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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Interview With Bill Gates On Fighting The Coronavirus Pandemic; Bill Gates On Confronting COVID-19 In Developing Countries; Bill Gates: As In Most Bad Situations, The Poor Will Bear The Brunt Of This Burden; Leading Virus Hunter On Origins Of Coronavirus; Could The Coronavirus Have Come From A Wuhan Lab? Aired 10-11a ET
Aired April 26, 2020 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world, I'm Fareed Zakaria.
Today on the show, Bill Gates, the head of the world's largest charitable foundation. What do we now know about this strange virus and its effects. Has the lockdown worked? Is America ready to open up for business again? Will we have a vaccine and when?
I will ask Bill Gates these questions and more.
Also, where in the world did the virus come from? Was it from a wet market or a Chinese lab? Will we ever know? We will get the latest science from one of the world's foremost virus detectives.
Finally in this earth week, I'll tell you about the silver linings in the COVID crisis for Mother Earth.
But first, here's "My Take." Poor Brian Kemp. He obviously didn't get the memo. When the governor of Georgia announced on Monday that he was going to begin opening up his state's economy, he must have assumed that President Trump would lavish him with praise. After all just days earlier the president has said publicly the country was starting our life again and indicated that some states were ready to open up.
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted states are safely coming back. Our country is starting to open for business again. And yet, hours after that tweet, at his daily press conference, the president announced that he disagreed strongly with Kemp's decision.
Welcome to Donald Trump's reelection strategy, where he is both the government and the fiery opposition to that government. Populism has always fundamentally been a protest movement of outsiders railing against a corrupt elite that runs the country. Right-wing populism additionally makes a distinction between the real people and the others who tend to be foreigners, immigrants, blacks, Jews and other minorities.
Now this strategy works well when you're out of government. One you're inside, though, you face a challenge. Politicians who win elections usually try to broaden their base and unify the nation. But populism depends on division and dissatisfaction. In addition in times of genuine emergency, people sober up.
Across the world, many populist parties that frivolously attack the establishment have struggled to make their voices heard. In a pandemic, it turns out many people want their governments to take an active stance, preferably based on advice from experts.
Trump's solution is to play insider and outsider simultaneous simultaneously. One day he announces a careful plan devised by public health officials that announces a step-by-step process for opening up, the next day he sides with street protesters against governors who are following those very guidelines.
It's a complicated dance. You can watch the two Trumps at his press conferences. He begins the session as President Trump making the day's official pronouncements, reading in a dreary monotone from a script he doesn't appear to have looked at before. And then from time to time, Donald Trump, the populist icon, suddenly pops up. Commenting on his own script. For example, to say, after recommending the use of masks --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is voluntary. I don't think I'm going to be doing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde routine continues throughout the briefing. As his own health officials take the podium to make some substantive point, Trump will jump in to say something that is at odds with the message they are trying to convey. But Trump seems worried that this dance may not be enough to win him re-election, especially as unemployment mounts. The president has surely noticed that his approval ratings remain roughly where they were before the pandemic which is astonishing given that crises usually boost presidential approval enormously.
So he has doubled down on the attack strategy against the usual scapegoats, the media and what has become an absurd daily routine, as well as blue-state governors, liberal cities, international organizations, and now, of course, most pointedly China.
He's also returning to his favorite target, immigrants. The president's ban on immigrants seeking green cards from coming into the country for 60 days is strange since the U.S. has already largely halted immigration. But it's not really a policy, it is a political symbol. A reminder to Trump's base that they can always count on him.
There is, of course, another path. Donald Trump could have used the crisis to rally the nation around a common foe. He could have provided calm, sensible leadership, stayed on message with his own health officials, and fostered unity rather than division. That's the approach of German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who now has a
79 percent approval rating. It is the strategy of Emanuel Macron who has moved up 10 points in his very polarized country. But it turns out that Donald Trump knows only one dance. Call it the populism hustle. And he seems uninterested in learning any other.
For more, go to CNN.com/fareed and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
Let's get right to the main event. Bill Gates barely needs any introduction. I will simply remind you he is one of the world's richest people and he has dedicated a large share of his fortune and his expertise to fighting diseases. He's now taken a lead role in the search for a vaccine and a cure for the coronavirus.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding factories for each of the seven most promising ideas for a vaccine, even though Gates freely admits that only one or maybe two of them will actually be used.
I'm now joined by Bill Gates.
Pleasure to have you on, Bill.
BILL GATES, CO-CHAIR, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: Good to see you.
ZAKARIA: So, if you were to explain to people in general, would you tell them that we now know the coronavirus is more deadly, less deadly, more transmissible, less transmissible? How do you characterize this one?
GATES: Well, we know that if we do these extreme social isolation measures, we get the reproductive rate below one, which means that the total number of active infections starts to go down. What we don't know is we go slightly back to normal which activities create the risk of a rebound. And so we need to put into place a very dense testing regime so you would detect that rebound going back into the exponential growth very quickly and not wait for the ICUs to fill up and there to be lots of deaths.
You know, if you see the hot spot, you kind of understand the activities causing that. Change policy there and get it back down to the -- into the decline. So that the brute force tactic that was used did work. It worked in, you know, every country, but that's cost such damage. Now we want to back off from that and we're a little naive about how to prioritize those activities.
We need the testing, we need strong leadership where the scientific community and the politicians are saying, OK, what's the value? Things like school obviously have a very high value, if we can figure out a format that's not driving a lot of infections.
ZAKARIA: So, you talk about testing. Everybody talks about it. And it seems bizarre, you know, just from the outside that it would be so hard. I mean, this is the richest country in the world. You know, people have made analogies to wars during World War II, the United States went from a standing start of zero planes to being able to produce a plane every 63 minutes in one of the Ford factories.
Why can't testing be ramped up to the million a day level that a lot of people -- experts believe would be necessary to help reopen?
GATES: Yes. So it looks like with new machines and using them in a better way we'll be able to get up to 400,000, 500,000 a day. That's just barely enough for really doing the tracking. There's some very innovative ways of running those machines or eventually getting the strip test that could take us to higher numbers.
The key thing about the U.S., though, is this focus on the number of tests understates the cacophony and the mistakes we've made in our testing system. The access to that testing system is very unequal. The wrong people are being tested and any time you don't get results in less than 24 hours, the value of the test is dramatically reduced.
And so the U.S. is unique in terms of just -- you know, it's who you know, whether you get in front of the line, asymptomatics can get in front of the line, and you get these lines that are way too long.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about the vaccine that you've been so involved in. So when I talk to experts is that there's a range of views. One of which is, look, we may not get a vaccine. You know, we don't have vaccines against some other coronaviruses.
There are some viruses for which you don't get one. And on the other side people telling me with so many efforts being made like yours, the government is also doing one, the British government is doing one, the Chinese are undoubtedly doing one, we'll actually end up with a vaccine much faster than people are predicting.
GATES: Well, it's very hard to compress these timeframes. And, you know, if everything went perfectly we'd be in scale manufacturing within a year. We may not achieve that. It could be as long as two years. There's over 100 efforts.
What we need to do is pick the most promising of those, get money, sort of going full speed, build the manufacturing in parallel. Some of which is shared like the fill finish, which is the last step, where there's nowhere need the capacity for the seven billion doses so we need to do that.
ZAKARIA: But are you optimistic it will be on the shorter end? I mean, I've heard people say maybe by December we could imagine starting production.
GATES: No. I mean, I don't -- the -- you know, you have to do these phase three studies that help you understand if somebody has a condition X, Y, or Z, does it create a side effect? You know, there's people with defective immune systems, there's all sorts of things. So the size of the phase three, the global regulators are going to have to get together and decide how many people, what length of time that goes in. And you'll have to trial where there's a very heavy infection rate.
So, you know, the idea of being in manufacture by the end of the year, that's beyond my -- what's likely. Dr. Fauci and I have, you know, been fairly consistent in saying 18 months to not create expectations that are not too high because this influences short of a miracle set of therapeutics, this influences when we get to go back to true normal.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, Bill Gates on when and how the economy will come back.
ZAKARIA: And we are back now with Bill Gates whose foundation has already committed more than a quarter of a billion dollars to fighting COVID-19.
Let me ask you about the economy. When trying to open up, one of the challenges is some states are opening up earlier than others. Some countries are opening up earlier. Can we be sure, you know, that we know what exactly the right levers are and how to open up?
And I ask this because there are a lot of governors, for example, who are criticizing the predictions that were made. The Florida governor says, look, there were all these models that predicted to us that we would need 200,000, 300,000 hospital beds in use for COVID. We have 2,000 beds. In other words, the predictions were way off.
We didn't -- you know, and the implication is they didn't do an enormous amount of the hardcore lockdown and they're still OK. What do you say to them?
GATES: Well, I wouldn't say they're OK. They're not suffering as widespread an epidemic yet. If they open up enough, they can go back into exponential growth and, you know, compete with New York on that basis.
The uncertainties about this mean that because of the exponential nature of this, yes, some models were wildly wrong. You know, models are never going to be perfect in these things but we can learn, you know, when you have countries that are sending, say, young children back to school, Germany, Denmark, Austria have good enough testing regime, you know, more confident than the U.S., so they actually will be able to see the effect of that.
Norway is actually doing it in a differential than different parts of the country which will help inform us. The problem with the United States is that large interdict travel. Any state that goes too far and gets into that exponential growth will be seeding other parts of the country. And so it will be like international travel, where you have force of infection coming in, that's very tricky to deal with.
But, you know, the need for the testing piece, you know, I don't -- I haven't had anyone argue with it, but the -- they're not stepping up to actually do it yet and that's got to be the federal level.
ZAKARIA: So, everyone says when we open it's going to be slow, it's going to be parts of the economy. People have estimated 20 percent, 30 percent. Give us, you know, the best-case scenario.
You know, you've heard this metaphor of the hammer and the dance. The dance being now you start opening up these -- the economy, and through a kind of moderate amount of social distancing, you are able to achieve what will we be able to achieve? What's the good-case scenario?
GATES: You know, the best case is you pick the high value activities like school, manufacturing, construction, and figure out a way to do those with kind of masks and distancing. You know, in the school, you don't want the hallways to have tons of kids all at once or the lunch room. And then you can see, is that -- are those schools a source of infection spreading up into the elderly, which then, you know, would cause some level of mortality. I'm hopeful that --
ZAKARIA: Bill, can I -- can I --
ZAKARIA: Can I just ask you about schools? Because everyone is so -- is so curious and worried about this.
You have three kids. You know how schools work. I mean, lots of people crowded together in classrooms, in dormitories, in hallways. That is almost the definition of school. How do you get it going?
GATES: Well, certainly for the underaged kids where the online substitute is inferior, more inferior than as you get up, say, to college level that online can capture at least in terms of the academics a lot of what goes on. There, you know, what we've seen in terms of infection levels is pretty low.
And you do have some European countries that are moving ahead with that and because of their testing will understand what the viral load is and, you know, compare households with kids going to school versus households that don't have that coming in.
So over the course of the summer some of that will be learned. And in the fall that will be one of the toughest questions. It's right on the boundary of, is there a (INAUDIBLE) way to do it that particularly for the low-income students where the online learning hasn't been fully enabled because, you know, they don't have the equipment or the connection or the teacher is not set up for it?
You know, the inequity has gotten greater in education. So if we can figure out how to do K through 12 in the fall, that would be good. I even think if we're creative about it and things have gone well, we'll be able to do college. But there's a lot of data we'll be learning from globally and we'll see the progress on the tools as well that will inform those decisions.
So, it will probably be in August where, you know, the idea of what's the protocol, how many schools are opening up that, you know, we won't really know enough until pretty close to the start.
ZAKARIA: So, you've written both in your paper that's on your "Gates Notes," which I really recommend people read, and you've said elsewhere, the economy is not going to be anything like it was. It's going to take a long time to recover. It's going to be -- you know, people are going to be surprised at how slow and how fitful this is.
So what is it that the stock market is seeing that you, Bill Gates, are not seeing? The stock market is now basically at a routine annual correction. It seems -- you know, it has not really factoring in, it seems to me, the kind of economy you're describing.
GATES: Well, you know, some companies, their valuation, if you took out two years of earnings, there's still enough earnings out from years three to end, that the valuation won't change that much. And, you know, so if you have companies that don't run into a liquidity problem, whose long-term profitability is strong, then the valuation adjustment isn't necessarily that dramatic.
You do have an economy that's going to be operating at a lower level, and that affects all sorts of spending. There's no doubt that will be the case for years to come. And so that, you know, should affect overall valuations.
You know, there aren't that many great investments. I mean, buying treasury bills right now doesn't seem that attractive. So I'm not as -- you know, I'm an expert on vaccines and therapy, I talk to people about the economy. Like you, I find it a little surprising where the market is. But, you know, I'm not going to focus on that.
ZAKARIA: Are you surprised that Microsoft, for example, is trading at the same price that it was in December before, you know, the coronavirus?
GATES: You know, tech companies in some ways benefit from an acceleration of a move towards digital approaches, even though their next few years they'll have a lot of customers that they'll be, you know, helping out, giving free licenses to, you know, where things won't be as strong. So, you know, if there's any sector of the economy where you could say, OK, it's not that drastic of a change, you'd probably pick that. But again, valuations is not where I add the most value.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, Bill Gates on China. Is that the country that is the villain of this crisis as President Trump has implied?
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about the rest of the world, which, of course, particularly the poorer countries are going to be hit hard for all kinds of obvious reasons. They don't have as good a health care system and things like that.
Now, I've read as a result a couple of very interesting analysis that say, look, for these countries there's a real question about whether they should be going for a full lockdown model because, first of all, many of them have people very -- you know, living in slums, which are very tightly crowded.
I grew up in Bombay. There's a slum there called Dharavi, which I'm sure you visited, where the density of, what, people is 800,000 per square mile. To compare, New York is 27,000 per square mile. So actually if you send those people to work, you're helping them socially -- you know, distance themselves. It's by staying at home that they're, you know, become kind of living in petri dishes.
There's also the fact that it's warmer. They have fewer old people. That for that reason poor countries should really be thinking about this differently.
GATES: Yes. I think that's right.
The -- this is, to me, one of the greatest uncertainties is the reported cases coming out of developing countries, whether it's India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Sub-Saharan Africa. Those case numbers are still fairly small. Now, you know, we funded ramping up that testing capacity, but it's still limited. You know, there are reasons people might not want to come forward, volunteer to be tested. The initial spread is probably more amongst the international travelers. That's a fairly narrow group of people.
But sadly, unless there's some magic positive fact we don't understand eventually the slums you're talking about will experience very widespread infection. The social isolation measures probably can't get the reproductive rate below 1.
People need food. If the government tries to overdo things, you'll get riots, starvation, you know, you can have a complete collapse in civil order if you're not careful. So I do think the creativity of how you reduce the infection rate while making sure people still get food, that's really an unsolved problem. It worked for the rich countries with that gigantic economic price. It might not in these countries.
ZAKARIA: And how do they get out of it economically? What - the United States at some level can print money. Most of these countries have to borrow. They have to borrow on international markets. It's much, much harder. What happens here?
GATES: Well, I'm afraid a great deal of hardship. You know, even things like routine vaccination, the rates are going down and that alone will account for a lot of deaths. The measles campaigns those are important. That, we've been modeling out what it means.
So things at the basic level of very basic health care, very basic sustenance are much tougher. And sadly, as is the case in most bad situations, the poorer countries and the poorer citizens will bear the ones who bear the brunt of the burden.
All the more reason that the world should get the billions to build the tools and get those tools not just to the countries who finance them or have the great scientific and manufacturing capability but get them to the entire globe.
ZAKARIA: You've been making this case for international cooperation very powerfully and in my mind persuasively. There is right now in Washington a very different mood, which is to say far from cooperating with the second largest economy in the world, it's China that is to blame for this virus.
You've been following this very carefully. How would you respond to the charge that, look, the Chinese covered this up, they essentially deceived the rest of the world, and as a result they should be held in some way responsible for this?
GATES: I don't think that's a timely thing because it doesn't affect how we act today. You know, China did a lot of things right at the beginning, like any country where a virus first shows up. They can look back and say they missed some things.
You know some countries did respond very quickly and get their testing in place and they avoided the incredible economic pain. It's sad that even the U.S. which you would have expected to do well did it particularly poorly. But it's not time to talk about that.
This is the time to talk about the great science we have, the fact we're in this together, fixed testing, treatments, get that vaccine, and minimize the trillions of dollars in many things that you can't even dimensionalize in economic terms that are awful about the situation we're in.
So that's a distraction. I think there's a lot of incorrect and unfair things said, but it's not even time for that discussion.
ZAKARIA: You worked a lot with the W.H.O. over the years. What do you think of the charge that they didn't push back hard enough or maybe were even complicit in China doing a certain amount of deception and not revealing everything? China did not give W.H.O. the access that they should have, also the CDC. Do you think the W.H.O. is culpable?
GATES: Basically no. I mean, in the retrospective, we'll see things that W.H.O. could have done better, just like every actor in this whole picture. But the - the W.H.O. has a strong connection with one country. That country is the United States. The number of CDC people who are there, people who used to work for the CDC, there's no U.N. Agency more connected to a country than W.H.O. is to CDC.
People think W.H.O. is funded to do all sorts of things that their tiny little budget doesn't let them do. You know, so there are thousands - their budget is a thousandth of what is spent on health care in the U.S.
They don't invent vaccines, they don't understand vaccine factories but what they do is very, very important, the eradication of Smallpox, the progress on Polio eradication. That's phenomenal organization, that were more dependent on them today to drive things then we ever have been. And so we need to support them, help them, and at the right time, fine, think about for pandemic 2, how should all of us do a lot better?
ZAKARIA: You have been caught up in this controversy where you have now - you and Dr. Fauci are the targets of a certain, you know, kind of right-wing campaign saying you guys are in some way part of a conspiracy. Does it bother you? Does it affect the way you need to do your work?
GATES: Well, there's a certain irony that having put a lot of energy into trying to warn about this vulnerability and not getting much investment to be made sadly - I always think how could I have gotten the message out in a stronger way? Where did I fall short?
You know, only 5 percent of what should have been done was done. The irony of having that person be accused of creating the virus seems a bit strange. I don't know that a meaningful number of people believe that. It does get amplified.
There are people who want to view this through a political lens, not a scientific lens. That can lead you to, you know, some strange views about let's not, you know, speak the truth or look at the real numbers or compare countries in a rational way.
But, hey, we have to get our heads down here and look at this therapeutics. A lot will fail, but some of the ones that are less celebrated I'm very hopeful for.
ZAKARIA: Bill Gates, always a pleasure to have you on. Thank you so much.
GATES: Yes. Thanks. That was great.
ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," one of the biggest mysteries in this crisis is how did the virus make the leap to humans? Many fingers point to China at its wet markets in Wuhan, but what about the virology lab a few miles away? I will get the latest science from one of the world's foremost virus hunters when we get back.
ZAKARIA: So where did the Novel Coronavirus come from? That is the million dollar question that scientists around the world are trying to answer, including my next guest, Peter Daszak. He is one of the world's foremost virus hunters tracking down different strains of viruses in the main host animal often, the bat.
Peter thank you for joining me. Let me ask you to begin by telling us how do you do what you do? How do you figure out where a virus comes from? PETER DASZAK, PRESIDENT, ECOHEALTH ALLIANCE: Well, first of all, we look at the past history of pandemics and look at the - where they originated? We do a lot of sort of analyses of that and say what are the underlying drivers? We go to those places on the planet and look at wildlife.
Almost all pandemics originate in animals usually wildlife often bats and then we grow and we catch those animals and sample them and we look for viruses and we try and workout out of the viruses we find which could be the next pandemic and which are safe? And then try to reduce the risk of those emerging.
ZAKARIA: How do you figure out, I guess physically you go into bat caves and get, you know, get blood from bats?
DASZAK: Well, we don't go to bat caves. We wear full PPE, mask, gloves, suits to protect ourselves from getting infected, just too even go in a cave. And then as it goes towards dusk, we set nets outside the cave. We catch the bats and sample them. We take blood samples, saliva swabs, fecal samples and we look for viruses in the lab. We look for the genetic sequences of the viruses.
ZAKARIA: So with this one, there seems to be a broad consensus that it came from a bat, probably a bat in Wuhan, and the controversy is did it come from a bat in the Wuhan wet market or from a bat in the Level IV Lab that is a few miles away? Is there any sense you have as to which is more likely?
DASZAK: I think the question is right. What we've got to do - it may be that we'll never really know the answers as to where this virus actually originated? What you've got to do is look at this in a balance of probabilities. Our work shows that people in Southeast Asia are exposed to these viruses every single day, every single year.
We predict between 1 million and 7 million people a year actually get infected by these bat Coronavirus. It's only occasionally that that unlucky person happens to go to market or the animal infects someone in a wildlife market and then the virus can spread and become pandemic.
We think that probably the bats - these viruses originate in Southwest China or even bordering countries. And we found hundreds of bat Coronavirus in those regions. People there have an intimate connection with wildlife, including hunting and eating them.
ZAKARIA: You know the Head of that Level IV Virology Lab, Shi Jin Lee. Do you think that she's being entirely honest when she says confidently and with certitude that the virus was not from a bat in her lab?
DASZAK: Well, we work with labs around 40 countries around the world. We've been doing this work for 20 years. We only work with good laboratories. She is an excellent virologist. I have no reason to believe she's not telling the truth.
Everything I heard in my 15 years of working with people in that lab has been absolutely normal and what you would expect from virology labs. The real kicker to all of this is that they didn't have the virus in the lab any way.
Nobody has the virus from bats that then led to COVID-19. We've not found it yet. We found close relatives, but it's not the same virus.
DASZAK: So to my mind, it's not a possibility.
ZAKARIA: But there is a concern that there has been some - a cover-up maybe too strong a word, but the Chinese government is not allowing researchers access to the lab, they're not sharing information, there's even a ban or censoring of scientific articles coming out of China on COVID-19. What do you think is going on? Does that make you suspicious or is it reasonable to be suspicious?
DASZAK: Well I think what happened is after we found this pandemic, it became politicized. You know, early on China was very open. They shared the full genome sequences of the viruses and openly with the rest of the world very, very quickly, quicker than we've ever seen this before for any country, really.
So openness and transparency was there early on. I think we started to see the conspiracy theories, the pointing of the finger at China, and just this sort of politicization which means countries cramp up and it's really unfortunate.
What we need right now is open communication with scientists across the world. China has done a lot to deal with this virus before us. They know a lot about how to control it? We need access to that information and talking in political terms about this outbreak closes down that access.
ZAKARIA: You said we may not ever know, but I want to ask you, there is one possibility, is there not, which is that this went from a bat to another species, and then from that species to a human being.
DASZAK: We saw that with SARS. SARS went from a bat and then into people. That's happened with other viruses around the world. That was a common pathway by which they emerge. They get into another species, it was found for instance but there are a lot of them and it just amplifies the amount of virus available to infect people.
ZAKARIA: And a final question, just to explain to everybody, why bats? I mean, explain how bats have a higher immune system and they gather together? What - what explains why bats are the source of all these problems?
DASZAK: Yes, I feel really sorry for bats because they don't exactly get a good rap in human history any way, and here they are carrying these viruses. The viruses in bats don't seem to do much damage. They're in the GI tract. Bats carry Ebola, Novel Virus, Rabies and others.
Usually they're pretty harmless. What we think is that bats have an ability to carry a higher viral load, a higher amount of virus in their body and a high diversity of viruses. That may be related to the fact that they're the only flying mammal.
Flying is such a stress on the system that their immune response would constantly be reacting to the breakdown of cell products. So they don't put their system down there is good evidence for that.
And don't forget you know bats are actually very common, very diverse about one-fifth of all mammals, and we don't see them so we don't really appreciate how exposed we are to bats flying overhead at night. Bats flying into our farms, people going into bat caves on a bailey daily basis in these regions.
ZAKARIA: Peter, this has been so illuminating. Thank you very much for joining me.
DASZAK: My pleasure, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: And we will be back.
ZAKARIA: This week instead of a book I would like to recommend a show. "The Plot against America" if you want to take your mind off COVID, you can plunge yourself into this rich and brilliant screen adaptation of Phillip Roth's great novel. The life of a Jewish family in Newark against the backdrop of an alternate history of America where Charles Lindbergh gets elected President, it's on HBO, our sister broadcaster.
And now for the last look. Wednesday was the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, a day normally celebrated with marches and gatherings all filled with calls to action to save the planet? This year, though, the streets remained empty. The Coronavirus called for inaction taking precedence.
But all of this inaction, while causing so many humans problems, has actually proven to be quite good for mother earth. In recent weeks, penguins came out to play near Cape Town, goats swarmed the streets of Wales on now deserted beaches of Thailand and Florida and conservationist noted more sea turtle nests than they noticed in years.
With some one-third of the world's population stuck in doors air pollution dropped dramatically. Take Los Angeles, a city known for traffic and smog, earlier this month researchers from a global air quality tech company rated that city's air pollution one of the lowest on earth.
And after India imposed the largest lockdown of the world, researchers found that the air in the Capital of New Delhi was 60 percent less polluted than the previous year. Milan has even decided to reassign some 20 miles of busy traffic lanes to pedestrians and cyclists to discourage people from getting into cars after the lockdown ends as the Guardian Notes. Globally CO2 emissions are expected to fall 6 percent this year, according to the World Meteorological Organization. But even that may not be enough. The U.N. predicts that to avoid a dangerous rise in temperature, global emissions must fall not 6 percent but 7.6 percent each year for an entire decade.
ZAKARIA: An amount even they worry is impossible. And all this progress can be quickly reversed. In February, when China's COVID cases were at a peak and large swaths of its population were on lockdown, the country's Nitrogen Dioxide emissions came down dramatically.
World's Satellite Imagery shows as soon as the lockdown ended those NO2 emissions started to creep back up. To make matters worse, China is doubling down on coal to overcome a COVID slowdown.
In March alone, construction was approved for more coal fired plants than in all of 2019 the FT reports. With politicians and protesters around the world demanding a focus on economic growth I worry that more countries are likely to follow suit.
Thanks to all of you for being a part of my program this week. I will see you next week.