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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Interview With King Abdullah II Of Jordan; The Latest On COVID, The Delta Variant And How The World Is Handling The Pandemic. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired July 25, 2021 - 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 coming to you live from New York.
ZAKARIA: Today on the show, a worldwide exclusive interview with King Abdullah II of Jordan. He went to the White House this week as well as Capitol Hill. Now he comes to the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE for an in-depth interview. We'll discuss his meeting with President Biden, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nuclear talks with Iran, and the alleged sedition plot that the king has called the most painful episode of his reign.
Then, as COVID-19 makes a stunning comeback, nations react. Britain's quarantined prime minister actually further opened up England this week. France mandated a COVID pass for travel and leisure. All while Japan struggles greatly to keep the Olympic COVID safe. We'll examine the swift and deadly Delta variant with the experts.
ZAKARIA: But here's my take. There is one striking thing that distinguishes this pandemic from all previous ones in history, the speed with which humankind came up with a vaccine. It is unprecedented and still breathtaking that within months of the arrival of a novel virus, scientists were able to develop and test several vaccines that all proved to be highly effective at preventing serious illness.
But what science has given, politics seems to be taking away. Despite having ample supplies of the vaccine, America is stuck with roughly 60 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated, ensuring that the pandemic will linger perhaps forever. Given the tools to end this tragedy, we are choosing to live with it.
As "The Economist" points out, the anti-vax movement in America today is unprecedented. There have always been people who objected to vaccinations, but they were on the fringe, a smattering a naysayers. The price of these rejectionists was usually small, a few outbreaks of measles every now and then. This time it's different.
In the midst of a raging pandemic that has killed 600,000 Americans, we have seen the rise of a vast right-wing conspiracy theory about the vaccines. It has been stoked by influential figures in the conservative media and tolerated even encouraged by powerful Republican politicians. The results are damning. As of June, 86 percent of Democrats have received at least one dose compared with just 52 percent of Republicans.
All the states with the lowest levels of vaccination -- Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Wyoming and Louisiana -- voted heavily for Donald Trump. Barely half of Republican House members report being vaccinated.
Now, anti-vax sentiment is not just an American problem. In many places around the world, there are segments of the population, often rural, often less educated, who are vaccine-hesitant. But there are few equivalence anywhere in the world of what's happened in America where major political forces have been propagating misinformation consistently on a wide scale about a deadly disease.
In fact, American misinformation has now gone global, legitimizing and encouraging anti-vaxxers around the world. Like the U.S., France has had high levels of anti-vax sentiment, but political leadership seems to be changing things there. President Emmanuel Macron recently announced that health workers would be required to get vaccinated and the unvaccinated would not be allowed to enter restaurants and cafes, go to theaters and cinemas or take trains and planes.
This new vaccine passport has drawn out protests but millions of French people have signed for the vaccine since Macron announced these rules. Although France's opposition leaders opposed the policy as heavy handed, they are not spreading misinformation about vaccines.
President Biden needs to get tough. He should explain that while we cherish freedom in America, you do not have the right to do anything and everything when it endangers the lives of others or places burdens on them.
Here are some things that you are forced to do even in America. Go to school. Pay taxes. Register for the draft if you are male. Serve on a jury. There are also many things that you are not allowed to do that might be mistakenly seen as involving no one else. You may not buy or sell controlled substances, litter on public streets, make loud noise after certain hours, and so on.
If you drive a car, you are required to get a license, buy insurance, wear a seat belt, obey street signs and speed limits, have the car inspected and not drink alcohol before driving. If you want your children to go to a public school in America, they must be vaccinated. These are all mandates because seemingly private actions actually impose public costs. You should not have the right to spread disease and occupy a precious hospital bed.
Some Republican politicians and conservative media figures are finally urging people to get vaccinated, but they may be too late. As they did with the rise of Donald Trump, the allegations of voter fraud and the accusations of a stolen election, the Republican Party has indulged its crazies for too long, fanning the flames of falsehood and creating a miasma of misinformation. Even now, leading Republican governors like Ron DeSantis are pandering to their base by making it illegal to require proof of vaccination in Florida.
Republicans say that they are for economic growth and against lockdowns, but it is the Republican Party and the conservative media, by their actions and negligence, that are endangering America's economy, and far more importantly, the lives of its people.
Go to CNN.com/fareed for a link with my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
On Monday the president welcomed King Abdullah II of Jordan to the White House. In doing so, Biden thanked the king for what he called vital leadership in a tough neighborhood. Jordan shares land borders with Israel and the West Bank, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. The king has long been a staunched supporter of the two-state solution and the White House says President Biden reaffirmed its own support for it during their meeting.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with King Abdullah in Washington on Friday for a wide-ranging exclusive.
ZAKARIA: Your Majesty, welcome.
KING ABDULLAH II, JORDAN: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: I have to ask you about first, you know, what seems to be the most startling thing looking at your part of the world, which is the new government in Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu and you had a good relationship but a tough one. The new prime minister, however, is somebody -- Naftali Bennet -- who says explicitly that he rules out the idea ever of a Palestinian state. In fact, he's talked about annexing Israel, annexing the West Bank.
So how do you look at that new government and where do you think the prospects for peace are?
KING ABDULLAH: Well, again, Fareed, we've known each other long enough to know that we always look at the glass half full. And coming to the United States as I think the first leader from that part of the world, it was important to unify messaging because there's a lot of challenges, as you well know, that we'll probably get into. So it was important for me not only to meet with the Palestinian leadership after a war, which I did with Abu Mazen. I met the prime minister, I met General Gantz because we really have to get people back to the table.
So under that umbrella of how do we get Israelis and Palestinians to talk, maybe understanding that the challenges that this government may not be the most ideal government to, in my view, a two-state solution which I think is the only solution. How can we build the differences between Jordan and Israel, because it has not been good. But more importantly from my view, is getting the Israelis and Palestinians engaging again.
And I came out of those meetings feeling very encouraged, and I think we've seen in the past couple of weeks not only a better understanding between Israel and Jordan but the voices coming out of both Israel and Palestine that we need to move forward and reset that relationship.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that the Israelis can maintain the situation as it is, which is of all these Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel has serenity over them but they don't have political rights. Israel seems to feel, look, we're doing fine where we've become an extraordinarily technological regional power, maybe global power. We're economically thriving.
The Arabs are making peace with us, even though we haven't moved on the Palestinian issue. Can't Israel just keep doing what it's doing?
KING ABDULLAH: I think that's a very fragile facade, and I say that because, again, when we have wars, and we've seen -- there is a template there. I know what's going to happen over the three weeks and how the, you know, loss of life and tragedy on all sides. This last war with Israel I thought was different. Since 1948, this is the first time I feel that a civil war happened in Israel. When you look at the villages and the towns, Arab-Israelis and Israelis got into conflict.
And I think that was a wake-up call for the people of Israel and the people of Palestine. Unless we move along, unless we give hope to the Palestinians. And again, part of the discussions that we've had with our Israeli counterparts is how do we invest in the livelihood of Palestinians because if they lose hope, and then, God forbid, another cycle, the next war is going to be even more damaging.
Nobody ever loses in these conflicts, but this last one, there were no victors. And I think that internal dynamic that we saw inside Israeli towns and cities is a bit of wake-up call for all of us.
ZAKARIA: Dore Gold, influential adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu, recently said Jordan needs to start thinking of itself as the Palestinian state. In other words, there is a two-state solution. The Palestinian state is Jordan. I think the implication would be of course you have 67 percent Palestinians you could absorb the Palestinians on the West Bank. You know, this has been touted before but here you have a fairly influential Israeli saying it. What's your reaction?
KING ABDULLAH: Well, again, that type of rhetoric is nothing new. And basically those people have agendas that they want to do at the expense of others. Jordan is Jordan. We have a mixed society from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.
I would maybe contest the percentages and the figures that you had mentioned. But it is our country. The Palestinians don't want to be in Jordan. They want their lives. They want their football team. They want their flag to fly above their houses. And so that takes us into very dangerous rhetoric. So, as you'd
alluded to, if we do not talk about the two-state solution, then again, are we talking about a one-state solution? Is it going to be fair, transparent and democratic? I think the one-state solution is far more challenging to those in Israel that pushed that theory than the two-state solution, which is the only way. What are you going to do?
Are you going to push all the Palestinians out of their homes in the West Bank and just create instability on the other side? At the end of the day, Jordan gets a vote in this. And I think our red lines have been clearly identified.
ZAKARIA: Your Majesty, what has it been like meeting with Joe Biden compared to his predecessor? This is a very different president from the one we had before.
KING ABDULLAH: Well, I have fortunately had a very strong relationship with all presidents, and that is because my father taught me that you have to respect the office of the president, the head of state, and that's not just America. And my discussions have always been fruitful, done in mutual respect and understanding.
President Biden I have known since I was a young man visiting the Congress with my father when he was a young senator. So this is an old friendship. And I was just so delighted to see him in the White House, and I don't know what images came out, but my colleagues that were with me could just see the chemistry there. And my son has known the president, and as Joe Biden was the vice president, my son used to go and visit him at his house and in his office. So it's a family friendship.
ZAKARIA: Do you expect that you will get a different policy out of Biden than Trump?
KING ABDULLAH: Well, we've lost a couple of years, and part of it obviously has been the pandemic. And so there's -- it's not the issue of a different policy, it's more of what other plans that are out there. I mentioned Syria, but also I want to look at Lebanon, the crisis there. The people are suffering, starvation is just around the corner, the hospitals are not working, and a lot of discussions we've had here, and I know the Americans are working with the French.
When the bottom does fall out, and it will happen in weeks, what can we do as an international community to step in, knowing that whatever plans we come up with, we will fall short of our aims and we will let people down? So I think it's, can we build plans to sort of move the region into the right direction?
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, I will ask King Abdullah about what he called the most difficult part of his reign and what looked to the outside world like an attempted coup by his half-brother. That back in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE HAMZAH, KING ABDULLAH'S HALF-BROTHER: I'm making this recording to make it clear that I'm not part of any conspiracy or nefarious organizational or foreign-backed group.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: That was Prince Hamzah, King Abdullah's half-brother, and the spitting image of their father, the late King Hussein. In early April, Jordan, the Middle East and the world was stunned when Jordanian officials claimed that Hamzah was part of what they called a malicious plot to destabilize the kingdom.
In the same video, Hamzah strongly criticized Jordan's leadership saying the country had become stymied in corruption and nepotism, and in misrule. Just days later, Hamzah reversed course and pledged loyalty to the king, whom I asked about these events.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about stability in Jordan itself because your country is often seen as a kind of island of stability in a very rough neighborhood. You've recently had what was -- what looked to the outside world like an attempted coup. What happened there and what do you see is the prospect for any stability in the future?
KING ABDULLAH: Right. Well, again, you know, when we look at crises all over the world, and I think in this day and age we tend to look at crises as a snapshot without really understanding the journey that actually, for example, Jordan has undertaken over the past several years. Regional instability, wars, refugees, COVID. And we've had to look at many characters that tend to use people's frustrations and legitimate concerns of challenges that they have in making their lives better to really push on their own agendas and ambitions.
What I think made this so sad that one of the people was my brother who did it in such an amateurish and really disappointing way. From our point, the intelligence services, as they always do, gather information, and it got to a point where they had legitimate concerns that certain individuals were trying to push on my brother's ambitions for their own agendas and decided quite rightly to nip it in the bud and quietly.
If it hadn't been for the irresponsible matter of secretly taping conversations with officials from Jordan or leaking videos, you and I wouldn't be having this conversation. And I believe that, you know, I am really proud when members of our family are successful, when they can reach out to society.
Now, in this particular case, if somebody has set ambitions, I can only do so much for them, but I believe from a human point of view, it comes down to sincerity at the end of the day. It's very easy to use people's grievances for personal agendas. But are you sincere in what you're trying to do for your people? And at the end of the day, we all have a responsibility to be able to come up with solutions for the people.
And this is just not Jordan-centric, many royal families around the world have these challenges. If you're a member of the royal family, you have privileges. You need to respect those privileges. But also there are restrictions. And the politics at the end of the day is a purview of the monarch. And so it's just unfortunate, unnecessary, and just created problems that we could have avoided.
ZAKARIA: One of the people who was part of it was very close to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Do you believe there was a Saudi hand in this?
KING ABDULLAH: This is being looked at as a domestic issue. We all know that the ambassador who used to work in Jordan is a senior adviser in Saudi Arabia. He holds a Saudi-American passport. We have witnessed external relations on this issue. But as I said, we're dealing with this as a domestic problem, and I think, again, knowing Jordan, finger pointing does not help at all.
We have enough challenges in the region. We need to move forward. This is, I think, always been the Jordanian efforts to look to the future. And I think we're all about mitigating challenges and difficulties as opposed to adding to them.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you, this week your great-grandfather was assassinated 70 years ago at the Temple Mount. Does it feel to you as though in those 70 years, things just remain the same? Do you feel as though things have gotten better, particularly on the issue -- I mean, he was assassinated by Palestinian gunmen. It feels like things haven't moved that far forward.
KING ABDULLAH: Well, we're celebrating our centennial, and if you look at the history of our country, with all the shocks and most of them external, it's just amazing that Jordan is still Jordan.
And that reflects, I believe, on the legacy of members of my family, but more importantly, I think the steadfastness of the Jordanian people. We do live in a difficult neighborhood. And you've got to sort of wake up every morning to look at the glass half full.
These are challenges that I hope, you know, the waking up of looking at regional politics or trying to bring people together is what my father inherited from him and what I inherited from my father and what my son has inherited from me.
And so as difficult as the challenges are, I believe that we can come together. My great-grandfather, as you said, was killed on the steps of the mosque in Jerusalem. What we've all been about, always, is looking at Jerusalem as a city that brings Muslims, Christians and Jews together.
And it's just inconceivable for me why we would want anything else. And so my role, my son's role, will continue to be how do we make this a city of hope, a city of peace and bringing people together. And hopefully that reflects to other policies as we deal with challenges at least.
ZAKARIA: Your Majesty, it's always an honor and pleasure to talk to you.
KING ABDULLAH: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, the latest on COVID, the Delta variant and all the other variants to come. We'll look at how the world is handling this all and what you need to know with experts.
ZAKARIA: COVID is on the rise again in the U.S., where there is an average of 50,000 new cases per day, up more than 50 percent from just a week earlier -- also, in Tokyo, the host city of the Olympics, where almost 2,000 new cases were reported on Thursday. That's the most since January before vaccines were available in Japan. Nearly 150 cases of COVID have been linked to the Olympics so far.
Nations all over the globe are feeling the crush of COVID, from South Africa to Spain, Colombia to Cuba, and many more.
So what do we need to know about the Delta variant that is fueling much of this?
Joining me now are Dr. Tom Frieden and Devi Sridhar. Frieden is the former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and now leads the global health initiative Resolve to Save Lives.
Sridhar is the chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh.
Devi, let me start with you. Is this all happening because of the delta variant and the fact that this delta variant is twice as infectious, at least, as the original alpha variant?
And, if I may add one -- one question to that is, is this the shape of things to come? Are we going to see -- you know, the virus also adapts. Are we going to see another even more transmissible variant?
DEVI SRIDHAR, CHAIR OF GLOBAL PUBLIC HEALTH, UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH: Yeah, on the first, I think delta is causing problems across the world because the -- of the increased transmissability. And it is finding all those pockets of people who are unvaccinated and spreading rapidly among them. And adding to that, that, actually, children and adolescents are where we have a lot of, you know, lower antibodies and where we're going to see this flying.
Are there going to be more variants? Of course, there are going to be more. The question is will we see more that is more transmissible than delta? And I think right now, from what we've seen over the past year, we should be, you know, preparing ourselves for whatever's next around the corner.
ZAKARIA: Tom, when you look at the break -- you know, the degree to which this is rising and getting really bad in places like Africa, Indonesia, why is that happening and how worrying is to you?
TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CDC: I think there are a couple of things that are very concerning. One is that the delta variant, as you say, it's at least twice as infectious as the prior variants or prior strains.
That means we are going to see, in the U.S., very substantial increases in spread in the coming weeks, especially in places that have low vaccination rates.
Where you're vaccinated, the good news is that delta is something that the MRNA vaccines protect from very well. However, where there are unvaccinated people, either because they haven't accepted the vaccination or they don't have access to it, delta is going to continue to drive large waves that are deadly.
That's why, Fareed, it's so important that the world come together and further scale up the MRNA technologies. Because this is our best insurance policy against both more dangerous variants which could evade vaccines and against problems with production with many of the other vaccine types.
ZAKARIA: Devi, what does this mean, though, for the -- you know, the mythical herd immunity?
Because it feels like, even in places like Britain, Israel, where you have very high vaccination rates, the delta makes it harder for there to be a herd immunity phenomenon, if it ever is achieved.
SRIDHAR: Yeah, exactly. Because it's more transmissible, that threshold we'd have to cross to have transmission stopped just gets higher and higher. Some estimate as high as 98 percent of people would have to be vaccinated, so pretty much everyone.
And the truth is nowhere in the world have we seen, either through infection waves -- look at Iran; look at India; look at Brazil, places that have had substantial waves of infection, they're still seeing it occur, or in places with high vaccination coverage like in Britain and in Israel, we are seeing, again, you know, cases are on the uptick.
So it is a challenging situation, but the real -- you know, what do we have to do about it? We need to vaccinate the world, as Tom said. We need to encourage people to keep distancing, wearing face coverings indoors, you know, paying attention, though people are tired, so that we will find a way through this. But it's not over yet.
ZAKARIA: All right. When we get back, I'm going to ask Tom Frieden and Devi Sridhar about all these things. What do we need to do to stay safe? What do we do to make sure our children are safe? Why are people who are vaccinated still getting COVID?
All those questions, when we come back.
ZAKARIA: And we are back here on "GPS" talking about COVID and the delta variant with Tom Frieden and Devi Sridhar.
Tom, let me ask you the question I've heard so often in the last few days. People are hearing about (inaudible) people who are double- vaccinated, often with the MRNA vaccine, and are still getting COVID.
Is this something that worries you? How should people think about it?
FRIEDEN: Fareed, this is really expected. One hundred and sixty-two million Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID. If these individuals weren't vaccinated, we would be seeing millions of cases and tens of thousands of deaths from COVID. Instead we're seeing a handful of severe infections and tragically some deaths, but that remains rare.
These vaccines are astonishingly effective, but no vaccine is 100 percent. No vaccine is perfect. And because of that, we need to have layered levels of protection and we need to continue to monitor to see whether future strains, future variants, might actually be more of a problem.
Right now, it looks like the MRNA vaccines are quite effective, especially against severe disease, even with the delta variant.
ZAKARIA: Tom, do you think people should be getting booster shots?
There is data coming out of Israel and some more that says that the Pfizer vaccine may have -- you know, the antibodies may last six to nine months, not, you know, a year to 18 months as people had thought. When do we need a booster shot for those of us who are double- vaccinated?
FRIEDEN: There are two different issues here, Fareed, and it's important we consider them differently. The first is what about people who have severe immune problems or are on transplant medications or are, in other ways, maybe not responding well to the vaccine?
They might require a third dose or a higher dose. That is done with other vaccines, so it might be necessary here. Whether the immunity to these -- to COVID wanes over time, we really
don't know yet. Because, although the antibody levels go down, we don't know if antibody levels correlate with protection. So until, frankly, more time goes by and we learn more about who is getting breakthrough infections, what the risk factors are -- until we know that, we don't know -- we won't know whether we need boosters, when, and who will need them.
ZAKARIA: Devi, we're coming up soon to the beginning of the school year. And there is a big controversy among -- in many countries about whether young children need to be vaccinated. There is one school that says, "Look, they get infected, but it's not a big deal; it's like getting the flu; let them get infected, get the antibodies."
Others say "It's dangerous; we don't know what COVID's long-term effects will be."
You're about to publish a big article in The Guardian about this. What -- where do you come down?
SRIDHAR: Yeah, so I am obviously kind of sympathetic to the idea that children are relatively less affected than older age groups, but we have a safe and effective vaccine already approved for children older than 12. It's already been used in the United States and trial's under way for a vaccine for children under 12.
So if there is a safer way to protect children than just letting them get infected -- and the CDC has done careful analysis on this -- then we should be vaccinating children and protecting their educational experience and also making sure they're not getting long COVID, you know, the substantial morbidity that some children can have.
So for me, having looked at the evidence, looked at what different countries are doing, it seems like, you know, most countries have agreed to go ahead and vaccinate children 12-plus and to hope that we get vaccines ready to go for those who are under 12 soon, and by winter, hopefully.
ZAKARIA: And do you think that, once vaccinated, schools could open, no problems; you don't even have to worry about the six feet apart and masking and things like that?
SRIDHAR: Yes, I don't want to say no problems ahead because we know, with this virus, it always presents us with new challenges. But, yeah, I mean, the hope is children can have in-person learning. Imagine that, after how many children have been disrupted and had to learn at home or actually not having access to Wi-Fi or laptops been able to learn at all.
So I think the aim should be in-person learning. If it requires masks, look at prevalence. If prevalence is high enough, then, yes, have children wear masks, and then decide on distancing.
The problem with distancing, at least in Britain, is that, if you do implement that, it means many schools can't run at full capacity, which means you're back into a blended model. And that tends to hit those schools in deprived areas and in, you know, where people are living in crowded settings, and the children who most need to be in school.
So, again, it's looking at the various mitigations, looking at what is the trade-off associated with them, and do we actually need them, or can vaccines do a lot of the heavy lifting once the bulk of children are vaccinated?
ZAKARIA: Tom, I want to -- you know, we're talking about worrisome news here, but I want you to explain the good news here, which is the extraordinary technology behind this MRNA vaccine.
We often talk about how, within nine months of this coronavirus, we got vaccines that were safe and effective. But the truth is, it took three days to develop these MRNA vaccines. The rest of it was all testing.
Can we expect that, because of that extraordinary technology, if there are new variants, we will be able to, you know, go back to the MRNA process and just, within a few days, have a new vaccine for that variant?
FRIEDEN: The MRNA technology, Fareed, has been getting developed for more than two decades. So in a way it was a just-in-time availability of this very powerful technology.
And, yes, it should be easier, within days to weeks, to develop new tweaks to the vaccine that address new variants if those arise.
And it may even be possible to use MRNA technologies to protect against other viruses, including influenza. So it's an exciting new development. They're remarkably effective; they're extremely safe; and they've been available in record time.
The tragedy is, first, that so many people in the U.S. and some other countries have access to them and aren't getting them, and many will die as a result, and that so many people who want them and need them don't have access yet. And as a world, we have to fix that problem.
ZAKARIA: Dr. Tom Frieden, Devi Sridhar, pleasure to have you both on, always so informative. Thank you.
FRIEDEN: Thank you.
SRIDHAR: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," if the absolutely extreme weather around the world these past days didn't scare you enough, what if I told you this may be the new normal? We will explain when we come back.
[10:56:24] ZAKARIA: And now for the last look. We are watching an extraordinary confluence of crazy weather all over the world. This week a year's worth of rain lashed central China's city of Chengchow, over the course of just three days.
Disturbing video circulated on social media of passengers stuck in a flooded subway in the city as the water rose all around them. Last week Germany was inundated by rains that clogged its rivers and engulfed entire villages. The floods killed more than 200 people in Western Europe. According to Time, German villagers compared the devastation to World War II.
And in a place that is often used as the shorthand for frigid temperatures, northern Siberia, summer temperatures have gotten as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit. As the New York Times reports, raging forest fires there have begun to melt the permafrost.
But there's one example of extreme weather that truly exceeds all others, the four-day heatwave that settled on the Pacific Northwest at the end of June.
In Portland, temperatures reached 116 degrees, about 40 degrees above the average high temperature for that time of the year, and nine degrees higher than the previous historical record.
In Seattle, temperatures hit 108 degrees, which, as the National Geographic noted, is nine degrees hotter than it's ever been in Tampa, Florida.
Hundreds of miles north in British Columbia, the town of Lytton reached a record high, then beat it. By June 30th, the mercury rose to 121 degrees. That was not only the highest temperature ever recorded in all of Canada, it was also the highest temperature ever reached at a latitude higher than 50 degrees north anywhere in the world.
Then Lytton was engulfed and almost completely destroyed by wildfires. Throughout the region, hundreds of people died; over a thousand were hospitalized. People flocked to cooling centers because they'd never before needed to own air conditioners.
And a group of scientists who are part of a global collective called World Weather Attribution began to look at how this might have happened. They performed what's known as a rapid attribution study, which aims to find out how much climate change contributed to a particular weather event. They do it very quickly, in this case, in 10 days.
They used historical observations of the weather in the region going back as far as 1850. As the New York Times notes, they used 21 models to simulate what the weather would be like if humans had never pumped greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. They found that the heatwave in the Pacific Northwest would have been virtually impossible without the advent of climate change.
But there was something else that stumped the scientists. The heatwave was so far beyond historically observed temperatures that it couldn't be captured by their statistical model.
That model assumes that there is an upper limit to temperatures n the region. But actual temperatures blew right past that limit. It is possible that this was just a random event. Their model does allow for that. Calculating at current levels of global warming, it notes that something strange like this could happen once every thousand years.
Now, perhaps the weather last month was a once in a thousand year fluke. But the study raises another possibility. Perhaps scientists' previous understanding that temperatures during heatwaves would rise gradually as climate change advanced was wrong.
As Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, one of the study's authors, told "GPS," it's possible that the world has reached a new frontier of climate change, in which sudden, wild, extreme increases in temperature are much more likely.
Such an assumption-shattering hypothesis needs further study, of course, and the group is working on it.
We've been basing our efforts to tackle climate change, such as they are, on the assumption of best-case or average-case scenarios. But what if things cascade and we end up with something closer to extreme weather all the time?
That is the terrifying prospect we must now consider.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.