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King Charles Attends Easter Service; Pope Francis Presides Over Easter Mass At The Vatican Following Health Issues; Protesters Call For Netanyahu To Step Aside; Michigan Congressman Appears To Suggest Dropping Nuclear Bombs On Gaza; At Least 7 Children Shot In Indianapolis; Crews Removing First Pieces Of Baltimore Bridge Collapse Debris; Descendants Sue Over Upkeep Of Historic Atlanta Cemetery; Government Changes Questions On Race And Ethnicity On Federal Forms; Earth To Lose A "Leap Second" Ford The First Time Ever. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 31, 2024 - 16:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, again, everyone. And welcome. Happy Easter. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right. We begin this hour in the U.K. with King Charles' first public interaction since his cancer diagnosis earlier this year. The 75-year-old monarch was all smiles as he greeted a crowd outside St. Georges Chapel at Windsor Castle. Charles and Queen Camilla attended Easter service with a few royal family members. The outing comes more than a week after the Princess of Wales revealed her own cancer fight.

CNN's Max Foster has more.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A lucky few royal well-wishers given a surprise invite into Windsor Castle to see the king making his first major public appearance since his cancer diagnosis. Then an even bigger surprise when he went for a walk and a chat.

KING CHARLES, UNITED KINGDOM: You haven't got too cold standing here.

FOSTER: A royal source telling CNN all future engagements remains subject to medical advice near the time. But this was an encouraging sign of how the treatment is progressing, as we look towards summer and how the road ahead is looking positive.

KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL HISTORIAN: He's obviously looking, you know, really in great form. He's walking. He's, you know, out there again. We've been told that this isn't a return for public duties. What it is -- it's a gentle return to the public eyes. So we're seeing Charles, you know, out and about waving, you know, seeing people. But he's not going back to the full duties of kingship and we don't yet have a timeline as to when that's going to be.

FOSTER: The service at Windsor is a tradition for the royals. Prince Andrew amongst those invited, showing that he's part of the family if not part of the firm anymore. The Princess of Wales didn't attend as she receives her own treatment for cancer but that was expected as she also spends time with her children during the school holidays.

CATHERINE, PRINCESS OF WALES: We hope that you'll understand that as a family we now need some time, space and privacy while I complete my treatment.

FOSTER: It's an unprecedented time for the royal family with two senior royals sidelined due to serious illness, leaving only a handful of working royals to carry out public duties. Queen Camilla has shouldered much of the load in Charles' absence. Prince William is expected to resume public engagements in mid-April, but it's been a strain on the system.

ERIN HILL, PEOPLE MAGAZINE SENIOR EDITOR, ROYALS: King Charles really wanted to have a slim down monarchy when he took on the throne, but he never could have anticipated in slimming down to where it is now.

FOSTER: And there's also a matter of trust. The statement by the Princess of Wales diffused a frenzy of conspiracy theories about her health and whereabouts. But there are lingering questions about a digitally altered photo of Catherine and the children, and concerns that the palace isn't being transparent enough.

Media cameras were invited to film the events rather than in-house media teams. Behind the scenes, the king has been carrying out meetings and continuing his work as head of state as both he and Catherine continue their cancer treatments.

Royal fans often come here to Windsor for a chance to see the king. For a lucky few, they are invited into the castle and actually spend some time with them. And they're all saying how well he looked. So encouraging signs for a monarchist here in the U.K.

Max Foster, CNN, Windsor Castle, England.


WHITFIELD: Meantime, at the Vatican, Pope Francis lead Easter mass today after missing some recent services including a Good Friday event because of concerns over his help.

CNN Vatican correspondent Christopher Lamb has more on the Pope's message.

CHRISTOPHER LAMB, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, Pope Francis appeared in good spirits as he greeted crowds in Saint Peter's Square after presiding at Easter Sunday mass. The pontiff has been battling bouts of ill health and on Good Friday he at the last minute pulled out of a service at Rome's Colosseum in order, the Vatican said, to preserve his health.


But on Easter Sunday, he was back in Saint Peter's and he delivered a strong Easter Sunday message addressing conflicts that were taking place around the globe, including the Israel-Hamas war.


POPE FRANCIS, CATHOLIC CHURCH LEADER: I appeal once again the access to humanitarian aid be ensured to Gaza and call once more for the prompt release of the hostages seized on the 7th of October, and for an immediate ceasefire in the strip.


LAMB: Francis also warned about the winds of war, which he said were blowing across Europe and the Mediterranean. During these days of -- in the run-up to Holy Week and Easter, the Pope has presided a number of services and despite his age, he is 87 and ill-health, he has said he's determined to keep going in post and is not considering resigning.

Francis' appearance on Easter Sunday suggest he is determined to stay in post and keep going for as long as he can -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Christopher Lamb.

As Pope Francis calls for peace in Gaza, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, was asked today whether Israel allegedly withholding a third of humanitarian aid delivery could constitute a war crime.


SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): There's no doubt that blocking aid into Gaza is a violation of international humanitarian law. With respect to certain individuals in the Netanyahu government, people like Finance Minister Smotrich and Ben Gvir, who have not only said they want to block aid into Gaza, but have taken steps to block aid into Gaza, that is a war crime.

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Netanyahu is the prime minister. Is he a war criminal?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, we're going to have to make a decision as to what the intent of the full Israeli government is.


WHITFIELD: The comments come as talks between the U.S. and Israel over potential Israeli military operations in Rafah could come as soon as tomorrow. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly cancelled his delegations talks last week after the U.S. abstained in a United Nations vote demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Senator Van Hollen's comments come as Israeli prime minister doubled down on military operations in Rafah, saying there is no victory over Hamas without it. Netanyahu also dismissed renewed calls for an early election.

CNN's Melissa Bell is in Jerusalem where protests are underway. MELISSA BELL, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, a

great deal of anger being expressed here in Jerusalem tonight. This the first night of what protesters hope will be four days of rallies all the way down to the Knesset. They've set up their tents and what the urgent call here tonight is for Benjamin Netanyahu to go. These people want elections held. They're angry about the way the war has been prosecuted.

Now we've heard from the Israeli prime minister earlier tonight ahead of this protest saying that he believed that his policies that had been responsible for bringing half the hostages home so far, and doubling down on the idea that a ground invasion of Rafah, he said, will be necessary to win this war. Now that will be at the heart of negotiations, conversations in Washington, when the Israeli delegation gets there this week.

But there are also talks that are now taking place in Cairo. The hostage talks have started once again with Egypt and the UAE trying to get both sides to agree on some kind of deal that might lead to that six-week ceasefire. The exchange of some of the hostages for several hundred Palestinian prisoners. There are still a number of outstanding issues.

But one of the big themes of this night and the protest signs that we've seen is the anger that's nearly six months into this war, so little has been achieved, and show many hostages still remain in the hands of Hamas. A great deal pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu over the next few days as these parallel talks take place, and they had hoped is the emergence that a ceasefire might be found -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Melissa Bell, thanks so much.

A congressman from Michigan is facing backlash for statements he made at a recent town hall meeting where he appeared to suggest that nuclear bombs should be dropped on Gaza. Republican Tim Walberg made the comments on Monday after being asked a question about U.S. plans to build a floating pier off the coast of Gaza to help deliver humanitarian aid into the war-torn territory.

The Michigan congressman isn't seen on the video, but can be heard saying the U.S. should not be spending any money on humanitarian aid and then seem to advocate for bombing Gaza with nuclear bombs such as the ones the U.S. dropped on Japan during World War II.

We want to note the video appears to have been distributed online by a person affiliated with a Democratic advocacy group. Here are the congressman's comments.



REP. TIM WALBERG (R-MI): We shouldn't be spending a dime on humanitarian aid. It should be like Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Get it over quick.


WHITFIELD: Congressman Walberg's office released the transcript of the video and reaction to the distribution of the video. And Walberg also issued a statement insisting he was not advocating for using nuclear weapons, saying, in part, quote, "I used a metaphor to convey the need for both Israel and Ukraine to win their wars as swiftly as possible."

I'm joined now by Max Cohen. He's a congressional reporter for "Punchbowl News."

Max, great to see you.


WHITFIELD: So is that -- will that statement suffice?

COHEN: Walberg is already facing a lot of condemnation from fellow members of the Michigan congressional delegation. Two Democrats, Dan Kildee and Alyssa Slotkin, both came out immediately saying that type of rhetoric is indefensible. But what I think it's indicative of us, taken away the Hiroshima and Nagasaki comments, the opposition to humanitarian aid that is not rare among the House Republican conference.

And that's a story line which will come to the floor once Congress returns from recess and tries to address this national security package. There's a lot of opposition to providing humanitarian aid not only to Gaza, but also to Ukraine. A lot of Republicans just say give weapons of war, give military assistance but they're not in favor of humanitarian assistance here.

WHITFIELD: So this congressman, he made the comments in, I guess, a district that's considered particularly, you know, safe for him, a safe GOP district. But how might these comments impact other election races in Michigan, which is a swing state and home to the nation's largest Arab-American and Muslim populations?

COHEN: It's a great question. I think Slotkin, who's running for Senate statewide in Michigan, quickly seized on these comments. You know, as you mentioned, the Arab-American population in Michigan has been sharply critical of how President Joe Biden has dealt with the Israel-Hamas war. They want the United States to do more to prevent Israel from afflicting civilian casualties. Democrats I think are going to seize on these comments and say, look, you might not be happy with how Biden has dealt with this, but look what the Republicans are saying.

Look what the other side, their rhetoric is towards is Israel and Hamas, and Democrats across the board. Even though many of them do support Israel, there's a universal acceptance that more humanitarian aid has to be surged into the Gaza Strip.

WHITFIELD: Is there any response coming from others within the GOP? Is it quiet right now?

COHEN: It's been crickets. I think what really has may have benefited this Republican congressman is that Congress will not be back in D.C. for another week and a half almost. You know, if Congress is in session this week, I'm sure every single Republican will be asked point-blank to support these questions on their return to D.C. But I think the Easter holiday is providing cover.

In reality, I think Walberg -- he's not a very well-known member of Congress, let's be honest. He's probably not going to lose his reelection over this but I think this will impact Michigan politics in the way I said earlier, the contrast between Democrats or Republicans, the rhetoric here is sharply different.

WHITFIELD: He might be better known now as we're among many talking about it.

All right, Max Cohen, thank you so much.

COHEN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, at least seven children are shot in downtown Indianapolis and no suspects are in custody. The latest on the search and the investigation. And new developments in Baltimore where crews are starting to move the first pieces of that collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge.



WHITFIELD: All right. AT&T is asking customers to reset their passwords after a major leak of personal data affecting 73 million current and former customers. The telecom giant, quote, "has launched a robust investigation supported by internal and external cybersecurity experts into the source of the leak." AT&T says account information, including Social Security numbers, was exposed to the dark Web, but the leak does not appear to contain financial information or call history.

This is another misstep for a company that only last month experienced a nationwide outage that left customers without service after a network upgrade.

All right. Saturday night out on the town fun turns deadly in Indiana. For the third weekend this month, police in Indianapolis are investigating a mass shooting. At least seven children were shot outside of downtown shopping mall. The youngest, just 12 years old. Officers patrolling the area say they heard several shots around 11:30 last night.

CNN's Ivan Rodriguez is getting all the details for us.

So what more are you learning about how this happened?

IVAN RODRIGUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, they said, Indianapolis Police, they rushed to the scene. They were nearby in that downtown area, heard the shots, ran there, found a large group of children, seven of them, as you mentioned, with gunshot wounds. Now they're recovering from their injuries. No arrests have been made so far. But we want to show you this map showing all the locations and dates of the recent mass shootings in Indianapolis.


All the shootings are within 25 minutes of each other. It's important to note they're not connected. On March 16th, a nightclub shooting left one person dead, five others injured. The following weekend, one person was killed, and five others, including an off-duty Indianapolis Metro Police officer, were injured after a shooting outside a bar early Sunday morning and now last night an incident involving youth violence.

Officials say more than 25 officers were patrolling the area Saturday for police to prevent this type of activity from happening.


DEP. CHIEF TANYA TERRY, INDIANAPOLIS POLICE: It's extremely concerning to the mindset of some of our community members, especially some of our young community members. Once again, and I know you guys have heard Chief Bailey talk about it, conflict should not lead to somebody pulling out a gun and trying to resolve it. The consequences are eternal. OK. We have got to learn how to talk to each other. We've got to learn how to resolve conflict in different ways.


RODRIGUEZ: Deputy Chief Tanya Terry also says they believe multiple firearms were involved, but it's unclear what led to the shooting or how many people opened fire, although they didn't provide information on the nature of the gathering. Police have noticed in the evenings a large crowd of young people moving around the downtown area.

WHITFIELD: Nor do they know whether those who had the firearms were minors themselves.

RODRIGUEZ: They don't know --

WHITFIELD: Since the majority of the victims are minors.

RODRIGUEZ: Or even how they got the guns, but the big question obviously was family values, right? And they're like, it's the day before Easter, your 12-year-old isn't home, maybe we should know a little bit more about what they're doing on 11:30 p.m. at an on Saturday night.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ivan Rodriguez. Thanks so much.

All right, we're also watching big developments in Baltimore where officials say they are now beginning the delicate process of removing pieces of the fallen Francis Scott Key Bridge. The U.S. Coast Guard tells CNN the crew of the cargo ship Dali is still on board and holding up well,

CNN's Gloria Pazmino toured the site with members of the U.S. Coast Guard earlier today.

So what more have they told you about this ongoing investigation?

GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred. As you said the crew of the Dali is still on that ship. They were headed to Sri Lanka originally as part of this this trip before they hit and made -- caused the bridge to collapse. They're doing OK. They're holding up well. They have everything they need on board. But they're there in part because there's an investigation still ongoing.

They have already started to remove pieces off the bridge. They have to go in there, cut the pieces up, lift them, and remove them out of the water and the surrounding area all part of an extremely complicated operation that is taking place as we speak. We got very close to the wreck site earlier this morning. We went along with the U.S. Coast Guard who really helped us just understand how much work is still ahead.

This is a monumental task, Fred. When you go in there and you're able to see the Dali up close all the containers that are still on top of it. And then all of the ships that have arrived and are now around the area so that they can be deployed to help with their cranes and all of their heavy equipment. Take a look and listen to just what it's like when you're up close.


PAZMINO: So you can see we have been able to get extremely up close to the wreckage of the Dali and we're starting to really get an appreciation on a sense of just how massive this job is going to be. You're looking at 4,000 tons of steel and concrete that are sitting on top of that bow. That is going to be the most complicated part of this operation moving all of that debris and taking it off the ship so that they can begin this cleanup process.

And then there's everything that's laying below the surface. The part that we can't see there is more metal, more concrete, more debris in the water. And that's going to be critical because they have to be able to make that safe for the divers whose mission is to get back into the water and continue searching to attempt to recover the bodies of those who were lost. But as we're sitting here, you know, now finally being able to really see it and get up close to it, you really just get a sense of the enormity of the job at hand.


PAZMINO: And Fred, in terms of the debris that's in the water, I was told earlier today that even after they deployed the sonar to try and map out the floor and understand exactly where the debris is sitting, they have lost one piece of equipment in there. It got tangled in the metal in the debris that's in there.


So it gives you a sense of just how difficult this is. They have to make that area safe for the divers to be able to go back in into the water. As you know, there are still four bodies that have yet to be recovered. So that part also extremely critical.

I do want you to hear from one of the colonels that is directly involved in helping to lead this mission, what her message was to those families and the people of Baltimore.


COL. ESTEE PINCHASIN, COMMANDER, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: We are not just looking at how we're going to engineer this. We're scanning to make sure that if we identify any vehicles or any of the fallen that we are able to react. Commitment to the people of Baltimore and the state of Maryland that that is a very integrated effort in the overall salvage operations that are taking place.


PAZMINO: So it's going to be a long road ahead, but they have the confidence that they have, all the tools they need in order to make it happen. Even as we travel around the area here in Baltimore, we can see that people are stopping to take in the loss of this essential part of their skyline. Right? This is affecting their day-to-day lives. And they're looking forward to recovering soon -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Gloria Pazmino. Thank you so much.

All right. For the first time in decades, the U.S. government is changing the way it inquires about race and ethnicity on those U.S. Census forms. What you'll see the next time you get one.



WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

In an upscale part of Atlanta, a historic cemetery with graves dating back to slavery is so overgrown, descendants of people buried there can't even visit.

And now there's a legal fight over who is supposed to maintain the site of these graves.

CNN's Rafael Romo went there.


AUDREY COLLINS, DESCENDANT AND PLAINTIFF: This was cleared and it was -- you could walk up the hills.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At first sight, this looks like a forest, but look closer and you'll see the rocks here are engraved.

COLLINS: You can see a tombstone right there, look.

ROMO: This one acre plot of land is back in the heart of Buckhead, an upscale community in Atlanta.

Can you tell us how many members of your family were buried here?

RHONDA JACKSON, DESCENDANT AND PLAINTIFF: My grandmother, my grandfather. I have a baby brother.

COLLINS: Mm-hmm.

JACKSON: Two great grandmothers.

COLLINS: Mm-hmm.

JACKSON: Uncles and aunts.

ROMO: Piney Grove Cemetery, a historic African-American graveyard that traces its roots to the 19th century, is now at the center of a legal battle between sisters, Rhonda, Jackson and Audrey Collins, descendants of people buried here and the Bluffs Atlanta's homeowners association, which now owns this land.

We cleared all of this. All this was cleaned --

ROMO: Uh-huh.

COLLINS: -- a few years ago.

ROMO: In a lawsuit filed in January, the sisters claimed the HOA has failed to clean and maintain the cemetery, but also has interfered with plaintiffs' rights under Georgia law to care for and maintain the cemetery.

But the HOA claims the cemetery was abandoned before it acquired the land and until recently, no one took responsibility for maintaining it.

KATHRYN WHITLOCK, BLUFFS AT LENOX ATTORNEY: The plaintiffs themselves had been to the cemetery when they were children and had not been back in years. And when they got back, it was overgrown and it was difficult to find grave markers and boundaries.

ROMO: The fake vegetation here has made it very difficult, if not impossible, for the surviving relatives of the people buried here to visit their graves.

But we were able to get to the top of the hill, and this is what we found. This is the grave of Joshua Thomas buried in 1987. He happens to be the grandfather of the two sisters who filed the lawsuit.

According to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, at Piney Grove, there are over 300 burials, some of which are believed to be burials for enslaved individuals and other people who came from thriving African-American communities that were displaced over several decades.

WRIGHT MITCHELL, PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, GEORGIA TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION: That's been going on since, you know, emancipation, where, you know, African-American communities are displaced through a measure of different tactics.

ROMO: For the last few years, the sisters and a small group of supporters have been fighting a losing battle against the vegetation that is so thick, they can no longer reach their grandmother's grave.

COLLINS: It's too treacherous, you know, going up the hill. I'm 71 years old, almost 72 with a bad hip.

JACKSON: I guess I get emotional because on the very first cleanup, I promised my grandma when we cleaned her graves, I said, I promised you, this is not going to happen again. We're going to make sure that you are treated with respect.

ROMO: After the first hearing on the case held in February, both parties made an agreement that, among other things, gives the sisters access to the cemetery, which had been a problem before.

The agreement also allows the plaintiffs to take measures to clear vegetation, including the use of goats, which was a source of disagreement in the past.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.



WHITFIELD: All right. Some changes coming to some of the questions that you see on government forms when it comes to your race and ethnicity.

Right now, you might see a question asking if you have Hispanic or a Latino background and a separate question on racial identity.

Well, under the new standards, the government will collect race and ethnicity using a single question. It will now include seven broad categories, White, Hispanic or Latino, Black or African-American, Asian, American-Indian or Alaska native, Middle Eastern or North African and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. I love it because I feel like we should have something that you can see because I hope you can follow all of that.

Joining me right now to discuss this and these changes is Congresswoman Judy Chu. It's a lot to keep up with and it's a very important issue. She's a Democrat from California and the Chair of the Asian Pacific American Caucus. Congresswoman, good to see you.


REP. JUDY CHU (D-CA): Oh, thank you for having me.

WHITFIELD: OK. So you have called for these changes that you, you know, say as a once in a generation breakthrough.

Why was this so important? How does this either simplify? Or does it address what has become a very, you know, complex tapestry of America? CHU: We have been asking for these changes for decades. Actually, it hasn't been changed in 30 years since 1997. And finally, in 2022, the Biden administration took up this challenge and had so many listening sessions, public comment, 20,000 comments.

I mean, race and ethnicity is very, very important to so many Americans. And being accurately portrayed is very critical to the services that we have, as well as the kind of images that we have in society.

Now, for Asian-American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islanders, which is what we call AANHPIs, it is so important not to be lumped together. We have over 100 different race and ethnicities and over 70 languages that are spoken.

And if you just lump us together, it masks the vast differences that are between our different groups.

WHITFIELD: And how do you believe these changes that will give a better representation of the racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S. also be advantageous to those who are filling out the paperwork?

CHU: Oh, it will make a huge difference. Say, for instance, in education, for our population, there is an average of 56 percent of those who get a four-year degree or higher.

But if you look at the differences between the different Asian groups, then you see some startling statistics. For instance, those in the Southeast Asian categories, that is those who are among Laotian or Cambodian only earn a bachelor degree at 15 to 17 percent. And they need the help.

Without knowing these differences, they will not get the help. And so it has a lot of implications for what we do --


CHU: -- in K-12 education, in higher Ed, in so many ways.

And actually, on income. We have the greatest income disparity between all of our different groups. The 10 highest earners are 10 times higher than the 10th lowest earners. So what that means is that those at the low end aren't getting the help from the agencies such as the Small Business Administration and other kinds of programs that combat poverty.

WHITFIELD: So what kinds of program or policy changes do you see forthcoming as a result of these changes?

CHU: Well, I could see education programs being more finely attuned to those populations that need the help in the Asian population. Certainly, that is Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders.

I could see programs that service those who are vulnerable, that is those who have greater needs, such as in our SBA loan programs, that they would be better able to get the assistance they need to be successful in their businesses and to be able to get the loans that they need to expand their businesses. So it can have such tremendous differences.

Let me also say that knowing these differences can have a tremendous beneficial effect on society as a whole, because when you have these big differences, people operate on model minority stereotypes.

And we in the AANHPI population have had that stereotype for a long time. And it becomes a wedge between groups and can stoke anti-Asian hate.

So by having the true picture of what our population is about --


CHU: -- we can stop those terrible stereotypes and also have a better quality of life for everybody.

WHITFIELD: Congresswoman Judy Chu, glad you could be with us today. Happy Easter.

CHU: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, the polar ice caps are melting and it could be flowing down time itself. The new findings from a time shifting study, next.



WHITFIELD: How would you manage with one less second in your life? We might find out. Because polar ice is melting so fast that it's changing Earth's rotation and messing with time itself.

Plenty of leap seconds have been added over the years, but after a long trend of slowing, the Earth's rotation is now speeding up because of changes in its core. And that means the world will soon need to subtract one second for the first time ever. That does not sound fair.


Climate scientist and distinguished professor of Earth and environmental science, Michael Mann, is joining us right now to discuss.

He's also the author of "Our Fragile Moment: How Lessons From Earth's Past Can Help Us Survive The Climate Crisis."

Professor Mann, good to see you. I think. I don't know.

MICHAEL MANN, CLIMATE SCIENTIST: Thanks Fredricka. It's good to be with you.

WHITFIELD: This is not good news, actually. Maybe I'm not so happy to see you. OK. So scientists, you know, still can't precisely say when this might happen. But for starters, can you help better explain, you know, to us why this is even a possibility? One less second of our lives.

MANN: Yes. It's not really that bad. We're not really losing time from our lives. It's just the length of the day is fluctuating a little bit.

And that it actually fluctuates from year to year because of things like changing air currents and ocean currents.

The El Nino phenomenon actually changes the length of the year. It changes the length of the day by on the order of microseconds.


MANN: So we're talking about small fractions of a second --


MANN: But they add up over the course of the year to maybe a second or so. And you have to make these little adjustments in the clock because of that.


MANN: So this is something that happens naturally, for example, with the El Nino phenomenon. But what's so interesting about this latest study, it shows that it's happening to a slightly larger extent now --


MANN: -- because of the loss of ice from the polar ice sheets.

And if you think about it, it's sort of like if you've ever watched a skater that's spinning on the ice.


MANN: And when they stick their arms out, they slow down. And when they bring them back in, they speed up. That has to do with how they are changing their moment of inertia, we call it.


MANN: And it relates to a physics principle called the conservation of angular momentum. I won't get into the sort of geeky physics of it, but the bottom line is that the earth is sort of the same thing in a sense. It's spinning around its polar axis. And there's all this ice at the north and south poles.

And when that ice disappears --


MANN: -- then it flows into lower latitudes, flows sort of towards the equator. And so you're redistributing that mass --

WHITFIELD: All right.

MANN: -- from the axis of rotation away from the axis of rotation, just like that skater when they stick their arms out.

And so that's sort of what's happening. It's a small fraction of a second. It's not really going to impact our lives, but it does speak to the profound impact that climate change is having on our entire planetary system. It's literally changing the length of the day.

WHITFIELD: Wow. You're an excellent professor. I would love to be in your class because that was really fun learning and understanding and you, you know, helped us visualize it perfectly.

So, who will make, I guess, that declaration and how will we learn or know that I guess the slower rotation, the consequences going to be that we lose a second of our lives?

MANN: Yes. So it's literally happening continuously. The thing is we make those adjustments at a particular time, right?


MANN: We don't constantly make adjustments, like for leap year. We wait for years and we make that adjustment. It's the same idea here.


MANN: We wait until enough of those tiny fractions of a second have built up enough to add up to a second. And then when they do, we make that adjustment that year in the number of seconds.

So it is important for timekeeping and there are systems that depend on very accurate timekeeping. So it is important for us to recognize that this is happening and take it into account, for example, in our timekeeping devices and our various ways of establishing, you know, precise chronologies for instrumentation.


MANN: That's all important. Its impact on us and the planet and our environment --


MANN: -- is pretty small. But the impact of climate change itself, which this speaks to --


MANN: -- is much greater.

WHITFIELD: And that's the important way to kind of punctuate this too, is that it sounds like, you know, you might be thinking or we should all be thinking that, you know, sadly, I will only get warmer. And so one second loss is ultimately going to be two seconds loss and, you know, on and on and on.

Or are you hopeful and thinking it will go the other way?

MANN: Yes. And, you know, I'm not too worried about this. A few seconds here or there, you know, over the course of our lives, the way, you know, time is sort of accounted for.


MANN: It's a tiny little effect.


MANN: The bigger effect, and what I am worried about is if we continue to put carbon pollution into the atmosphere and warm up the planet, then we're going to melt more of that polar ice.



MANN: And it's not just affecting our timekeeping, it is flooding our coastlines. It's adding to these more destructive --


MANN: -- hurricanes to literally pose a threat to us and other living things along with droughts and wildfires and heat waves. That's the problem.

The good news?


MANN: We can stop it from getting worse if we move away from carbon pollution, if we move away from fossil fuel burning.

WHITFIELD: Habits have to change

All right. I'm Professor Michael Mann, thank you so much and Happy Easter.

MANN: You too. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. And people around the world are getting ready for the upcoming total solar eclipse. U.S. cities like Dallas, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Buffalo, New York, they'll be in the path of totality, which means people in those cities will see the sun entirely blocked by the moon.

And CNN will have special live coverage of this rare moment that won't come around again for another two decades.

"Eclipse Across America" starts live Monday, April 8th at 1:00 P.M. Eastern time. And you can also stream our coverage on "Max." I'm Fredericka Whitfield. Again, Happy Easter. Thank you so much for being with me this weekend. CNN NEWSROOM continues with Omar Jimenez in a moment.