country's sovereignty. The Kremlin says Mr. Assad thank the Russian leader for humanitarian aid to Syria and his efforts to stop the spread of terrorism.

Still ahead, hundreds of millions of people could be forced to flee their homes if the world doesn't take immediate action on climate change. Details of that sobering new report, next.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, Norway appears poised to get a new Prime Minister after an election season dominated by concerns about the climate crisis. The current Conservative prime minister, the longest serving in Norway's history, has conceded the election after eight years in power. Her government has refused to put an end date on the country's fossil fuel production.

Norway's Labor Party leader says he intends to form the next government with a center left coalition. His party has called for a gradual transition away from fossil fuels, which are a major industry in Norway. The country is Europe's largest oil producer and the third largest natural gas exporter in the world.


In the United States, President Biden is calling the devastating wildfires out west a blinking code red for the country on the impacts of climate change. Mr. Biden's remarks came after he surveyed damage in Idaho and California, both hard hit by recent fires.

He also used the speech to make a case for his economic proposals, which includes funding for combatting climate change. He says the issue is too important to be derailed bipartisanship.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We can't ignore the reality that these wildfires are being supercharged by climate change. It isn't about red or blue states. It's about fires, just fires.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: Well, as the climate crisis gets worse, attacks on

environmental activists are rising. A new report found an average of four activists were killed each week last year, a record high number.

And as CNN's Rafael Romo reports, most of those killings happened in Latin America.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice over): The report was made after gathering and analyzing data from around the world regarding deadly attacks on environmental activists. It was published by global witness, a London-based human and environments rights NGO. The report's conclusions are alarming.

It says, 2020 was the deadliest year on record for environmental defenders. There were 227 killings, an average of four per week, and most of those deaths happened in Latin America.

Colombia was the most affected country, 65 environmentalists were killed there. Activists were protecting indigenous land or defending forests and their cocoa crops. With 30 murders, Mexico ranked second on the list. A third of those killed were working to stop deforestation in the country.

The only country outside Latin America that had more than 15 deaths of environmentalists was the Philippines. Twenty-nine people there were killed for attempting to halt mining, logging, and dam projects.

Chris Madden, one of the report's authors said it's clear that the unaccountable exploitation and greed that striving the climate crisis are also having an increasingly violent impact on people. In the last few years, the number of killings of environmentalists has been increasing. It went above 200 for the first time in 2017. And in 2020, there were 15 deaths more than the year before.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Mexico City.


CHURCH: The effects of climate change could force 216 million people to migrate within their own countries in the next 30 years. That is according to a new report from the World Bank. The report also found that the world's poorest countries will be hit the hardest. It says immediate action needs to be taken to address the climate crisis if there is any hope of lowering those numbers.

Kanta Kumari Rigaud is the World Bank's lead environmental specialist and one of the coauthors of the report, "Groundswell 2.0." She joins me now from Washington. Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So, according to your report, climate change could displace around 216 million people by 2050. Which countries do you see as most vulnerable to this?

RIGAUD: That is a great question. We actually looked at all six regions that the World Bank works in, and what we find is that no country or region is going to be immune to internal climate migration. That is movement within countries as a consequence of climate change.

But of the regions that we looked at, sub-Saharan Africa would have up to 85 million under the pessimistic scenario, which then turns out to be the highest followed by East Asia.

CHURCH: And so you relied on computer modeling to come up with these numbers, and of course locations, the vulnerable locations. So how do you see this wave of displacement to people happening over the course of the 30 years or so ahead?

RIGAUD: We looked at drops in crop productivity, water stress and sea level compounded by storm surge, because we know that storm surge really can reduce the livability and habitability of those areas.

So putting that together we were able then to isolate out in comparing where we had this model, putting in the climate factors against the counter factual were they weren't. And this really gives us the scale of climate induced migration.


So really, 216 million is the figure that we arrive at based on our pessimistic scenario of continued high emissions and unequal development. We also modeled it against two alternate scenarios. The second being where we bring in inclusive development and the curve is where we bring in more of the climate friendly scenarios that is we meet the Paris Agreement targets.

And what we find is that -- if we did a few things right. Number one, if we really cut down our greenhouse gas emissions immediately, rapidly at its scale, as is called for by the IPCC scientist. We could reduce those climate impacts through which climates -- which will fuel climate migrations. So that is really critically important, reducing the greenhouse gases.


CHURCH: So will this displacement of populations be more about rising global temperatures or about rising sea levels or you do see it very much they have sort of an equal partnership, if you like here?

RIGAUD: You know, locality matters, which particular factors plays out. How, it will depend on the locality. So, in this new report we look at three regions. We looked at East Asia, we looked at North Africa, and we looked at Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

One area, for example, that we looked at in East Asia was we zoomed in under Mekong -- lower Mekong and particularly we zoomed in on Vietnam. And what we find for example in Vietnam, particularly in the Mekong Delta, is that, it is a low-lying area that is going to be subject to sea level rise. But it's also going to be subject to water stress, compounded also by drops in crop productivity.

So, it's the convergence of all these three factors that you're going to have a situation where you are going to see a level of climate out migration from those areas; whereas in the same country, in northern parts of Hanoi and the Red River Delta, there could be people who would move in because those areas become more viable.

So really what we are calling for is beyond the cutting of the greenhouse gases, which is an imperative, we must also focus on inclusive development that is green and resilient, that is really looking at the issue not just here for today but over time free, looking beyond the horizon and planning ahead, because we must plan ahead.

You know, a certain amount of climate migration is an inevitability. And in fact, let me also say this, that migration is an adaptation strategy. But it's an adaptation strategy that will play out well if we do plan for it and we do prepare for it and we build the systems to be resilient, we build a kind of livelihoods and diversification of livelihood, so that people can move away from risk into areas with more economic growth and prosperity.

And I think this report is one of the unique ones that really focuses on the future horizon. You know, we have to address current crisis and displacement that is not -- that is a given. But what this report says is that this issue is not going away. It is going to amplify and magnify, and you're going to see the emergence of hotspots in countries. But there are a few things that if we did right, we can reduce that scale by almost 80 percent at an aggregate down to 44 million.

CHURCH: Kanta Kumari Rigaud, thank you so much for talking with us. We appreciate it.

RIGAUD: You're welcome.

CHURCH: We are just hours away from the polls closing in California, where Democratic Governor, Gavin Newsom, is fighting to survive the effort to remove him from office. It's an election that could have national implications as evidenced by President Joe Biden's appearance on the campaign trail with Newsom on Monday.

CNN's Michael Holmes explains how the recall got started and how the result could be felt across the U.S.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The first question on the ballot is simple, should California Governor, Gavin Newsom, be removed from office?

In Tuesday special election recall, California voters choose yes or no. If more than 50 percent marked yes, the leader of America's most populous state would be unseated, making him one of only three governors in U.S. history to leave their post in this way.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Good morning, brothers and sisters.

HOLMES: Now, Governor Newsom is trying to convince voters, he should keep his job.

NEWSOM: Are we going to vote no on this recall?



HOLMES: That the stark threat to the Democratic governor that began as a challenge from state Republicans. In June of last year, Newsom's opponents received approval for a petition to unseat him. Then, amid a raging coronavirus pandemic, Governor Newsom was seen in November at a dinner party of a prominent lobbyist, wearing no mask, while publicly he was telling residents to mask up and stay indoors.

Newsom apologized, but backlash after that incident may have been pivotal in the petitions success. Republicans collected more than 1.7 million signatures, and after trigger a recall election in California. Soon the campaigning began.


HOLMES: Now, Newsom's chief opponent is this man, Larry Elder is a 69-year-old conservative talk show host turned political candidate. He's vowing to rollback California's coronavirus restrictions and repeal mask and vaccine mandates.

ELDER: I'm not sure the scientist settle on it at all. And young people are not likely to contract the coronavirus.

If I had known that there would be so many people, I would've prepared something to say.

HOLMES: Elder's candidacy has been seen as somewhat controversial in California, impart for his views on race and women. He has also been accused of domestic violence, an allegation he denies.

ELDER: I have always felt that minorities and women complain too much about racism and sexism.

HOLMES: Still, Elder is among more than 40 of Newsom's challengers, all hoping to become California's next Governor. But Newsom has strong support from some of his party's most prominent members, including the U.S. President and the Vice President.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: They think if they can win in California they can do this anywhere.

HOLMES: Supporters are framing the special election as a challenge to liberal values across the country. Democrats fear that should Newsom lose, the impact could be far-reaching, potentially encouraging Republican-led recalls in other states and even jeopardizing the party's control of the U.S. Senate. As Tuesday nears, Democrats and Republicans in the state and across the country will have to wait and see how many say yes and how many say no in California's recall collection.

Michael Holmes, CNN.


CHURCH: Still to come, China has a new sweetheart, 18-year-old U.S. Open winner, Emma Raducanu. We will explain why the Canadian born tennis star is scoring so many new fans in the Asian country.


CHURCH: Emma Raducanu's once a virtual unknown is captivating the sports world as one of the top breakout stars in years after winning the U.S. Open. The 18-year-old Raducanu has a huge new fan base in China, where her mother was born.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout is following that part of the story.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tennis' newest superstar, Emma Raducanu, was born in Canada, brought up in Britain, now the U.S. Open champion is being claimed by China.

On Sina Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, the hashtag 18-year-old Asian player won U.S. Open has received 200 million views. The U.S. Open champion's mother is from China's Liaoning province, and the fact that Raducanu can speak Mandarin has helped boost her appeal.


After her victory in New York, she used her second language to thank her Chinese fans for their support. Some Chinese netizens like this one, picked up on the athlete's accent in the Weibo post, saying it reflects Raducanu's mother's homeland in China's northeast. Others reflected on the pride of Raducanu's grandmother and family in Shenyang must feel after her fairytale win.

In an interview, on the sidelines of the Wimbledon Championships earlier this summer, the young athlete described her family in China as mentally resilient and credited her mother's work ethic as a big part of her inspiration.

Raducanu cites China's two-time grand slam champion, Li Na, as a big influence on her game and like her hero before her. Raducanu's combination of youth, tennis talent, and international appeal is sure to draw sponsorship from her mother's homeland.

STEVE MARTIN, GLOBAL CEO, M&C SAATCHI SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT: If you think of the vast potential of the Chinese market, particularly for Google brand trying to introduce to the market. So -- and I think the world are always (inaudible) here. I couldn't name a brand who would not want to be associated with her at the moment? She's so positive and has got that flare in her personality, but that's going to be humility which will appeal across multiple markets.

LU STOUT: Raducanu ranked 150th in the world coming into the U.S. Open before blowing away more experienced opponents to win her first grand slam. But sports marketing experts agreed to keep sponsors on the side, she will need more successes like this.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


CHURCH: Well, a couple of tennis stars took their fashion game to the Met Gala on Monday. Naomi Osaka is one of four generation Z stars who co-chair the event. The star studded Met Gala is an annual fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute. Serena Williams has also attended. The gala was postponed last year because of the pandemic.

Social issues were clear on the beige carpet. New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez wore a gown that had tax the rich written on the back. And her fellow lawmaker, Carolyn Maloney, sent a message with her shoulder panels calling for equal rights for women and a purse that said ERA yes.

Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. I'll be back with more news in just a moment, do stick around.