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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Lessons from Athens, Greece on Adapting to Climate Change; Biden's Faltering Climate Agenda; Is the Next Recession Here? Aired 10-11a ET

Aired July 24, 2022 - 10:00   ET



JENNINGS: Democrat committee spending money to get Trump the nomination in 2024 but that's the road we're on right now.

SELLERS: We did that in 2016.

TAPPER: All right. Amazing. I could go on for an hour and a half listening to you, guys. Thank you so much for being here. And thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us. "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts right now.

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 from New York.


ZAKARIA (voice-over): Today on the program, a hellscape across Europe as temperature records are demolished. And fires devastate parts of France, Greece, Italy, Spain and more.

Now that climate change is here for sure, how do we adapt? I'll talk to the chief heat officer, yes, that's heat officer, of Athens, Greece.

Then as inflation is at a 40-year high, is a recession next and how bad will it be? I will ask the man who warned about today's inflation problem, former Treasury secretary Larry Summers.

And which country might President Putin target next? Some believe he has eyes on Moldova. Why? Find out in my conversation with that country's prime minister.


ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take. It was getting hotter, so opens "The Ministry for the Future," the disturbing novel by science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson. The opening chapter set in India's largest state Uttar Pradesh, depicts a heatwave that kills millions across the subcontinent and galvanized people to radical action.

Such dire warnings may seem farfetched today. But the heatwaves we are now experiencing are going to get worse. That of course will have dire consequences. More likely than mass death is mass migration. As Bill Gates points out, the area around the equator is soon going to be too hot for people to work outdoors. That could mean a collapse in farming, the most common occupation in these regions.

Stressed by heat, lack of water and no jobs, millions of people could start moving from these areas to more temperate climates, mostly in the north, Europe and the United States. Many climate activists do not think in terms that are urgent enough. They're often focused on pledges to get to net zero emissions by some distant bade in the future or insist that every new energy source must be entirely green.

But the reality is that we need to cut emissions now, not promise to do so by 2030, and the only way to do so now and at scale is make some tough choices and tradeoffs. We do not currently have green technology like clean nuclear fusion and long duration battery storage that can fully replace fossil fuels today.

We may get them in 10 or 15 years perhaps if we're very lucky but we don't now and hoping that we do is part of what has caused an energy crisis around the world. Investment in fossil fuels has plunged over the last decade while green technology has not been able to fill the gap. Germany cut back on nuclear activity and ended up burning more coal. California is phasing out nuclear and discouraging natural gas but is now confronting a sharp increase in the number of wasteful diesel generators being used for backup power.

Let me suggest a few practical ways to make progress in the next five years with technologies we already have. We could start by converting the most polluting coal fired power plants to natural gas, which emits half as much carbon as coal. A study surveyed 29,000 power plants around the world and found that 5 percent, the dirtiest, generate 73 percent of all emissions. In other words, replacing around 1500 coal- burning plants would make a huge dent in emissions, a giant cut on par with the boldest plans being discussed today.

If the West wants to compete with China's Belt and Road Initiative, why not put together a collision that would finance this effort across the planet?

There is the problem of methane leakage from natural gas extraction, also agriculture and landfills. This can be solved technically and it just needs smart, tough regulations. We should extend the life of nuclear power plants and start building new smaller and safer ones. Nuclear energy evokes grim images but the facts speak for themselves.


In the 21st century so far, just a handful of people have died from nuclear accidents around the world while more than 1,500 people died in oil and gas extraction in the United States alone from 2008 to 2017. Far more people die each year from lung diseases caused by coal pollution with some estimates running into the millions, and that's without even factoring in the climate impacts.

We should also keep working on developing new modular reactors that have much safer designs far less likely to have the same kind of meltdown problems as in the past. And let me remind you, nuclear power plants produce nearly zero emissions.

Plant a trillion trees, the science is simple. Trees absorb carbon dioxide. We are all impressed by Greta Thunberg but what about Felix Finkbeiner. He's a young German environmentalist who at the age of 9 proposed that every country commit to planting a million trees and then at 13 upped the ante and suggested that the United Nations that we target a trillion. Let's start by curbing deforestation and try to plant as many trees as we can as fast as we can.

And yes, all of these solutions have their drawbacks. Planting trees may not do as much good as some scientists initially claimed. Nuclear power is expensive up front, natural gas does emit some carbon but the crucial point is that such measures would cut emissions a lot and we can do them all now. We do not have to make a choice between half measures now and full measures later when we have the technologies to do so.

There are other proven technologies ranging from weatherizing buildings to electric cars and we should create incentives for all of them. The perfect should not become the enemy of the good. That should be the motto of every environmental group that wants to see actual positive change today.

Go to for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week and let's get started.

It was outright sweltering in Europe this week. Britain saw its hottest day ever on Tuesday with temperatures hitting 104.5 degrees Fahrenheit in one town, that's more than 40 degrees Celsius and it wasn't just Britain. This devastating heatwave blanketed much of Europe. Alongside the heat were wildfires. One of the city's plagued by extreme temperatures and fires this week has been Athens.

Last summer, Athens hit its highest temperature ever, a shocking 115 degrees Fahrenheit and it appointed Europe's first ever chief heat officer, Eleni Myrivili. And Miss Myrivili joins me now from Athens.



ZAKARIA: What I so like about your perspective and your work is that it acknowledges that at the end of the day, there's enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere already that there's already global warming happening and so there has to be some kind of adaptation to it. And so when you think about that, you know, in the long run we can build better infrastructure. But what are you doing in the short run beyond that?

MYRIVILI: So in the short run you have to take care of the most vulnerable, right? So you have to figure out who are the ones that are at risk and we have to make sure that we protect them. And we create -- first of all we create more awareness so people understand how deadly this heat is. We know that there's an under reporting of deaths of both mortality and morbidity in relation to heatwaves, and the more we're looking into it, the more we're realizing that it really is the most dangerous of all extreme phenomena that are linked to global warming.

So extreme heat and heatwaves are really killing more people than any other extreme phenomenon and very few people actually know about that. These are temperatures our bodies are not made for. So we need, you know, we need air conditioning even though air conditioning is a double edged sword because it's actually heating up the planet more and heating the public space but this is right now something that we need to use.

We quickly have to find a different way to cooling indoor spaces and we have to figure out better ways to cool the outdoor and cool the outdoors as well in cities as a whole because as you said, even if we stop producing carbon dioxide and the other greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, that we are still going to be heating up the planet.


ZAKARIA: I read about a plan you have to revive or to use of Roman aqua duct to which still actually transports water in Athens?

MYRIVILI: So we have this aqua duct that was built in Roman times in Athens which still today has a lot of water in it but we're not using it so we have to figure out ways to use things like the water in this aqua duct, which is tons and tons, like millions of tons of water that gets thrown into the sea and use sustainable ways without using a lot of energy or using only renewable energy to pump it and support green areas, new green areas or existing green areas, and bring water up to the surface to cool Athens, to cool a big part of our Athens by creating a big green corridor.

ZAKARIA: And interesting how you can learn from all parts of the world. In Medellin, Colombia, they have done something very similar and very successfully, right?

MYRIVILI: That's absolutely true. They've created 36 green corridors and they have managed to cool the city -- to bring the city temperature down about four degrees in the surrounding areas of these 36 corridors but if you make a combination of water elements and trees and green then you can actually have even a larger percentage of heat mitigated so -- and, you know, even two degrees Celsius or three degrees Celsius which is often the difference between us being in the sun or being under a tree can really make a very big difference for our health.

ZAKARIA: And in cities heat accumulates for a variety of reasons, right. Can you give us a sense -- there is a kind of compounding effect.

MYRIVILI: Exact. So cities with their hard surfaces, with the concrete, the cement, the steel and glass surfaces they basically absorb heat all day long, and usually they radiated that night and also we have heat that humans produce in the city with the cars and the air-conditioning and the use of energy so these things create our cities into heat traps, make our cities into heat traps, and especially when we have high temperatures at night when the bodies are supposed to relax and recover from the day's heat, this is actually what becomes quite deadly and quite serious for people's health.

ZAKARIA: So this, you know, it almost requires us to really accept that global warming is happening and really come up with a whole new way of living almost particularly in cities but really everywhere.

MYRIVILI: Yes, you're absolutely right. The most important shift, I think, has to do with what you just said, that we have to realize that we live in a different world and this world needs a lot of adapting and a lot of changes in our behavior in the way we build, in the way we farm, in the way we move around. I mean, we really have to take this seriously from this point onward.

ZAKARIA: Thank you so much. This is so helpful and I hope there are many more chief heat officers all over the world and that they can follow your example.

MYRIVILI: Thank you, Fareed. Thanks for having me.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS from practice to policy. Should President Biden declare a climate emergency? And what would that do? What are his powers to deal with something so dramatic? Back in a moment.



ZAKARIA: On Wednesday President Biden called climate change a clear and present danger and laid out some executive actions he is taking. But he did not take the ultimate step, declaring a national climate emergency. It's been less than a month since the Supreme Court stripped Biden and any president of certain powers to combat climate change and just days since Democrats' climate legislation was doom to failure when Senator Joe Manchin said he wouldn't support it.

So what can the president do?

Leah Litman is an assistant professor at Michigan Law School where she teaches about constitutional law and federal courts. She was a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and is now a co-host of "The Strict Scrutiny" podcast.

Leah, welcome. So first question, if he were to declare a climate emergency, the "Wall Street Journal" says he would be doing exactly what Donald Trump did when he declared an emergency because Congress wouldn't fund the border wall and then took money out of the Pentagon budget and diverted those funds to build the wall, and this is "The Journal's" editorial, if liberals were so outraged about that use of executive power, why are they all clambering for Biden to do it now? Is that a fair comparison?


LEAH LITMAN, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN LAW SCHOOL: The two situations are similar in some respects. In both cases the presidents are trying to address a problem that they believe exists that Congress did not address but they are also different in important ways. One is that in President Trump's case, Congress specifically rejected appropriating money for the precise purpose that President Trump wanted to use the money, namely constructing a border wall.

Whereas here we don't know what exactly President Biden would do with the funds that became available to him were he to declare a climate emergency and so we don't know whether he would be taking the precise steps that Senator Manchin and Congress decided not to pursue when they did not adopt a climate legislation.

ZAKARIA: But there is a chance or tell me how strong the chances that if President Biden were to declare a climate emergency, use some funds, what is the chance the Supreme Court would knock it down?

LITMAN: So it depends what President Biden attempted to do. If what he was trying to do with the funds was, let's say, offer the states an incentive to address climate change, it's not clear that the Supreme Court would strike that down. But in light of the Supreme Court's decision in West Virginia versus EPA, the EPA climate change case, it's clear that the Supreme Court would not allow President Biden to take measures that are not specifically and explicitly authorized by the statute that gives the president certain powers when he declares a nationwide emergency.

So he might be limited in what he can actually do in order to address the climate emergency even if he declares one.

ZAKARIA: So let's talk about that case. It strikes me as a very important case. As I understand it, the way the federal government has been set up really since Franklin Roosevelt created the modern administrative federal government is that Congress passes these laws, which are fairly broad and administrative agencies interpret them in light of changing circumstances over the years and decades.

Does the EPA, does the Supreme Court's ruling on the EPA essentially say that unless Congress has specifically, you know, given you the authority to do some very specific thing, no agency can do anything and if that's the case, isn't that a kind of recipe for administrative paralysis?

LITMAN: It is certainly a recipe for administrative paralysis but that rule that Congress must specify exactly what agencies can do only applies in a certain subset of cases. The cases that the Supreme Court designates as major questions or major issues. Now, we know, from the Supreme Court's decision in West Virginia versus EPA that they believe, you know, how Americans consume energy is a major question and is a major issue so any measures that President Biden took to address that issue we need to be specifically authorized by Congress but we don't know exactly what other issues would present major questions or major issues that the court would say Congress has to specifically authorize rather than allowing an agency or the president to address that issue themselves under a broadly worded congressional statute.

ZAKARIA: So what would happen? Would this all just get pushed down to the states? Would no action take place on, you know, things like climate change or any new kind of regulatory system that has to be put in place, let's say crypto currency or, you know, all the new challenges that somehow that Congress would not have thought about 40 years ago when it wrote some law?

LITMAN: I think that that's exactly right. Unless there is congressional action in response to those problems, they would be tackled at the state level and that's, you know, not exactly a recipe for success given how polarized Congress is on certain issues like climate change but also as you note, there are problems that develop that Congress just has no expertise over and might not be able to foresee and that's why it relies on administrative agencies and gives them the authority with their expertise and flexibility to address these problems as they develop. And that's precisely the sort of governance that the Supreme Court has called into question.

ZAKARIA: All right. This feels like a big issue that we will have to monitor and we will almost certainly be coming back to. Thank you so much.

LITMAN: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, is America in a recession? Well, we'll find out one piece of the puzzle next week, second quarter GDP but in the meantime, let's hear from the man who warned about our current inflation problems, Larry Summers.



ZAKARIA: U.S. inflation is running at its highest rate in four decades and Americans' incomes are not keeping pace. Next week, we'll see the release of America's second quarter GDP data. It could show economic contraction just as it did in the first quarter. All of that put together plus many other data points may point to a recession.

Let me bring in Larry Summers for his thoughts. He was Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration and last year repeatedly presciently warned that inflation could becoming.

Larry, let me ask you first, just looking forward, what does the state of the economy look like? A recession, a recession plus inflation which means stagflation? How do you see it?

LARRY SUMMERS, FORMER U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I think there is a very high likelihood of recession when we've been in this kind of situation before. Recession has essentially always followed when inflation has been high and unemployment has been low. Soft landings represent a kind of triumph of hope over experience. I think we're very unlikely to see one.


Whether or not we put inflation fully back in the bottle with that recession, I think, is very hard to judge at this point. I've been encouraged by the Fed's commitment to do that but other central banks at other times have professed to be committed but have not done enough once the economy turned down to actually assure that inflation came down substantially. So I think there is also a greater risk of stagflation and this episode being with us for some number of years than the market is currently discounting.

ZAKARIA: So what does this mean for, you know, the average person? Because what you're describing is an aggressive federal reserve raising rates, which means mortgages get more expensive, loans of every kind get more expensive, almost certainly, you know, economic activity slows, maybe recession, harder to buy houses, hard to -- so there's pain coming.

SUMMERS: I think there is pain coming. That's what happens when you borrow too much in order to over -- in order to overspend. But I think the important thing to remember is we've had a ton of pain because of inflation. We've had prices go up three or four percent a year faster than wages over the last 12 months and that kind of thing is going to continue unless we do what is necessary to bring inflation down.

And so, I think we do need strong action from our central bank. We need the government to do the other things that it can do. It can take tariffs off which will bring down prices of goods that are imported or compete with imports. We can bring down pharmaceutical prices by using government's purchasing power, Fareed.

We can pursue what we clearly need which is a both end energy policy that promotes the availability of anything that will produce energy so that the price of energy comes down. There are things we can do. We can bring down the budget deficit so it doesn't all have to rely on the Fed by doing tax increases that are starting with just enforcing the tax law we have with respect to the people who don't pay taxes.

There is a lot we can do to contain or control inflation but if we continue with the kind of ostrich policies we had in 2021 there is going to be much, much more pain later. I think that's increasingly appreciated and that improves our prospects but I'm afraid I can't be confident that we're going to get through this without a recession.

ZAKARIA: I have got to ask about this. One of the people who disagreed with you in previous years has been Paul Krugman who has written something where he says you were right, he was wrong about inflation. But he says you were right for the wrong reasons, that actually, the big COVID spending bill didn't have that bad an effect on the economy, what really happened was something unforeseen by anybody, which was that coming out of the pandemic supply chains got screwed up, people started buying lots more goods rather than services and all those kind of snafus and log jams caused by the pandemic are really what has produced this inflation.

SUMMERS: There wouldn't have been nearly the same kinds of supply chain problems if huge amounts of money had not been put in people's pockets that enabled them to spend. If we weren't giving people who were laid off unemployment insurance that was far more than the salaries they had been earning. If we weren't mailing checks willy- nilly to families there would have been less spending, that would have meant less bottlenecks.

It was predictable that supply would be reduced given that we had a pandemic. But when supply is reduced you have to reduce demand as well if you don't want to have substantial inflation.


Printing money and distributing it well ahead of the supply of goods is a prescription for inflation and that's what we did. We injected enough money into the economy to make total spending grow at an 11.6 percent rate last year. When you have 11.6 growth rate in spending then on any reasonable theory of how much capacity there is you're going to have a lot of inflation and that's what we did.

ZAKARIA: Larry Summers, pleasure to have you on.

SUMMERS: Thanks, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, if Vladimir Putin sets his sights beyond Ukraine what nation might be next? Many think the answer is Moldova. I'll talk to its prime minister when we come back.



ZAKARIA: In April, a handful of unexplained explosions in the small eastern European nation of Moldova sparked concern that that country might be under attack from Russia. Why? Well, Moldova, which is nestled on Ukraine's southwest border, has many similarities with its larger neighbor. Most importantly, it is on a swift march toward democratization and westernization. In fact, in late June, it was granted E.U. candidate status alongside Ukraine.

But Moldova also has a Russian backed breakaway region called Transnistria where 30 years ago Moldovan forces fought Russian troops. Today Russian troops are still based there.

I wanted to know how it felt to be caught between Russia and the West. And I had an opportunity to talk to Moldova's prime minister, Natalia Gavrilita.


ZAKARIA: Madam Prime Minister, pleasure to have you on the show.


ZAKARIA: Tell us about Moldova. Moldova is another country. It seems to me like Ukraine that once part of the Russian empire, once part of the Soviet empire, really wants to become a western liberal democracy.

GAVRILITA: Indeed. Moldova has had the troubled history and a complicated region. And it has not only been part of the Soviet Union it has also been part of Romania between the First and the Second World War. The majority of the population is Romanian speaking but we also have Ukrainian, Russian, Bulgarian and Gagauz which is a Turkish speaking minority.

And in the last elections the people have voted massively for a pro- European majority, for going the course of democratic institutions, fighting corruption, ensuring the respect for human rights, and striving towards the European integration course. So achieving candidate status for E.U. integration has been a significant victory for Moldova, one that the people have waited for for a long time but it is very unfortunate that it happens in such a complicated context in the region and such horrible times for Ukraine.

ZAKARIA: Tell us what it has been like to be dealing with this Russian invasion of Ukraine because you're right there as you say and I think half a million Ukrainians have passed through your country. Describe, you know, what is going on.

GAVRILITA: Indeed. You know, as many people around the world we were surprised on the 24th of February when Russia invaded Ukraine and we had to deal very quickly with a massive refugee flow and -- of course, there were some contingency preparations and there were some plans but, of course, we did not consider the probability to be very high. The entire society mobilized in an exemplary way and Moldova not only helped half a million refugees move through Moldova but also at some point was hosting the highest number per capita of any country.

ZAKARIA: How worried are you that the Russians will move next into Moldova?

GAVRILITA: We are worried. Of course, this is a risk. It's a hypothetical scenario for now but if the military actions move further into the southwestern part of Ukraine and towards Odessa then, of course, we are very worried especially considering that troops on the territory of the Chisinau and Transnistria region. We are doing everything possible to maintain peace and stability and to ensure that the fighting does not escalate.

ZAKARIA: For you, when you look at the situation in Ukraine, explain the stakes. If Russia were able to get away with this aggression and keep the territories it has conquered since February 24th, what kind of a position does this put you in?

GAVRILITA: This is a very difficult position not just for Moldova but for any small country, any country that relies on the rules based international order. If a country can start an annexation war without any regard for, you know, international law then in this sense nobody is safe and I think that a lot of countries are worried.

ZAKARIA: You're paying a pretty heavy price economically.


Do you think you'll be able to continue to -- you know, to do what you have to do even if the price goes higher -- gets higher?

GAVRILITA: Indeed. Moldova is the most affected country after Ukraine economically from this war. We saw already very high inflation. The inflation in June was at 32 percent. We continue to see a rise in energy prices. It has gone up six fold since the government assumed office a year ago.

And just to give people perspective, the average consumption of a family in Europe of energy is about five percent of its income in Moldova. Before the crisis it was 15 percent. Now if the price goes six fold then actually this is above any reasonable affordability level. But we really hope that our society and our people are resilient enough to fair through this very, very difficult time.

But we have seen, for example, in polls that even after receiving a very large number of refugees 85 percent of Moldovans say that they would receive more refugees and 50 percent say unconditionally for whatever time. So this makes me very optimistic about the wisdom of my people.

ZAKARIA: Madam Prime Minister, pleasure to have you on.

GAVRILITA: Thank you.




ZAKARIA: And now for the last look. When the CDC announced just weeks ago that COVID vaccines were safe for children under five it was the good news many American parents had been waiting for since the pandemic began.

But we now have some very bad vaccine news for parents in much of the rest of the world. The World Health Organization and UNICEF announced last week that routine vaccinations of children globally have dropped sharply since 2019. The largest sustained decline in 30 years.

By last year, the percentage of children who had received all three doses of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine had dropped five percentage points to 81 percent. DTP is a benchmark for immunization coverage and the drop means that in 2021 alone, 25 million children missed out on the vaccine.

First dose measles vaccines have dropped to 81 percent as well and globally measles cases are up by nearly 80 percent as of early this year. There is more, the average vaccination rate of 11 major diseases including polio and HPV has fallen for the first time in more than 30 years. And the number of children who have not received a single dose of the most basic vaccines has risen sharply in the pandemic from 13 million in 2019 to 18 million in 2021.

Vaccinations have been an amazing good news story in public health. As the "Times" reports organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have poured resources into routine immunization in poor countries. Over time, vaccination rates then mirrored or even exceeded those of rich countries and deaths from common diseases fell sharply.

There are many causes for the decline in immunization including conflict and climate change but in large part, the backsliding on vaccines is a natural outcome of the chaos of the pandemic. Supply chains were disrupted, attention and funding were diverted to COVID efforts, lockdowns focused individual attention on daily survival.

But what surprised researchers was the fact that vaccinations didn't rebound last year and they actually got worse after the first shocks of the pandemic wore off. The backside is curious because many of the same countries that registered steep declines in routine immunizations were able to successfully rollout the COVID-19 vaccine.

Look at Indonesia where 62 percent of the population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But Indonesia registered a sharp decline in routine vaccinations. The WHO estimates that the percentage of children targeted for the DTP vaccine who actually received all three doses dropped from 85 percent in 2019 to 67 percent last year.

Part of the problem is the nature of public health intervention itself. Funding streams and vaccination programs are often siloed. That means with some notable exceptions that authorities didn't bundle COVID vaccination drives with routine immunizations.

But there is another menace that has exacerbated this problem, misinformation. Look at Brazil. As "The New York Times" reports, it has a historically strong vaccination program but President Jair Bolsonaro criticized the COVID-19 vaccine early and often announcing that he himself was not vaccinated, that he would not vaccinate his 11-year-old daughter, and that the vaccine could increase one's chances of contracting AIDS. It does not, of course.

Shadowy anti vaccine groups gained purchase in Brazil during the pandemic, the "Times" notes, and this further stroke the sentiment. Brazil is among 10 countries with the highest number of children who have not received a single vaccination of any kind. Twenty-six percent of all infants in Brazil last year did not receive any vaccinations, which is up from 13 percent in 2018. Well, look at the Philippines where misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine abounds.


Harsh lockdowns and a shortage of health care workers has led to this stark reality, 43 percent of all infants there have yet to receive a single dose of the most basic vaccines last year. Vaccines are in many ways the low hanging fruit of public health. They're inexpensive and they work. Because of them generations have grown up not having to fear illnesses that were once widespread and deadly.

Routine immunization may be a victim of its own success. New parents who haven't lived through the ravaged of measles and polio may take that success for granted but we must remember that progress of any kind in any field is not inevitable. And as the world becomes more volatile without constant effort and vigilance progress can easily be reversed.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.