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State of the Union

Reckoning With the Climate Crisis; Interview With Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA); Interview With Climate Scientist Katharine Hayhoe; Interview With Ray Dalio; Interview With Former Vice President Al Gore. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired December 24, 2023 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Beyond imagining, wildfires, hurricanes, extreme heat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pour water all over it.

TAPPER: 2023 was the year the world woke up to the climate change threat.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think anybody can deny the impact of the climate crisis anymore.

TAPPER: What have we learned? And what will next year look like?

Plus: landmark pact. World leaders agree to transition away from fossil fuels, the chief driver of the climate crisis.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: We're not turning back. That is the future.

TAPPER: But with loopholes in the agreement, is it enough? Former Vice President Al Gore is ahead.

And seeing green? As governments around the world struggle to combat climate change, what role does Wall Street have to play?

RAY DALIO, FOUNDER, BRIDGEWATER ASSOCIATES: Who's got the money? Unlock that by being able to make it profitable.

TAPPER: I will ask the multibillionaire investor who is focused on climate change. Ray Dalio is coming up.


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is sounding a very clear alarm.

We are closing out 2023, a year we may look back on as the time that people started to truly grasp that the climate crisis is here and it is already costing lives and livelihoods. From deadly wildfires to mudslides, devastating floods and soaring temperatures, we saw it all.

2023 was the hottest year in at least 125,000 years, scientists say, as they warn that the world is inching perilously close to the threshold beyond which humans and ecosystems will struggle to adapt.

In the U.S., cities in the South and Southwest were particularly hard- hit, with Houston, Texas experiencing the longest extreme heat streak of any major city on Earth, and drought-stricken Maui in Hawaii reel from the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century.

Ocean temperatures hit record high levels as well, fueling hurricanes and tropical storms around the planet, with Antarctic sea ice at record lows.

World leaders gathered earlier this month to try and address this crisis. They came to a landmark agreement to start moving away from the use of fossil fuels, the primary driver of climate change, though there are loopholes in that pact, loopholes that many countries will surely exploit, loopholes that will allow them, us, because really there's no -- there's no them -- it's only us -- to avoid action.

And it's about time, as experts warn next year will be even warmer, causing more violent storms, heavier rains, more intense and frequent heat waves, droughts, wildfires.

Today's show focused on this one topic, climate change, is intended as a warning, an alarm about where we are as a world, where we need to be, the opportunities that exist, and the peril that awaits.

CNN chief climate correspondent Bill Weir has been here to see it all this year.

Let's take a look at the year in climate crises.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Science tells us that 2023 was the hottest Earth has been in 120,000 years, shattering records in ways that are hard to comprehend and creating events that, frankly, exceed our imaginations.

Who could have imagined 31 straight days over 110 degrees, even in Phoenix? The rate of heat deaths in Maricopa County has climbed 25 percent a year for two years running. And desert cities everywhere are realizing the need to build cooling into public policy.

But, in the same megadrought, who could have imagined rivers in the sky dumping so much water on California that it brought Tulare Lake back from the dead?

(on camera): If you had stood here for the last couple of generations, you would be watching the sunset over dusty fields of cotton or alfalfa or pistachio trees, and now it is waterfront property.

(voice-over): This new age of water whiplash means too much H2O or never enough across huge swathes of the nation, forcing farmers and water managers to reimagine how every drop is used or wasted.


(on camera): This is the first of what will be many barges that can bring about a half-million gallons of freshwater at a time.

(voice-over): 2023 forced the economy to reckon with a Mississippi River too low to move food like it used to and too weak to keep Gulf saltwater from creeping into drinking and irrigation supply.

And when West Maui was the lush Venice of the Pacific, no one imagined how generations of water theft and invasive grasses would turn the capital of the Hawaiian kingdom to tinder or the hurricane winds that would blowtorch the precious town of Lahaina into ash in the deadliest American wildfire in modern times.

(on camera): It's just unrecognizable. One of the most charming, beloved port cities anywhere in the world is just scorched like a bomb went off.

(voice-over): But '23 also brought lessons in resilience.

ARCHIE KALEPA, HAWAII WATERMAN HALL OF FAME 2012: There you go, man, right there, over your neck, keep you nice and cool.

WEIR: From people like Archie Kalepa, the Hall of Fame lifeguard who is helping lead West Maui back from the ashes with love and aloha, and Heidi Lange, who lost everything to California's deadliest fire five years ago, but decided to stay and rebuild paradise.

HEIDI LANGE, PARADISE RESIDENT: My community and my neighbors and my friends and my church and my job was all still here. So, my little village, my little village is here in Paradise.

WEIR: Heidi and her neighbors are learning from tragedy and rebuilding stronger than ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are aluminum frame, tempered glass.

WEIR: And as disaster forces us to reimagine how to live with nature transformed, breakthroughs in clean energy also abound by the day.

(on camera): And you only need a tiny little bit of fuel.


WEIR (voice-over): Scientists at the National Ignition Facility have repeated their success in nuclear fusion, nudging us closer to a world powered by little manmade stars and boxes that use saltwater for fuel and never melt down.

MA: There's still many, many technology jumps that we need to make, but that's what makes it so exciting.

WEIR: But even if fusion takes generations, the two cheapest forms of energy in human history are already onshore wind and sun. And with a surge of investment in clean energy storage, start-ups like Antora hope to power entire factories with thermal batteries like this.

ANDREW PONEC, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO, ANTORA ENERGY: Sixteen hundred degrees Celsius. So this is hotter than the melting point of steel, and it's just a couple feet inside that shell.

WEIR (on camera): I had a hard time explaining to my kids what nuclear fusion is.


WEIR: But this is just a hot rock in a box.


PONEC: Exactly.

WEIR (voice-over): So, 2023 also reminded us to expand our imaginations, not just for the worst that can happen, but the best.

PONEC: The transition is inevitable. It's going to happen. We have the tools we need. We just need to deploy them.


TAPPER: And joining me now is the chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy and an author of the Fifth National Climate Assessment, Katharine Hayhoe.

Katharine, thanks so much for joining us.

You say you're shocked by the climate extremes we saw in 2023. What are you expecting to see in 2024?

KATHARINE HAYHOE, CLIMATE SCIENTIST, THE NATURE CONSERVANCY: I would say that shocked, but not surprised, because this is exactly what we scientists have been predicting for years and even decades.

But when you actually see it in real life with your own eyes, it's different than seeing it in a row of tiny numbers on your computer. So what do we expect for next year?

Well, we expect, decade by decade, as the world warms, we are going to see more frequent and more dangerous extremes. But every year is like rolling the dice. Some years, you see a little bit less. Some years, you will see a little bit more, but, decade by decade, it's steadily ticking up.

TAPPER: So, on behalf of the viewers that are watching this right now, what can we do to change this to help?

HAYHOE: Well, it's easy to feel helpless. You might say, well, I recycle. I change my light bulbs. What else am I supposed to do?

But the way that we, each of us, can have the biggest impact on our future is by using something that we all have, whether we're 8 years old or 88 years old. And that is our voice. When we call for change where we live, where we work, where we go to school, that's how change begins to happen.

And I'm convinced that it can. We just can't do it alone. We have to do it together.

TAPPER: Do you believe that Earth will ultimately hit this 1.5-degree threshold of warming, at which it will become that much more difficult to struggle to adapt?

And, if so, what is that going to look like?

HAYHOE: Well, 1.5 degrees is not a magic threshold, and neither is two degrees.

The science is very clear, and in the National Climate Assessment, it talks about this, how every 10th-of-a-degree matters. It's kind of like smoking. There's no magic number of cigarettes you can smoke, but you know that each new pack you smoke carries with it additional risk.


And so what I know is that we have already altered our trajectory. We were heading for a world that was four to five degrees Celsius warmer by the end of the century, and now we're heading to a world that's probably going to be somewhere between 2.5 to three degrees warmer.

Now, is that enough? It still isn't enough. How low do we need to go? As low as possible. And so that's why we are aiming as hard as we can for that 1.5-degree goal.

TAPPER: A lot of the coverage around climate change can be really discouraging. And I don't have to tell you how existentially a lot of younger people feel this crisis.

Do you see cause for hope, though?

HAYHOE: Well, when you ask young people, how do you feel about climate change, the words that you get are sad, angry, frustrated, paralyzed, depressed.

And what I say is, first of all, if you feel that way, you're not alone. Over two-thirds of Americans are worried about climate change. I live in Texas, where a recent poll showed that even 42 percent of registered Republican voters in Texas agree that climate change poses a threat.

And the second thing I tell them is,that is a rational response to what's happening. If you actually understand what's happening, we should be worried, because this is the only home we have. But what I do know is that our future is not yet written. Our future is literally in our hands.

And I know also, in the words of the science, that every 10th-of-a- degree matters. And so what that means is that every bit of warming matters, every choice matters, every action matters. We truly can shape our future. And that, to me, is the definition of hope.

TAPPER: Thank you so much for being with us. Really appreciate your perspective.

Coming up: He's been warning us about climate change for 20 years. After so much time, does former Vice President Al Gore still have cause for hope? That's next.

And then I will ask a multibillionaire about what big corporations should be doing right now to address the climate threat.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

World leaders finally addressed the elephant in the room this month when it comes to climate change, the burning of fossil fuels that is the primary cause of our warming planet.

Former Vice President Al Gore has been warning the world about fossil fuels for more than 20 years, and he is still working on the issue. He runs a nonprofit devoted to solving the climate crisis and somehow looking to the future with hope that maybe human beings can change.


TAPPER: And joining me now is former Vice President Al Gore.

Vice President Gore, thanks so much for joining us.

So, Mr. Vice President, 2023 officially the hottest year on record, deadly heat waves, catastrophic floods, devastating wildfires, more powerful storms. We have gotten dangerously close to the 1.5-degree Celsius...


TAPPER: ... threshold, beyond which experts say humanity and the planet will struggle to adapt.

What do you think 2024 will look like?

GORE: Well, we still have the ability to seize control of our destiny.

Here's the good news, Jake. If we stop adding to the overburden of these greenhouse gas pollutants in the sky, if we reach what they call true net zero and stop adding to the heat-trapping capacity up there, the temperatures will stop going up right away.

And if we stay at true net zero, half of the human-caused greenhouse pollution will fall out of the atmosphere in as little as 25 to 30 years. We have the ability to do this. And it's not impractical, because we now have the cheapest new source of energy in the history of the world with solar electricity and wind electricity.

And the electric vehicles reached 20 percent of sales globally this year. The batteries are now -- we had one Gigafactory several years ago. Now there are 200 and another 400 being built.

A long time ago, one of the Saudi Arabian oil ministers said, the -- we better remember the Stone Age didn't end because of a shortage of stones. It ended because something better came along.

We have got something better now. We can do this if we just overcome the greed and political power of the big fossil fuel polluters, who've been trying to control this process. It's time for people at the grassroots level in every country to speak up. And the good news is, that's happening too.

TAPPER: So, you say we can fix this. What needs to happen?

GORE: Well, we need to -- we need to break through this blockade that the fossil fuel industry and the big petro states have been using to block progress.

We also need to reform this U.N. process, because it requires a what they call consensus now, which is similar to requiring it to be unanimous if the president of the COP decides that they don't see any objections, then he declares there's a consensus. And that's why it's so important that that person who's in charge of the process not have a direct conflict of interest.

We have to make a decision to get past fossil fuels and start accelerating the shift over to renewable energy and efficiency. And this is beginning to happen anyway, Jake. Last year, if you look at all the new electricity generation installed worldwide, 80 percent of it was solar and wind.

In India, it was 93 percent. It's cheaper now. And it creates three times as many new jobs for each dollar invested compared to dollars invested in the old dirty, polluting fossil fuels.

So, we have what we need. The International Energy Agency says that we have got all of the solutions that we need with proven deployment models to cut the emissions in half this decade. And we have got a clear line of sight to get the rest of it done before mid-century. So we can do this.


The only thing that we need is sufficient political will. But, as many have pointed out, political will is itself a renewable resource. And these young people around the world are helping the world to renew it.

TAPPER: So, that's -- that's the good news. That's the good vision.

But what happens if the world doesn't act? What's the worst-case scenario? GORE: Well, the scientists who warned us of these megastorms, and the

floods, and mudslides, and droughts, and the ice melting, and the sea level rising, and the storms getting stronger, and the tropical diseases, and climate migrants crossing international borders in larger numbers, they were dead right when they warned us about this.

And so we need to pay more attention to them now. Here's one thing they say. If we don't take action, there could be as many as one billion climate refugees crossing international borders in the next several decades.

Well, a few million has contributed to this wave of populist authoritarianism and dictatorships and so forth. What would a billion do?

We can't do this. We could lose our capacity for self-governance. Already, we're seeing people driven from the places they have always called home. And we're seeing an expansion of areas in the world that are physiologically unlivable now because of the combination of heat and humidity.

They're relatively small areas now, but, if we don't act, they will expand to include most of India, large parts of North and South America, the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan. The list goes on. Our -- the survival of our civilization is at stake. And it sounds dire, but it is dire.

And -- but, again, the good news is, we can reclaim control of our destiny if we summon the political will and the courage and the moral courage to do it. There's a European politician, Claude Juncker, who said, we all know what to do. We just don't know how to be reelected if we do it.


GORE: Well, this is why grassroots pressure from people who understand how high the stakes are is the critical element.

And the good news, again, is, people are rising up and demanding action. Your new CNN poll shows that more than three-quarters of Americans, including a majority, 76 percent of independents and more than half of the Republicans, support action.

We just have to break the political power that the fossil fuel industry has exerted with its fixers and its lobbyists and its bags of money and its revolving door colleagues. But we can do this, Jake. We can do it.

TAPPER: Vice President Al Gore, always a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time today, sir.

GORE: Thank you, Jake.


TAPPER: How much will it cost the world to deal with climate change? And how can we get big business to step up?

Multibillionaire Ray Dalio has some ideas, and I will talk to him next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

We are focusing entirely on our warming planet this hour. And one critical piece of that is big business and getting corporations on board with the goal of combating climate change.


TAPPER: And joining me now, global macro investor and founder of Bridgewater Associates, Ray Dalio.

Mr. Dalio, thanks for joining us.

So, you were at the COP 28 global climate summit. And, obviously, nearly 200 countries for the very first time explicitly agreed to transition away from fossil fuels.

But I know you focus on the big picture, what's practical. So, when you look at what it's going to take globally to fight climate change, in terms of who has the money, what their motivations are, and what exactly it's going to take to unlock those funds, to put those funds to use, what are the answers to those questions?

DALIO: I'm glad you're asking me, because that's the question about being practical.

It's going to cost between $5 trillion and $10 trillion a year, whether you spend money on it or whether its consequences because you don't spend money on it. So who's got the money is the big question, and how do you practically do it?

Right now, we're spending about one-sixth that. That is on mitigation. Mitigation -- by mitigation, I mean trying to find -- with alternative energy sources, making sure temperatures don't rise by one 1.5 degrees Celsius, those things that mean that it doesn't happen, climate change.

And then you go to, if it does happen, adaptations. It's going to cost money to adapt, to build the air conditioning and the water, the high -- to deal with the high sea levels. And then there's number three, the damages.

So, this, any way you cut it, is going to be a lot of money. The problem is that it's not economic. So you have to start off by looking at, who has the money? Where are you going to get the money from? And if you look at that, by and large -- I won't take all the time to break it down.

TAPPER: Mm-hmm.

DALIO: It has to be economic to produce a profit.

The largest source of money is institutional investment -- investor money, about $200 trillion. Only about 0.3 percent of that money goes into this issue. And so, as a result -- when I say institutional money, I mean pension funds, endowments, foundations, sovereign wealth funds that have to take care of your -- of the population.

TAPPER: Right.

DALIO: So, think about it as retirement people.

And so the issue is, how do you make it economic to get money into that? And that's where the real impediment is.

TAPPER: Right. So you say you have to make it profitable to get these investors to put more money behind clean energy.


So, what needs to be done to accomplish that? How do we develop climate-oriented investments that are both going to move the needle in a significant way and also generate a significant enough return for investors?

DALIO: Yes, well, think about it it's your pension fund. And now because it's your pension fund, and you want to get -- make sure you get paid, you want that pension fund to put money into investments that are going to make money.

Now, there's a double bottom line there, we call, in other words, the do-good part of it, and then also the fact that it creates a return. It's going to have to come from that double bottom line. For example, Bill Gates has a climate fund which is called Breakthrough Energy, and it produces a return from finding the new inventions.

It may be solar. It may be other forms of invention. But, also, we must recognize that that will not happen at a pace that is needed. And so we have to deal with adaptation. In other words, we're not likely to hit that 1.5 degree limit. And, as a result, there are going to be consequences of that.

Then that gets down to a nitty-gritty level of, what does that mean? It means, OK, preparation for sea levels rising, for temperature changes. And then that's going to change the world in ways where countries, much more than almost 80 percent of the world's population, is not living in places that will get those funds.

So it's going to have consequences, like, migration and so on.

TAPPER: Mm-hmm.

DALIO: The main thing I'm saying is that, if you -- it has to be dealt with practically, calculating where you're going to get the money from those who can make it. And that has to be productivity, the great inventiveness of entrepreneurs, and so on.

And then it also has to be the realistic look at, how does -- adaptation to what's going to be going to be handled?

TAPPER: And what do you think the balance should be between mitigation, trying to slow it or stop it, versus adaptation?

DALIO: Well, if you were dealing with the whole world, and you were willing to have money go to support the whole world with climate, because climate is a world issue, that that would take money away from other countries, which is very theoretical, I think then you would put more money into mitigation, if those investments can take place.

We have a very limited amount of time. And with that limited amount of time, I think it's going to be clear that it's going to be mostly adaptation. And with that adaptation, then you're going to get people dealing with their own particular circumstances, and that will motivate money in.

So I think we have to recognize it's mostly going to be adaptation.

TAPPER: One area that you're particularly passionate about is the ocean. You and your son Mark co-founded OceanX, which focuses on exploring, researching and, above all, protecting the ocean.

What impact is the change in climate having on the ocean beyond raising temperatures? And tell us more about why you think the ocean is so important.

DALIO: Well, the ocean is absorbing about 90 percent of the excess heat.

And it's absorbing about 23 percent of the excess carbon that's being produced. So it's important. It also has the effect of shifting sea currents and so on. So, it's going to have a big effect. The ocean is our biggest thing. It's twice the size of all land combined. And so it's ignored because it's just below the surface.

But it has an enormous -- its health and discovery of what's in the ocean is not only very important, but it's also very exciting. But it's being largely neglected. So we're excited to help the exploration and bring it to the public's attention, the way Jacques Cousteau did.

TAPPER: All right, Ray Dalio, thank you so much for your time today. Really appreciate it, sir.

DALIO: Thank you.


TAPPER: Are skeptical Republicans starting to change their minds on climate change? We're going to take a look at the numbers and talk about what's causing that shift.

Plus, see what GOP officials might be willing to work with Democrats on to address this crisis. That's next.




KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The clock is no longer just ticking. It is banging. And we must make up for lost time. And we cannot afford to be incremental. We must lead with courage and conviction. And we must treat the climate crisis as the existential threat that it truly is.



I'm here with my panel.

Congressman Khanna, how do we convince the American people to care about climate change to the degree that they're willing to make sacrifices or at least changes in their behavior?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Well, it's no longer theoretical.

Now you're seeing wildfires in my state. You're seeing flooding in states like Vermont and New Hampshire. You're seeing people have higher electricity bills because we haven't had enough solar and wind. So we can make the argument that transitioning to a clean economy is going to prevent terrible weather events.

And, also, America should lead. Why would we want China or Europe to lead in this $9 trillion market? I want those jobs in America.

TAPPER: And, Congresswoman Love, we will put up some images of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, in your home state.

It's drying up. I mean, this is hitting home. It doesn't discriminate. It's not just hitting blue states,. It's hitting red states. It's hitting everywhere.



TAPPER: What do we need to get people to address climate change more seriously?

LOVE: OK, this has been -- this has been a big frustration of mine.

When I was a member of Congress, I was part of the Climate Solutions Caucus, and I was in charge of recruiting other Republican members to be part of the Climate Solutions Caucus, because we realized that you cannot really make that significant change without both parties being on board. The problem with that is, people need to decide whether the issue is

more important or the power in Washington is more important. People that were members that really cared about climate change, climate solutions, Carlos Curbelo, Carlos Curbelo, me, we were all part of the Climate Solutions Caucus.

The right beats you up because you're a part of the Climate Solutions Caucus. And the Democrats take you out because you're vulnerable at this point. You have to decide, what's more important to you? Do you want members of Congress that are going to support the issues that you support or would you prefer to have...

TAPPER: Right.

A recent CNN poll shows -- shows nearly two-thirds of adults say they are worried about the threat of climate change in their communities. Almost three in four say the U.S. needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions. That includes half of Republicans.

Are Republican views on this issue changing? Is there a disconnect between Republican voters, conservative voters, and Republican and conservative elected officials? Because, obviously, for years, conservatives and Republicans have just denied that climate change existed, or, if it does, they say, oh, this is just normal. This has nothing to do with man's behavior, which is obviously disputed by science.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think two things have changed that have led to more Republicans being open to having this conversation.

I think the first thing that has changed has been, younger Republicans are very different on this issue.


SOLTIS ANDERSON: And as they become a greater and greater force within the party, they're forcing this conversation. They know they're inheriting this planet, and they want to make sure that it is as protected as possible.

And I think the other thing that has happened is, you have seen technology advances that have really made the case that -- earlier on, you said, well, how do we persuade people they're going to have to make these sacrifices? Republicans are now trying to figure out, is there a way that we can address climate change without having to completely blow up our economy, restructure everything?

Are there ways that we can tap into science, innovation technology to really begin to solve this problem? And I think those two things have made it easier for Republicans to then say, you know what? The weather does seem like it's a little bit odd. You know what? As a farmer, a fisher, a hunter, I'm noticing things that are different.


SOLTIS ANDERSON: And that's leading me to be more open.


You know, my concern is that this issue, like so many issues, has been now fitted into sort of the culture wars, and that there is within the Republican Party still this element that, post-pandemic, is sort of anti-science, anti-experts, anti bureaucrats telling people what to do, and react to climate -- the climate issue in that context.

And you do see still a great gulf between Republicans and Democrats on the urgency of this.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: But I did think that it was so interesting, in that very first Republican debate, they brought up climate change. There was a young person who asked a question.

AXELROD: Yes, and Ron DeSantis kind of slapped him down.


SOLTIS ANDERSON: Well, the -- Vivek Ramaswamy wound up saying, oh, this is a hoax. He got booed by the audience and has now tried to walk back and like, oh, I wasn't saying climate change is a hoax. I'm saying the agenda is a hoax.


SOLTIS ANDERSON: I mean, it's -- look, the politics are complicated on the right.

AXELROD: I have watched these...

SOLTIS ANDERSON: It is not as much of a denial-fest as I think...

AXELROD: I have watched all these debates, and I have not heard one candidate sort of proactively say, this is an issue that really threatens us and we have to do something about it.

LOVE: So, we're finding that there is a change in young Republicans 18 to 39. This has become an issue for them.

And I think, the more we talk about climate change the way you talked about it, in terms of, we don't have false choices, it's not either energy production or our environment, we can actually -- if we can get our heads out of the sand and admit that we can do something about it, and that we are part of the problem...


LOVE: ... that's the way we get more people on board.


KHANNA: The economy...

(CROSSTALK) LOVE: Republicans like to hear that, that, hey, these are not -- the false choice is, it's either energy production or the environment.

KHANNA: The economy may be one way to bring the parties together.

I often joke, if I say, let's bring manufacturing back to the United States, I will get a Republican on. If I say it's going to be clean manufacturing, suddenly, they will hesitate.

But we can talk about the reindustrialization, bringing steel back, bringing aluminum back.


KHANNA: By the way, it's going to be clean. It's going to be less CO2 footprint than China.

And so if we frame it as the economic opportunity for American leadership, you may be able to get both parties.

AXELROD: There's no doubt that, if it's not a zero-sum game kind of debate, where we're going to do climate action and that's going to cost you your job, that will go over better.


But there's also the reality that lobbyists for the oil and gas industry just overwhelm the opposition in Congress. And it's like by 27 to 1.


AXELROD: And that's been a reality for a long time.

The climate in Congress isn't as good as it should be for action this issue.

TAPPER: All right, thanks, one and all, for being here. Really appreciate it.

We will be right back.



TAPPER: As I was preparing to moderate CNN's Republican primary debate at the Reagan Library in 2015, I reached out to a number of top officials in the Reagan administration. It was a debate at the Reagan Library.

And that's how I got this story about how Reagan reacted to the news in the journal "Nature" in 1985 that scientists had discovered a hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica, allowing higher levels of cancerous radiation to reach Earth.


TAPPER: So, Ronald Reagan's secretary of state, George Shultz, reminds us that, when Reagan was president, he faced a similar situation to the one that we're facing now.

There were dire warnings from the mass consensus of the scientific community about the ozone layer shrinking. Shultz says, Ronald Reagan urged skeptics in industry to come up with a plan. He said, do it as an insurance policy in case the scientists are right.

The scientists were right. Reagan and his approach worked. Secretary Shultz asks: "Why not take out an insurance policy and approach climate change the Reagan way?"


TAPPER: The Reagan way.

Needless to say, the candidates at that time were fairly dismissive of climate change and the need for action, quite unlike Reagan, who, urged on by George Shultz and others in his Cabinet, eventually supported the 1987 international treaty to phase out chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons depleting the ozone layer.

It was ratified by the Senate in 1988. It came into force in 1989. Five years ago, the United Nations announced that the upper ozone layer over the Northern Hemisphere should be healed by the 2030s, and the hole over the Antarctic should be gone 30 years after that.

President Reagan's leadership is to be credited, but it also helped quite a bit that there was support in the business community for developing alternatives to the ozone-depleting chemicals, and that there was not a multibillion-dollar industry such as big oil denying facts, with politicians in their pockets.

In terms of its mendacity, the oil and gas industry is quite comparable to big tobacco. They knew what the product was doing. They hid it. Then they shaded the truth, fighting facts all the way.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): The Esso name that is known near and far, you are sure whenever you go for a drive that your automobile is alive.


TAPPER: You can find evidence as far back as 1957 that scientists working for the oil and gas industry were aware of the link between burning fossil fuels and the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

In 1968, scientists from Stanford presented a paper to the American Petroleum Institute warning that rising levels of CO2 would increase the Earth's surface temperature and cause potentially severe environmental damage worldwide.


NARRATOR: Esso, we're changing our name, but not our stripes.


TAPPER: No, they did not change their stripes.

In 1977, Exxon senior scientist James Black told the company's management -- management committee that, according to -- quote -- "general scientific agreement," the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through "carbon dioxide released from the burning of fossil fuels" -- unquote.

He warned the next year that action would soon need to be taken, according to an eight-month-long investigation in Inside Climate News.

An Exxon spokesperson insists the company did not reach those conclusions or try to -- quote -- "bury them." But what the companies knew at the time and spent millions of dollars to hide from us is really quite stunning.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): 1982, seven years before I was even born, Exxon accurately predicted that, by this year, 2019, the Earth would hit a carbon dioxide concentration of 415 parts per million and a temperature increase of one degree Celsius.

Dr. Hoffert, is that correct?



TAPPER: And this is not just ancient history.

"The Wall Street Journal" just reported this year that, in 2011, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change convened by the U.N. was warning of what would happen to the Earth if carbon emissions caused the global temperature to rise more than four degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100, that same year, then-Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson's chief of staff, William Colton, e-mailed colleagues about Tillerson's feedback on a draft disclosure about carbon emissions.

Tillerson wanted the words -- quote -- "weather extremes and storms" deleted.


Quote: "His view was that even mentioning a possible connection between climate change and weather was possibly giving the notion more credibility than he would like" -- unquote, Colton wrote.

Tillerson denies the company misled investors over the climate crisis. But we know that the oil and gas industry is as credible in their climate skepticism as the tobacco industry was about their skepticism of the risks of lung cancer.

And while Exxon and other oil companies are currently facing lawsuits around the world for their deceptions, including from Hawaii's Maui County, where more than 100 innocent people were killed by wildfires in August of this year, we should note that lawsuit was filed three years ago because of the climate-related risks, including wildfires, that the island now faces.

So, the big question, can the world get its act together and solve this problem, the way it did with the ozone? Yes, it can. Will it? Well, that depends on the degree to which politicians are brave enough to insist that the oil companies stop lying to the public and become part of the solution.

In 1998, 52 state and territory attorneys general signed an agreement with the largest tobacco companies in the U.S. to settle dozens of state lawsuits. And that settlement has generated more than $159 billion to combat the health risks of smoking.

How much do you think the oil and gas companies should pay for what they have done to planet Earth? Is anyone in the U.S. government willing to take them on?

Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us. Merry Christmas.

The news continues next.