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Republican Lawmakers Trade Insults in the House and Senate; UK Supreme Court to Rule on Lawfulness of Rwanda Plan; Buffalo, New York Calls Itself "A Climate Refuge City". Aired 2-3a ET

Aired November 15, 2023 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world and to everyone streaming us on CNN Max. I'm Rosemary Church. Just ahead. Israel says its troops have entered Gaza is largest hospital, which it claims is hiding a Hamas command center. But for thousands of Palestinians the hospital is also a refuge from the conflict.

Face to face for the first time in a year. Joe Biden set to meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in the hours ahead.

And we will show you the U.S. city that's calling itself a refuge from the climate crisis.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN NEWSROOM with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: Thanks for joining us. Well, a dramatic battle is unfolding in the heart of Gaza that could have huge ramifications for the Israel- Hamas war. The Israel Defense Forces say they are carrying out a precise and targeted operation in a specific area of the Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza's largest, after accusing Hamas of hiding its headquarters underneath it. A local journalist says Israeli tanks entered the complex with guns and pointed at the building and there's been an exchange of fire.

Al Shifa doctors and Hamas have strongly denied that the militant group operates out of the hospital. But the White House says its intelligence also shows a Hamas presence there.


JOHN KIRBY, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: We have information that confirms that Hamas is using that particular hospital for a command-and-control node. That is a war crime.


CHURCH: Many people have been sheltering inside the Al Shifa Hospital in conditions described as catastrophic. A warning we are about to air a video that is graphic and disturbing. A Palestinian journalist says those who did not survive at the hospital are said to be buried in a mass grave in the yard of the complex. He says that 100 bodies have already been laid in the yard or laying in the yard for five days and 70 others have been stored in freezers. He says the smell is unbearable and most of the bodies are of women and children.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian health ministry which gets its data from officers controlled by Hamas said more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza as a result of the Israeli attacks. Those who can are fleeing the hospital to find safety elsewhere. Like this grandmother carrying her newborn granddaughter. The U.N. Agency for Palestinian refugees there's almost 1.6 people have been -- 1.6 million people have been displaced since the Hamas terror attacks.

Well, meanwhile, Israel's ambassador to the U.N. says the current phase of the war against Hamas could end in just a matter of weeks. And the IDF says it's now in control of Northern Gaza. CNN' Jeremy Diamond has details.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Tonight, Israeli forces say they have seized key areas in northern Gaza. After block-by-block battles, the Israeli military claiming operational control of the congested Shati refugee camp and key Hamas government buildings in Gaza City, including Hamas' parliament were troops posed with Israeli flags.

The U.N. says oh but one of Northern Gaza as hospitals have now effectively shut down due to a lack of power, water and medical supplies.

DR. AHMED AL-MANDHARI, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN: Nowadays, every minute, every hour we are hearing that either foot hospital or departments in the hospital is closing its services.

DIAMOND (voiceover): At Shifa hospital, doctors are desperately trying to save premature babies after a strike knocked out power to the hospital's neonatal unit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (text): We'll even provide you with an incubator.

DIAMOND (voiceover): The Israeli military now says it is preparing to send these mobile incubators to the hospital. Releasing audio of an alleged conversation with a hospital manager.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (text): I'll put it at the gate of the hospital. Does that help?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (text): Yes, it helps.

DIAMOND (voiceover): Meanwhile, new confidence from President Biden in a potential deal to free some of the estimated 239 hostages held in Gaza. [02:05:04]

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've been talking with people involved every single day, I believe it's going to happen but I don't to get into detail.

DIAMOND (voiceover): As hostage families begin a five-day march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a senior U.S. official telling CNN, Israel and Hamas are inching closer to a deal. The broad strokes Hamas freeze dozens of women and children in exchange for as long as a five-day ceasefire and the release of some Palestinian prisoners.

As families continue to plead for the release of their loved ones, the official cautioning a deal is closer, but it's not done.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, Sderot, Israel.


CHURCH: I want to bring in CNN's Clare Sebastian now who joins us live from London. Good morning to you, Clare. So, what is the latest on what Israel is calling a precise and targeted operation at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Good morning, Rosemary. We know from the Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson that as of two hours ago, this operation is ongoing. It's dynamic. He said it's also -- actually we can pull up that satellite image of the hospital again, incredibly complex. The IDF says that the specific action is taking place at a specific location in that hospital complex.

We don't know exactly were. But we know that that hospital is far from empty. And so, that adds to the complication of this. The IDF is emphasizing that as part of the operation, they continue efforts to get aid in. They say that forces include medical teams and Arabic speakers. And the IDF spokesperson also told us that they gave the hospital some warning that they were coming. Take a listen.


LT. COL. PETER LERNER, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESPERSON: When approaching the hospital, we indeed informed the administrators to keep away from the windows to make sure that -- the patients and civilians inside the complex keep away from the windows and take cover because we intend on conducting our military operation in order to differentiate and distinguish between the civilians and the terrorists.


SEBASTIAN: This backs up but we heard from a doctor at the hospital who said they were given 30 minutes warning. Israel is also emphasizing that they have been warning this hospital for weeks and trying to organize evacuations although of course in many cases, in the most vulnerable patients. That's not possible. Now this operation may not be just about distinguishing Hamas operatives from civilians.

The IDF spokesperson has also mentioned that there is a possibility there are hostages in or close to this complex and that could be part of this here. But this has elicited a furious response from the Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah. They call this a new crime against humanity, medical staff, and patients. Hamas has also come up with a statement saying that the U.S. which had confirmed according to its intelligence, the White House saying in the hours leading up to this that they also believe that a Hamas command node is operating in that hospital.

Hamas saying that the U.S. has given a green light to commit more massacres against civilians. Now that timing noteworthy also noteworthy that the U.S. said that it does not support any attacks on hospitals from above. This is why Israel is now calling this a precise and targeted operation. Biden also spoke to the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on Monday about the efforts ongoing to get those hostages out.

So, I think it's important to note this operation maybe about both of Israel's key war aims to destroy Hamas and to get those hostages out. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right. Our thanks to Claire Sebastian bringing us that live report from London.

Well, a new report by Human Rights Watch says Israel's repeated attacks on Gaza's medical facilities is destroying the enclave's healthcare system and should be investigated as war crimes. The agency says "the strikes on hospitals have killed hundreds of people and put many patients at grave risk because they are unable to receive proper medical care."

The group is also urging the Israeli government to end attacks on hospitals. According to the World Health Organization, more than 520 people including medical workers have been killed in attacks in Gaza since the start of the conflict.

And joining me now from the West Bank is Sari Bashi program director for Human Rights Watch. Thank you so much for talking with us.

SARI BASHI, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Thank you for having me. So, this latest report from your organization says Israel's repeated attacks on Gaza as hospitals are destroying the territory's healthcare system. Your organization causes war crimes, but Israel says the biggest hospital, Al Shifa is a terrorist hub housing a Hamas command center and therefore does not get the protection. It would otherwise receive as a health facility.

And we know of course, that Israel is carrying out what it calls a precise and targeted operation at that Al Shifa hospital right now, in fact. What is your response to all of this?


BASHI: Look, the allegations that hospitals are being put to military use are alarming and raise grave concerns for the safety of civilians. The combatants must avoid putting civilians at risk by locating military installations in or near hospitals. We have not been able to verify the claims made about Shifa Hospital. If true, they would be unlawful. But hospitals retain special protections under the laws of war that recognize the critical role they play in keeping people alive.

Even if personnel are unlawfully present in hospitals active combatants, the hospital can only be attacked if it's used to commit acts harmful to the enemy and only after effective warning is issued. One of our concerns about the warnings the Israeli military has issued a set they're impossible to comply with, telling people to leave when there's no safe place to go and no reliably safe way to get there is not effective.

CHURCH: And U.S. President Joe Biden continues to support Prime Minister Netanyahu's mission to destroy Hamas in the wake of the October 7th attacks by the militant group on Israeli civilians. He has also called for restraint, though on the part of Israel and for more protection to be given to Palestinian civilians. Clearly, that's problematic in light of what we have been witnessing. What do you say to that?

BASHI: The United States government is backing Israel to the tune of $4 billion of military aid annually and now is sending additional weapons. It must ensure that its actions do not risk complicity with war crimes being committed by the Israeli military. The Israeli military has drained Gaza of the lifesaving supplies that hospitals and other humanitarian institutions need in order to survive.

The Israeli government continues to block fuel from entering Gaza, which is life saving for generators. And it's also not allowing the distribution of aid in northern Gaza where people are the most under fire. That's a war crime. If the United States government cares about civilians in Gaza, it must insist that the Israeli military allows supplies even before the attack on ship, and this morning, it had ceased functioning as a hospital because it didn't have any more fuel for generators.

And there are growing reports of patients dying because ventilators life support machines and incubators are not working.

CHURCH: And what is the position of Human Rights Watch when it comes to the more than 200 hostages currently being held by Hamas in Gaza and of course, the attacks that Hamas militants pulled off on October 7th?

BASHI: Human Rights Watch takes a consistent position that civilians must be protected and attacks on civilians, Israeli and Palestinian or unlawful. The Hamas-led attacks on October 7th massacred of Israeli civilians, taking more than 200 hostage or war crimes. All civilian hostages must be released immediately and unconditionally not as bargaining chips. The Israeli military cannot use war crimes committed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad against Israeli civilians as reasons to justify war crimes committed against Palestinian civilians. Draining the Gaza strip of life saving supplies that civilians need to survive is unlawful. We have also documented specific unlawful attacks on ambulances and hospitals within the Gaza Strip, where the Israeli military failed to take the required precautions to protect hospitals and civilians. Everybody needs to respect the laws of war. Everybody needs to protect civilians.

CHURCH: Sari Bashi, thank you so much for talking with us. We appreciate it.

BASHI: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, China's President is now in California ahead of his highly anticipated meeting with Joe Biden. Just their second sit down in three years. What the U.S. President is hoping to achieve from the summit.

Plus, tensions running high on Capitol Hill as a Republican lawmaker and witness trade insults.


SEN. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R-OK): You want to run your mouth. We can be two consenting adults. We can finish it here.


MULLIN: You want to do it now?

O'BRIEN: I'd love to do right now.

MULLIN: Well, stand you butt up, then.

O'BRIEN: You stand your butt up.




CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. The U.S. and Chinese presidents will be face to face in the coming hours in a high stakes summit that follows months of tensions. Xi Jinping arrived in San Francisco Tuesday ahead of his meeting with Joe Biden in the Bay Area where they are attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. This is his first visit to the U.S. in more than six years.

President Biden says he is looking to improve ties with China during their sit down and get the two countries communicating more regularly again. The U.S. has been working to restore military communications with China's since last year after Beijing cut off contact following a visit to Taiwan by former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How would you define success with your meeting with President Xi?

BIDEN: Get back on a normal course of corresponding, being able to pick up the phone and talk to one another if there's a crisis. Being able to make sure our military still have contact with one another. We can't take as -- I told you, we're not trying to decouple from China. What we're -- what we're trying to do is change the relationship for the better.


CHURCH: CNN's Kristie Lu stout joins us now from Hong Kong. Good to see you, Khristie. So, President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping gearing up for this high stakes meeting in the San Francisco Bay area. What should we be looking out for do you think?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, we'll be watching closely for any signs of a thaw in the relationship. On Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden Chinese leader Xi Jinping will be meeting on the sidelines of the APEC summit in the San Francisco Bay Area. This will be their first face to face meeting in a year. This will also be only the second such meeting since Biden took office back in 2021.

As Xi arrived in San Francisco on Tuesday, he was greeted on the tarmac by the California state governor, also by the U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, as well as China's ambassador to United States Xie Feng. Out ahead of this summit, both the U.S. and China agree to tackle global warming by ramping up renewables. And on Tuesday, we also heard from President Biden, he said that he's looking to normalize communication between these two powers.

He also says that the U.S. does not want to decouple from China. He wants to improve the economic relationship. But he also added that China's economy has "real problems." Now Xi is also expected to dine with us business executives while he's in the -- in the Bay Area on Wednesday. Now a top agenda item for President Biden is restoring high-level military communication with China which was cut off after then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last year.

The U.S. is also seeking action on fentanyl trafficking. Fentanyl precursor chemicals had been traced to companies based in China. Over the last year, tensions have flared over fentanyl, over the Chinese spy balloon. Over Taiwan and issues in the South China Sea as well as economic issues like trade, like access to technology like chips. And when Biden and Xi meet, U.S. officials also say that global issues will loom large. Like of course the Israel-Hamas war, the war on Ukraine as well as North Korea and its relationship with Russia. Rosemary?


CHURCH: All right. Our thanks to Kristie Lu Stout joining us live from Hong Kong. Joining me now from Beijing is Bert Hofman. He is the director of the East Asian Institute and a Professor in Practice at the National University of Singapore. He is also the former World Bank Country Director for China. Appreciate you joining us.


CHURCH: So, expectations of a breakthrough are being very carefully managed ahead of us President Joe Biden's rare high stakes meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. But what concrete progress could potentially be achieved when they meet face to face at the APEC summit in San Francisco today?

HOFMAN: So, Kristie, already mentioned a couple of areas. And I think there is an agreement on the fentanyl issue in the making, which is very important for the United States, and easy to meet from the Chinese side. The second is the military-to-military dialogue. One issue that stood in the way was that the United States sanction the previous Minister of Defense. So the Chinese said, well, you first got to lift our sanctions before we start talking.

Now, due to different reasons, Li Shangfu, the defense minister is no longer defense ministry. She is the former defense minister. So, in a way that opens up the road for more military-to-military communication which is important because there's lots of risky situations that have been taking place around Taiwan, in the South China Sea. So, you don't want those accidents to escalate into something bigger.

And for that communication is absolutely key. On a third area, I think the Middle East is going to be quite central to the -- to the talks. And there's -- if you want a comparative advantage for the U.S. to influence Israel and for China to influence, especially Iran. So to try and tone down the support for Iran for Hamas and Hezbollah. And then the U.S. could maybe take actions on Israel to stabilize the situation there.

I think the Chinese are specifically interested in the economic issues. The export controls the economic sanctions, the technological sanctions is a hindrance for their economic success. And they want to see that out of the way.

CHURCH: Right.

HOFMAN: That won't happen. But maybe there are some smaller actions from the United States that might -- that might give China something because if you look at the other issues, if you want, that would be wins for the United States. This could be a win for China.

CHURCH: So, the two leaders will, of course, try to repair and defuse tensions between the U.S. and China. But how can that be achieved, given the competition between the two nations and of course, the polar opposite approaches they each have two foreign policy and so many other issues including the two current wars raging in Ukraine and in Gaza that put these two leaders at odds?

HOFMAN: Well, so Rosemary, I mean, you're right. There's lots of issues that where they -- where they do not agree. But I am not sure about the two conflicts going on at this point in time. China wants to be seen to be -- if you want to at least one of the poles in a bipolar system in the world. And for that they also need to be seen to be contributing to achieving peace, or maintaining peace or returning to peace around the world.

A rule that the United States no matter how imperfect, but has played over the past decades. So, I think there is an interest from the Chinese side to minimize conflict and to remove conflict if and when it happens. There are issues that are in reconcilable if you want. Taiwan is one of these very big issues that where the two sides don't seem to agree were parts of the United States, not the administration, but parts of the United States on a much more pro-independence course from the United States which is -- which is very toxic for China.

So, those are very difficult issues. But nevertheless, I mean, it's -- that they are meeting is very important and it's very significant. It will be much more difficult next year because next year, there are two important election. One is actually the elections on Taiwan which are always -- which always bring tensions along with them. And second, of course, there is elections in the United States which makes it very hard to do any kind of trade, any kind of concessions towards China because that seems to -- that seems to be working very negatively for the electoral prospects of Biden.

CHURCH: And of course, as we mentioned and discussed at the start, expectations are being kept low so that there won't be any disappointment but perhaps at the very least, they will walk away with military communication restored.


But what do each of these two leaders hope to walk away with after this meeting do you think, at the very least?

HOFMAN: Well, I think for the U.S, the military-to-military dialogue, and frankly, that's also in China's interest. So maybe both can name that a win. The second is indeed the fentanyl issue where -- which is very important for the United States. It's more than 70,000 people dying last year or fentanyl. And China does -- knows it plays a role and it can -- it can stop the exports of precursor drugs.

And I believe that that is -- that is at least -- it's not fully in the books yet. But I think that is entirely feasible. Those already two very significant achievements. And that's good enough for one summit.

CHURCH: All right. We shall be watching very carefully as you will, I'm sure. Bert Hofman joining us live from Beijing. Many thanks.

Well, a tense he-said he-said situation erupts on Capitol Hill with former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy denying that he jabbed a fellow Republican with his elbow. We'll have details after a short break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHURCH: The White House says President Biden is ready to sign a funding bill approved by the house if it passes the Senate. House lawmakers passed the bill on Tuesday to keep the government running and avoid a shutdown at the end of the week. It would extend funding until mid-January for priorities such as military, construction, veterans affairs, transportation, housing and the Energy Department.

The rest of the government would be funded until February 2nd. But the plan does not include more aid for Israel or Ukraine. All but two Democrats joined a majority of Republicans including new speaker Mike Johnson in voting for the bill. Here is the Speaker.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA), UNITED STATES HOUSE SPEAKER: We're not surrendering we're fighting but you have to be wise about choosing the fight. You got to -- you got to fight that you can win and we're going to and you're going to see this house majority stand together on our principle and we're going to do that.


But the shutdown would occur on November 17th. Look, it took decades to get into this mess, right? I've been at the job less than three weeks, right?

I can't change -- I can't turn an aircraft carrier overnight. But this was a very important first step to get us to the next stage so we can change how Washington works.


CHURCH: That major bipartisan effort coming as tensions flared among some Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. A senator from Oklahoma challenged a witness at a hearing to a fistfight. And in the House, one member accused former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of elbowing him in the back.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty reports from Capitol Hill.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): No, no, sit down. Sit down. You're a United States senator. Sit down, please.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A breakdown in decorum today on Capitol Hill.

SEN. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R-OK): I want to expose this thug to who he is.

SEAN M. O'BRIEN, TEAMSTERS GENERAL PRESIDENT: Do not point at me. That's disrespectful.

MULLIN: I don't care about respecting you at all. I respect --

O'BRIEN: I don't respect you at all.

SERFATY: Senator Markwayne Mullin bringing a congressional hearing to a halt, standing up and challenging the witness to a fist fight in the middle of the hearing.

MULLIN: So, this is a time, this is a place. If you want to run your mouth, we can be two consenting adults. We can finish it here.

O'BRIEN: Okay, that's fine, perfect.

MULLIN: Do you want to do it right now?

O'BRIEN: I'd love to do it right now.

MULLIN: Well, stand your butt up then.

O'BRIEN: You stand your butt up, big guy.

SANDERS: Hold -- stop it!

SERFATY: The tense moment escalating quickly after the senator read tweets that Teamsters general president Sean O'Brien wrote in the past being critical of the senator.

MULLIN: What a clown, fraud, always has been, always will be. Quit the tough guy act in these Senate hearings. You know where to find me, any place, any time, cowboy.

SERFATY: Leading to numerous attempts by the chairman of the committee to break up the altercation that ensued.

SANDERS: Hold it. No, excuse me --

MULLIN: I will say --

SANDERS: Senator Mullin, I have the mic. If you have any questions on economic issues, anything that's like, go for it. We're not here to talk about physical abuse.

SERFATY: Afterwards, Mullin said he didn't regret it.

MULLIN: I didn't start it. I didn't tweet at him. I didn't go after him. I have no beef with the guy. I mean, I don't even know the last time I've gotten in a street fight.

SERFATY: Meantime over in the House today, Republican Congressman Tim Burchett says former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy elbowed him in the back.

REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): It was a clean shot to the kidneys. And I turned back and there was -- there was Kevin.

SERFATY: McCarthy denying it, saying they were in a narrow hallway intimating he only brushed past him.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): If I kidney punched him, he'd be on the ground.

SERFATY: Burchett maintaining it was intentional.

BURCHETT: There are 435 congressmen. I was one of eight that voted against him. That hallway was -- there is plenty of room. You can walk forward, side by side. He chose to do what he did.

SERFATY: Elsewhere on Capitol Hill.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): That is bullshit.

SERFATY: Tensions also boiling over, and an oversight hearing.

REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ (D-FL): You are doing stuff with your brother, the American public have the same questions. Why. Why should they believe? You why should they believe you?


SERFATY: Devolving into name-calling between Chairman Comer and freshman Congressman Jared Moskowitz.

COMER: You look like a Smurf here, just going around and all this stuff.


CHURCH: Sacked British Home Secretary Suella Braverman is speaking out and lashing out at Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, accusing him of failing to deliver on key policies. This comes one day after Sunak fired Braverman following her inflammatory comments about the policing of pro-Palestinian protests in London.

Braverman has now penned a letter to Sunak, which he posted on X, saying in part: I agreed to support you because the firm assurances you gave me on peak key policy priorities. You have manifestly and repeatedly failed to deliver on every single one of these key policies. Either your distinctive style of government means you are incapable of doing so, or as I must surely conclude now, you never had any intention of keeping your promises.

Well, one of the issues that Braverman slammed Rishi Sunak over in that letter was a proposed scheme to send some asylum seekers from the U.K. to Rwanda.

In the coming hours, the U.K. Supreme Court will make a ruling on the lawfulness of the plan and whether or not it can go ahead. The hugely controversial policy, which Suella Braverman has been a major advocate for, has been under legal review for around 18 months. So far, no deportations to Rwanda have been carried out. The first planned removals set for last year were stopped last minute with lawyers citing a breach of human rights.

And coming up, a new U.N. report says the world is widely off track in its goals of reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change. But one U.S. city is calling itself a refuge from that. We'll show you why.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

Well, a new U.N. report says the world is not doing nearly enough or moving quickly enough to keep a life-threatening level of climate change at bay. The report finds that even if countries stick exactly to their plight climate pledges, in 2030, we will still see 9 percent more planet heating pollution than in 2010. It says the current goals are not nearly enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

And the U.S. has just given its own assessment, a sweeping new report says that even though the U.S. is slowly decreasing its planet-warming pollution, it's not happening quickly enough to meet the country's targets. And it says the effects of climate change are visible in every part of the country.

Well, despite the extreme weather and rising temperatures across the U.S., one city is calling itself a climate refuge.

CNN's chief climate correspondent Bill Weir tells us why Buffalo, New York, the city synonymous with snowstorms, is the new climate haven.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's an old joke that tells us there are only two seasons in Buffalo -- winter and the Fourth of July. But in the age of global warming, the city wants you to know that now their weather is going from punch line to lifeline.

Thanks to its goldilocks location amid the Great Lakes, Buffalo has never reached 100 degrees.

STEPHEN VERMETTE, PROFESSOR AND CLIMATE SCIENTIST, BUFFALO STATE UNIVERSITY: We get on average about three days in the summer get to be 90 degrees or higher. If you are in Phoenix, you are looking at that and saying, what the heck you're calling that a heatwave?

WEIR: Yeah, that's mild.

And when Professor Stephen Vermette did a deep dive of the records, the Buffalo State climatologist was shocked to find no increase in droughts or floods.

There was this epic snowstorm last winter, really deadly and destructive.

VERMETTE: Yes. Blizzard of '22.

WEIR: That's not an indication? VERMETTE: No. We had the blizzard of '77, the blizzard of '85, '81,

blizzard of '36. I'm not saying that our severe weather is going to disappear. It's still there.

WEIR: Yeah.

VERMETTE: In fact, snow amounts have remained steady in all of this. It doesn't seem to be getting worse.

WEIR: Uh-huh.

VERMETTE: And that's the key here. We're still going to have severe weather --

WEIR: Right.

VERMETTE: -- like the wind and everything else, but it's not going to get worse.

WEIR: I've got to say, it's pretty ironic and telling about the world we now live in. A place sort of associated with cold jokes and --


WEIR: -- Super Bowl losses could be a huge winner relative on a hotter planet.

BROWN: That's the way we look at it.

There was a Professor Harvard talking about the effects of climate change and listed some cities that would be considered climate refuges in the future. And Buffalo was one of the cities on the list.

And so, we just leaned into it. We are going to not only call ourselves a climate refuge city, but do the kinds of things that are required to be welcoming with migration, with new Americans coming here, with seeing the first population growth in the city since the 1950 census.

WEIR: After Hurricane Maria, 3,000 Puerto Ricans became permanent Buffalonians.

ANTHONY MATTEI, TEACHER'S AIDE: It was hard. When the hurricanes start, what we do, we move from the second floor, we move to the first floor.

WEIR: Including Anthony Mattei who's now a teacher's assistant.

MATTEI: I remember when I move here, people told me, oh, you know where you are going? Because in Puerto Rico, it's always warm, it's hot. And I said no. I move here, like, in winter. I like it. It's good.

WEIR: Did you consider other spots? Or what was it about this place that appealed to you the most? HOLLY JEAN BUCK, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF BUFFALO: The

Great Lakes, the fresh water, the projections of climate change look like Buffalo might have a climate more like New York, Philadelphia, towards the end of the century.

WEIR: Wildfire smoke helped drive Holly Jean Buck and her family out of Southern California. And as a climate scientist, she says she was welcomed with open arms and employment.

BUCK: But really the energy of the people, people are really forward thinking, in western New York and in New York state, about what opportunities there might be in clean energy, in clean tech and how to build, you know, those solutions in ways that are good for communities.

WEIR: So, it's not just the latitude. It's the attitude?

BUCK: Yeah, exactly.

WEIR: Right, and the welcoming spirit of the place.

BUCK: The city of good neighbors, they call it.

WEIR: Oh, nice, nice. And you found that to be the case?

BUCK: I have, totally.

WEIR: Yeah?

BUCK: Yeah.


WEIR (on camera): Among the others selling points for western New York are abundant fresh water. Twenty percent of the world's fresh water is in the Great Lakes. And as it rushes over Niagara Falls, it provides bountiful hydroelectricity, sustainable energy. You know, they used to say that the three rules of real estate are location, location, location. And that is especially true in the age of climate change.

Bill weir, CNN, Niagara Falls.

CHURCH: And thanks so much for watching this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. "WORLD SPORT" is coming up next. And I'll be back in 15 minutes with more CNN NEWSROOM. Do stick around.