Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Tennis Star Leaves Australia after Losing Visa Appeal; North Korea Launches Two Suspected Ballistic Missiles; Australia to Send Humanitarian Aid to Tsunami-hit Tonga; China Grew 4% in Fourth Quarter; Concern Over India's Religious Festivals as Omicron Spreads; Cost of Weather Disasters Rising in the U.S.; Hong Kong Authorities Deny Suppressing Media Freedoms. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired January 17, 2022 - 00:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. Appreciate your company.


Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, the Australian Open begins without the world's top men's tennis player.

Crowds in India gathered to celebrate a religious festival. But there are concerns what may be good for the soul could amount to a super- spreader event.

And the steep cost of climate change, weather disaster's costing billions of dollars each year.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Michael Holmes.

HOLMES: The Australian Open tennis tournament underway in Melbourne this hour, without world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. The Serbian tennis star had hoped to defend his title at this year's Grand Slam, but instead, he's ended up embroiled in a legal battle over his COVID vaccination status.

He was ultimately deported on Sunday after Australian federal court upheld the decision to revoke his visa for a second time. Within the last few hours, he arrived at the Dubai Airport on a flight from Melbourne.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Melbourne with a closer look at Djokovic's visa battle and how it ended in deportation.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The amended application is dismissed.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The unanimous decision by three federal court judges upholding Immigration Minister Alex Hawke's decision to cancel Djokovic's visa, citing concerns the unvaccinated player could embolden anti-vaccination sentiment here, an argument Djokovic's lawyers called patently irrational.

But the judges were not ruling on the merits of the argument, just the legality.

In a statement, Djokovic said, "I am extremely disappointed with the court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the minister's decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said repeatedly rules are rules. You need to be fully vaccinated or have a valid medical exemption in order to enter Australia.

Sunday night, he added, "I welcome the decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australian safe. As I said on Friday, Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic and they rightly expect the results of those sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the results of those sacrifices to be protected."

Others in Melbourne echoed the prime minister's comments that there should be no special treatment. But Djokovic's supporters spoke of their bitter disappointment.

GORAN ZABIC, NOVAK DJOKOVIC SUPPORTER: Novak, he won the fight, but looks like he lost the political war.

HANCOCKS: Melbourne will wake up Monday morning to the start of the Australian Open, self-named, the Happy Slam. It's been anything but so far, Djokovic said he was uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks have been on him, and wish the players and those involved in the tournament all the best.

With a lucky loser already taking his place for Monday's match, the hope is the focus can finally shift back to the tennis.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Melbourne, Australia.


HOLMES: Now CNN WORLD SPORT's Patrick Snell standing by here in Atlanta with a look at what this means for the tournament. But first, let's go to Hong Kong, where CNN's Anna Coren has been tracking the reaction.

And I guess, Anna, after fighting so hard for days, Djokovic, in the end, gracious in the face of that ruling. What's been the reaction?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Michael, I think it's fair to say that he was dignified in his response. You heard part of a statement there in Paula's package. But, you know, he went on to say, "I will be taking some time to rest, recuperate before making further comments. And we know that he's landed in Dubai. He's greeted some fans there. Where he goes from there, we just don't know. Will he return to

Serbia, where his family is? The government. The prime minister, the president, they're all calling for him to return home and get a hero's welcome.

Will he return to Spain, where we know that he's resided during parts of this pandemic, or perhaps to Monaco, where we also know that he has residence. We just don't know.

The Serbian prime minister had some very colorful language, Michael. He described the deportation of Novak Djokovic as scandalous. The president of Serbia accused the government of torturing and tormenting Djokovic, treating him like a mass murderer.


Scott Morrison, the Australian prime minister, took to the airwaves in Australia today, obviously standing by the court's decision. We said he didn't give him an exemption. The federal government did no such thing. Rules are rules.

He then went on to say, Michael, that he would consider allowing Novak Djokovic into Australia in the future, remembering that that deportation hold a three-year ban under the right circumstances.

But I think it's fair to say, Michael, that the majority of Australians really do stand by this decision, perhaps on the process. That has been an absolute shambles, a national embarrassment. But the outcome was right.

The reason being, is that Australians have been through so much. Those restrictions, those lockdowns. You know, the city of Melbourne, where the Australian Open is being held, was locked down for 256 days.

To attend the Australian Open as a spectator, you must be vaccinated. More than 90 percent of Australians are vaccinated. This is what the country has gone through to get to this point.

So to see a rich, famous tennis player, the world's No. 1, they did not care. The fact that he was not vaccinated meant that he should not be there.

So as you say, the Australian Open kicks off today. This, of course, is day one. But this saga that has gone on for the last 10 days will certainly cast a shadow on the Australian Open, but also on the Australian government and the way that it's handled this mess. And Tennis Australia.

Remembering, the organizers of this -- this event, and perhaps, you know, the loopholes that they went to, to try and get Djokovic into the country. There's certainly calls growing in Australia for the boss of Tennis Australia, Craig Tiley, to resign.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes, the fallout will keep coming. Anna Coren, thanks so much. Over to you now, Patrick Snell, here in Atlanta. And you know, I

suppose, Patrick, at the end of the day the most relieved person is Djokovic's first-round opponent who gets to play a qualifier instead of the world No. 1. How's the tournament looking?

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Yes, you could see it that way, Michael. How you doing? Hi, Anna.

I think also, though, what a chance for the young man in question. Miomir Kecmanovic, 22-year-old, grew up idolizing Novak Djokovic. I'm quite sure would've absolutely relished the opportunity, Michael, to play his idol, but as we now know, that's not the case. Djokovic replaced by the world No. 150 from Italy, the really lucky loser from qualifying, Salvatore Caruso.

But what does it do for the tournament as a whole, Michael? It throws it wide open, OK? Djokovic was the firm favorite in many people's eyes to go on and win a tenth Aussie Open crown, and get that men's record 21st Grand Slam title. That's now not going to happen.

Who does it bring into play? Well, a lot of people, rightly so, Rafael Nadal, who's also on 20 Grand Slam titles himself, going for that very special piece of unique history.

Of course, no Roger Federer this time around. He is out injured and not competing. But we do have to look beyond Nadal.

Nadal, by the way, is actually playing right now against the American player, Marcus Giron. No surprises, the man from Mallorca winning the first set. So Nadal in action right now.

But I like the chances of Daniil Medvedev, the losing finalist of the Aussie Open, last year to Djokovic. What did he go and do in the U.S. Open, in New York City last year? He beat Djokovic in straight sets at Flushing Meadows.

Michaels denying Djokovic the chance at that point to get to No. 21. Also, the young German player, Alexander Zverev, who many people feel is his first black Grand Slam title, Michael, is surely just around the corner. It's going to be fascinating.

And this is still only day one of the tournament, but at least we're at this point now where we can focus hopefully on the tennis.

HOLMES: It's very -- yes, it's very open. It's interesting. When you talk about Nadal's chances, out of his 20, he's only won one at the Australian Open. So it's not his best tournament.

Real quick, because we're running out of time, the question, I guess, is what Djokovic does about vaccination, given there's a lot of other countries with tournaments which he might not get into unvaccinated.

SNELL: Yes. It's all about the Grand Slams for him right now, and it's going to be fascinating to see what he does. Does he change his approach? We want answers from him. We need to hear him speak. We need to hear his reasons, Michael, for

the stance he's taken over the course of the last couple of days. Frankly, it did not work out for him.

The next Grand Slam on the international tennis calendar would be the French Open at Roland-Garros, where the indications are that he might, as of right now, be able to compete in that unvaccinated. Of course, observing, at the same time, specific health protocols.

But after that, it's anyone's guess. As far as Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in New York City, he's got a lot of thinking to do. I would imagine a lot of inner soul searching, as well. It's going to be fascinating, I'll tell you.


HOLMES: You're lucky we're out of time, because I won't have time to talk about the ashers (ph) the Australians taken from them.

SNELL: It all looks so rosy, doesn't it?

HOLMES: That's the first time they got to 68 without (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Four-one, got to move on. Thank you very much.

Patrick, good to see you. And he will have much more on that story ahead in WORLD SPORT, of course, coming up in 30 minutes. Don't miss that.

Now, the South Korean government has held an emergency security meeting after North Korea launched two suspected ballistic missiles a short time ago.

South Korea's joint chiefs of staff said the projectiles will launch from somewhere near Pyongyang's international airport. This was early Monday, local time. They went into the sea to the east.

CNN's Blake Essig is following developments for us from Tokyo. Good to see you, Blake. North Korea's had a busy start to the year. What do we know about the launch?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Michael, since the start of 2022, North Korea has sent a strong message to the world by conducting several missile tests. The most recent took place early this morning, local time.

Now Japanese and South Korean officials both believe that nuclear- armed North Korea has test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles that landed in the waters off the coast of the Korean Peninsula.

While South Korea and the United States and Japan are currently analyzing details of this launch, the Japanese defense minister has come out and said that the maximum altitude for these two missiles is estimated to be about 50 kilometers and flew about 300 kilometers before falling just outside of Japan's exclusive economic zone.

Today's launch, Michael, marks the fourth missile test by North Korea in just January alone.

HOLMES: Yes. And North Korea, I mean, did two missile tests in all of 2021. As you said, in the first weeks of January, already four missile tests. What is behind the increase?

ESSIG: You know, Michael, North Korea doesn't make empty threats. And these recent tests all come just a few weeks after North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, promised to further strengthen his country's military capability during a speech closing out its five-day party meeting.

Now before today's missile test, the last missile launch was carried out less than a week ago and took place just a few hours after North Korea's foreign ministry released a statement expressing frustration over new sanctions imposed by the United States.

Now, the statement said that, if the U.S. adopts such a controversial stance, North Korea will be forced to make stronger and certain reactions to it, essentially suggesting that the missile tests were carried out as a protest to the sanctions.

Now, to this point, the Biden administration is taking a more muted approach to dealing with North Korea compared to previous -- the previous administration. While it's unknown if these frequent missile tests will be a pattern this year, the two countries seem to be at a deadlock.

The Biden administration has made it known that they're all for dialogue and engagement but will not drop sanctions as a price to sit down with North Korea. North Korea also wants dialogue but wants the Biden administration, essentially, offer some goodwill by dropping the sanctions.

Michael, I guess at this point, the question is, who's going to blink first?

HOLMES: Yes. Yes, exactly. Great wrap-up there. Blake, thank you.

Blake Essig there in Tokyo for us.

We're hoping to learn more soon about the full impact of that volcanic eruption and the resulting tsunami that devastated Tonga. We're checking in on the situation there with meteorologists next.

And also, tens of thousands gathering for a religious festival in India. Health experts worried it could become another super-spreader event, as Omicron surges. We'll be right back.



HOLMES: The Australian government says it hopes to have a better assessment, soon, of the damage done in Tonga by this volcanic eruption. It triggered tsunami waves that flooded and devastated, apparently, parts of Tonga. And there is very limited, if any, real information coming from some of the islands.

Clouds of ash have blanketed the region for miles, hindering -- hindering some recovery efforts and even reaching Australia, the ash cloud.

Now, New Zealand's defense force sent out a reconnaissance flight Monday. As you can see, Tonga is in a remote part of the Pacific. Australia says it has a plane loaded with humanitarian supplies, ready to be delivered, when weather conditions allow and the ash clears.

CNN meteorologist Tyler Mauldin is monitoring developments for us, joins me now, live. And you're tracking new volcanic activity.

TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, Michael, this volcanic eruption was so big. It's an eruption that really only occurs once every 1,000 years. Even with just smaller volcanic eruptions, you're going to also get smaller earthquakes and smaller little activity with those volcanoes.

So with an eruption this large, of course, you are going to see some smaller activity, and that's what we are seeing, just really small activity.

And you can see just how big the ash cloud was in that eruption from Saturday. As you mentioned, Michael, that ash cloud is just now reaching northern Australia.

If you see any beautiful sunrises in Australia, it is due to this ash cloud from the eruption. Now, the Tonga Trench is part of the Ring of Fire here, so it is normal to see some activity in this area.

But again, as I mentioned, this is one of the biggest eruptions that we've seen in hundreds of years. In fact, 6,000 miles to the north, about a little more than 9,000 kilometers to the north, is Alaska. Fairbanks Alaska.

What is in Fairbanks, Alaska? Well, the volcano observatory. And what did they do? They observed. They recorded with infrasound technology, sounds from this eruption. This is how large it is.

And in fact, it was so powerful that it -- the shockwave was recorded all the way in the U.K. And the second time it went around, it made it to the U.S. Just insane stuff.

We also saw tsunami waves, as well. And some of those tsunami waves made it all the way to -- to California, Michael. And that was because of the cold air collapsing, as well as landslides underneath the water.

HOLMES: Well. Absolutely amazing how big this was. Tyler, thanks. Tyler Mauldin there. Appreciate it.

Now, China's economy grew 4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021, compared to a year earlier. That is faster than expected. But still, the weakest growth in a year and a half.

Gross domestic product, expanding 8.1 percent for the entire year. That's about what experts predicted.

Kristie Lu Stout is in Hong Kong with more on the numbers. And Kristie, China's zero-COVID policy being tested as the economy slows, and now, Beijing getting its first local Omicron case.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Omicron has breached the Chinese capital. Beijing has reported its very first, locally transmitted case of the highly-infectious variant, just weeks before the Beijing Winter Olympic Games.

And the total number of Omicron cases across China, that remains unclear. But local cases of the variant have been detected in at least eight cities, including in the northeast, to Tianjin in the south.

Now, China, meanwhile, has posted its weakest GDP growth in a year and a half. Its fourth quarter GDP report is out. It's about 4 percent growth. And that is in sharp contrast to a China experience in the first half of last year, when I had that really sharp, upward rebound from its initial pandemic slump.

Right now, China is counting the cost of two things. It's ongoing properties, as well as the cost of its zero-COVID policy.


Look, in many ways, zero-COVID has been a success in China, as we've discussed many times here. It has saved lives. It had curbed, you know, massive outbreaks, but it has come at a very steep cost.

Twenty million people across China are under strict lockdown. And when you talk to economists, they point out the costs of those lockdowns, saying that domestic consumption is being particularly hit hard.

I want to bring up a pick quote for you. I talked earlier today to an economist, a senior economist of Oxford Economics, Tommy Wu. And he told me this, quote, that "The Zero-COVID approach affects consumption, especially demand for services."

He went on to say, "From an economic perspective, it's better to have some sort of easing in restrictions, but we know the reality is that zero tolerance will very likely stay until the end of this year at the earliest," unquote.

Now earlier, Goldman Sachs slashed its projection for economic growth for China. It's now down to 4.3 percent for the year. Eurasia, earlier, marked China's zero-COVID policy, at the very top of its list of global risks for 2022.

Back to you.

HOLMES: Wow. And Kristie, before we let you go, Chinese leaders, they're saying they're going to support the nation's slowing economy, but how?

STOUT: Well, analysts and economists that we've been talking to are saying that they have this expectation. It's widely expected that Chinese officials will step in to help shore up this slowing economy through a number of measures.

You have tax cuts, an increase in infrastructure spending, as well as fiscal measures, like speeding up the issuances of local bonds.

And there is a lot at stake here, especially this year. Later this year, we're going to see Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, secure that unprecedented third term as the head, not only of the Chinese Communist Party, the military, as well as the Chinese government -- Michael.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes, great wrap-up there. Kristie Lu Stout, appreciate it. Thanks so much.

STOUT: Yes, thank you.

HOLMES: Now, after weeks of debate and amendments, the French Parliament has approved a controversial vaccine pass bill. The new law requires proof of full vaccination for many everyday activities, things like visiting bars and restaurants, as well as long-distance public transport.

A negative PCR test, well, that's no longer good enough. The law still needs to go into the constitutional court next week for final approval.

Meanwhile, Brazil now vaccinating children 5 to 11 against COVID. More than 20 million children are eligible with parental consent. Friday's rollout began despite objections from President Jair Bolsonaro.

Brazil's health ministry says more than 300 children in that age group have died from COVID in the country.

Now, the Omicron variant spreading across India, and the timing couldn't be worse. Millions of devotees are expected to attend a Hindu festival that stretches over the next few weeks. And experts fear the religious gathering could make a bad situation far worse.


HOLMES (voice-over): A holy dip to wash away sins. Hundreds of thousands of devotees in India taking the plunge in the Ganges River to celebrate a religious festival.

But health experts say what might be good for the soul is a huge public health risk. The number of new, daily confirmed COVID-19 cases, on average, in India is nearly 30 times higher than it was a month ago.

But while some cities and states have banned gatherings, there is no national ban, and health experts free, these large events, and the lack of masks and social distancing, could lead to further mass outbreaks, as the Omicron variant surges in the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): People are standing here on the banks of the river and roaming without any masks. No one is following the guidelines. HOLMES: During the festival in West Bengal, which was expected to

attract millions of visitors, drones were used to try to reduce the size of the crowd.

SUDIPTA MONDAL, BLOCK DEVELOPMENT OFFICER (through translator): The holy water was brought and sprayed on devotees. We practiced social distancing, and not more than 50 people were allowed here. And then the second batch came. Another drone was also deployed to sanitize the place.

HOLMES: But the pilgrims far outnumber security personnel, and many people are ignoring health measures by crowding on the river banks and not wearing masks.

A similar gathering at the Kumbh Mela festival in April of last year contributed to the spreading of the deadly Delta variant in India. There were more than 4,000 deaths on average a day. At the peak of that wave, hospitals ran out of beds and oxygen.

It's a scenario healthcare workers don't want to repeat, even though hospitalization rates right now are relatively low.

But with new confirmed cases rising above 260,000 two days this week, many cities including the capital, New Delhi, are observing weekend lockdowns. Restrictions that make it even tighter if, like after previous festivals, large numbers of people return home from their spiritual journeys with something other than a blessing.



HOLMES: Another attempt to dodge vaccine mandates was foiled by Italian police after they arrested a nurse in Palermo for faking COVID injections.

Captured on video here, the nurse is seen spilling the vaccine dose into gauze before sticking the needle into the patient's arm. Police say she pretended to inoculate -- the people she pretended to inoculate were compliant.

She was, allegedly, working with another nurse who was arrested in December for the same crime.

We've seen other attempts in Italy to fake vaccinations. Just last month, an Italian dentist tried to use a fake arm made of silicone to receive a vaccine card. His plot fairly quickly fell apart when the nurse saw the arm wasn't real.

We're tracking developments following Saturday's standoff at a Texas synagogue, and some of them are coming from England. Counterterrorism police in greater Manchester say two teens were detained in relation to the case, and they were held for questioning.

We do know that the hostage taker, Malik Faisal Akram, was a British citizen, and the U.K. is in touch with U.S. officials. Akram was killed by an FBI rescue team after the hostages were released.

But, before that, the synagogue was livestreaming its service when the hostage taking began. Audio from that livestream caught part of the terrifying ordeal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I've got these four guys with me, yes? So I don't want to hurt them, yes? OK, are you listening? I don't want you to cry. Listen! I'm going to release these four guys (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But then I'm going to go in the yard, yes? And they're going to take me, all right? I'm going to die at the end of this, all right? Are you listening? I am going to die. OK? So don't cry over me. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)


HOLMES: Well, the hostage taker's family has posted a statement apologizing to his victims. They say he had mental health issues.

Well, extreme weather cost the U.S. big time in 2021. Just ahead, I'll speak with a climate scientist about the rising cost of fighting climate change, and how things could still go from bad to worse. We'll be right back.


HOLMES: From raging wildfires to deep freezes and everything in between, 2021 was a year of historic and expensive weather disasters in the U.S., all of them linked to climate change.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the U.S. has spent nearly $750 billion recovering from climate change events over just the last five years. They fear that this year could keep that trend going.

2021's most expensive weather disaster was Hurricane Ida, costing the country $75 billion in recovery efforts. The average temperature in the U.S. also rose to 55 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the fourth warmest year on record.

That's according to NOAA.

And this just continues what has been a decades-old trend for meteorological organization says an extreme weather event or climate disaster happens somewhere in the world every day, on average, for the past 50 years.

Joining me now from Madison, Wisconsin, is Rachel Licker. She's a senior climate scientist with the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. A great person to discuss this with.

Rachel, the last eight years, I think, have been the warmest on record for the planet. Even the most further deniers or doubters cannot ignore that. What, briefly, are the chief reasons for what is an undeniable trend? RACHEL LICKER, SENIOR CLIMATE SCIENTIST, CLIMATE AND ENERGY PROGRAM,

UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS: That's right. The last eight years have been among the eight warmest on record. And we know, without a doubt, that it's because of human activity and primarily the burning of fossil fuels.

So, you know, what we use to power our cars, our planes, our industries, our homes.

HOLMES: So, the Biden Build Back Better package, that contains, I think it's more than $550 billion in climate and clean energy provisions over a number of years. It's been pushback on that price tag, but the NOAA report put a $750 billion price on severe weather effects over the last several years. I mean, 550 billion is a drop in a warming ocean, isn't it, when it comes to the coat of inaction?

LICKER: That's right. I mean, just looking at 2021, you know, we're looking at huge numbers in terms of the cost of billion-dollar events. And we know that those numbers, that trend is just going to increase as the planet warms.

You know, we even ourselves at Union of Concerned Scientists, just published a study last week where we looked at a scenario where we don't take action on climate change in a few decades.

What would happen to outdoor worker earnings because of extreme heat? And we found that outdoor workers could risk losing $55.4 billion in and of themselves for the extreme heat in a few decades.

And that's just outdoor workers in the United States. So that's a really small slice of the pie.

HOLMES: Yes. And yes, yes, get into that point. You actually said this. Quote, "2021 was, in essence, watching the climate projections of the past come true."

It must be incredibly frustrating for scientists like you to see where we are after literally decades of sounding the alarm but precisely these consequences that we imagine would happen, and yet, here we are.

LICKER: Yes, here we are. It's theory, I have to say. I mean, in 2021, it felt like the year where you could not escape climate change. It was this incredible heat wave that hit the Pacific Northwest, the large wildfires. I mean, out here in Wisconsin, we've had months' worth of days where we were living in unhealthy air quality because of those wildfires. We had, you know, Hurricane Ida. It which was just nonstop!

HOLMES: When it comes to fossil fuels -- and let's face it, the success of fossil fuel lobbyists in the political arena -- what gets me all the time is the fact that its renewable resources are cheaper and employing more people than dirty energy, right? I mean, speak to the economic benefits of changing course on fossil fuel.

LICKER: Yes. When you look again at the cost of these major disasters, in and of themselves, we know that climate change is expensive. And not doing anything is just going to make the problem worse, whereas we know renewable energy, it's one of the fastest-growing industries.

It also, you know, is increasingly providing more and more good paying jobs. So when you look at the ticket price of all of these major disasters that are increasing. It's just -- it's common sense that, you know, the price of inaction just doesn't -- doesn't make sense!

HOLMES: Yes. Yes, climate change, as we discussed, I mean, it can and already is causing serious things like forced migration. I mean, food and security, and on and on and on. If drastic action isn't taken, where is the planet going to be in 10, 20 years? When is it too late?


LICKER: Well, yes. I mean, what we know is that, in 20 years, we're likely to surpass the Paris climate agreement goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius, and basically at that point, we're just going to be further down the pike of these alarming trends that we're already seeing, where you know, more and more large wildfires, more sea-level rise, more frequent and intense heat waves.

But basically, what we're seeing now, but kind of on steroids. And, you know, some of the numbers are incredible. By that time, we could probably lose most of the coral reefs around the world because of human-caused climate change.

HOLMES: Yes, yes. And I guess countries are slowly realizing a lot of those impacts, like forced migrations. There are national security issues, as well. I mean, that's going to lead to conflict and already is in parts of Africa. Yes.


HOLMES: Yes. I wish we had more time. Got to leave it there. Climate scientist Rachel Licker, appreciate it. Thanks so much.

LICKER: Thanks for having me.

HOLMES: Now reporters in Hong Kong are fearing for their future amid a crackdown on the medium. We'll hear from journalists about what it's like to be targeted by authorities. That's when we come back.



HOLMES: Some journalists in Hong Kong are starting the year unemployed after a new wave of crackdowns. The city had a high degree of media freedom for decades, but all that's changed in the wake of a new national security law, backed by mainland China.

CNN's Ivan Watson spoke to journalists, questioning their future in Hong Kong.


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what it looks like when the Hong Kong police knocked on the door of a local journalist carrying a search warrant.

(on camera): What time did they show up at your door?

RONSON CHAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSIGNMENT EDITOR, STAND NEWS: Six o'clock, a.m. I wake up in my dream.

WATSON (voice-over): Police take Ronson Chan in for questioning. That same morning they rate his workplace, the independent online news portal, Stand News, and arrest at least six other people tied to the outlet, accusing them of publishing seditious material.

Within hours, Stand News shuts down for good. And just days later, another independent new site, Citizen News, closes preemptively, citing the deteriorating media environment.

CHAN: Today you're getting the foreign correspondents interview, it is quite dangerous, honestly.

WATSON (on camera): It is dangerous for you to talk to me like that?

CHAN: Yes.


CHAN: I'm afraid that it will become evidence, saying that we've become an agent of a foreign power. But I -- I still think that I have to speak out on what happened in Hong Kong.

WATSON (voice-over): The Hong Kong authorities say they're going after criminals, not silencing journalists.

CARRIE LAM, HONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE: So these actions are law enforcement actions. These actions have nothing to do with so-called suppression of press freedom or suppression of democracy.


WATSON (on camera): The government says it is not targeting journalists.

CONNIE, JOURNALIST: This was a lie. This was a lie.

WATSON: Connie, who doesn't want her full name published for safety reasons, worked as a journalist at the tabloid "Apple Daily." It shut down last June, after police raided its offices, seized its assets, and arrested at least nine executives and staffers on charges of collusion with foreign powers.

After a 16-year career as a journalist in Hong Kong, Connie is now unemployed.

CONNIE: I'm thinking of leaving Hong Kong.

WATSON (on camera): Why?

CONNIE: Because this is not safe anymore. WATSON (voice-over): Hong Kong used to be the freest corner of modern-

day China, a former British colony that was supposed to be spared the strict government censorship in mainland China.

(on camera): You see that gas right there?

(voice-over): The city was home to a feisty local press corps. In 2000, reporters shouted questions at then-Chinese leader Jiang Zemin.

JIANG ZEMIN, FORMER CHINESE PRESIDENT: But the questions you keep asking, they're too simple. Sometimes naive. Got it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chairman Zemin --

STEVE VINES, FORMER PRESENTER, RTHK: Hong Kong was also a very big center for international coverage in the Asian region, precisely because it was a place where you didn't need to worry about someone knocking on your door in the early hours of the morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, and welcome to "The Post."

WATSON: For 20 years, British journalist Steve Vines hosted a news show on Hong Kong's public television network. But he packed up and left for this rain-soaked corner of England last year after he watched Hong Kong authorities arrest dozens of opposition politicians and activists.

VINES: It was just breathtaking! Every day, somebody was arrested. Some organization was forced to close down. Somebody else had been fire. I mean, it was just relentless.

WATSON: The Hong Kong authorities insist journalists can still work here.

(on camera): Is there freedom of the press in Hong Kong today?

VINES: Yes and no. It's difficult in that we feel that there is enough for us to continue, but it's certainly put the industry in crisis.

WATSON (voice-over): Tom Grundy is editor in chief of the Hong Kong Free Press. He hopes authorities don't muzzle his small, nonprofit reader-funded news site.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know where red lines are. The goalposts keep moving. For the moment, we're staying put and pressing on.

WATSON: But last year has been a bitter lesson for the city's heartbroken, newly-unemployed journalists.

CHAN: I trust them for over 27 years.

CONNIE: So, I just hope that anyone still have freedom of speech. Just -- you must hold it tight.

WATSON: Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.


HOLMES: Thanks for watching, spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. Do stick around. WORLD SPORT coming your way next.