tv Amanpour on PBS PBS December 26, 2017 12:00am-12:31am PST
♪ ♪ >> "amanpour" on pbs was made possible by the generous support of rosalind p. walter. >> good evening, everyone, and welcome to this special edition of our program on pbs. i'm christiane amanpour in london, looking at some of the highlights of the year. and tonight, climate change in the trump era. perhaps president trump's positions on climate and trade are the starkest indications of his america first policy, where he's pulling back and even isolating the united states on the global stage. the winner of all of this, by a
long shot, is china, which is only too happy to step into the void. even before trump's inauguration last january, president xi jinping for the very first time attended the capitalist mecca talking shop in davos, switzerland, and began to assume the mantle of world leadership. >> [ speaking chinese ] >> say no to protectionism. protectionism is like locking oneself in a dark room. while wind and rain are kept outside, so are light and air. >> well, those are stunning words from the leader of a one-party communist state. and barely six months after his inauguration, president trump said that he would pull america out of the global climate accord. >> the paris agreement handicaps the united states economy in order to win praise from the very foreign capitals and global activists that have long sought to gain wealth at our country's
expense. they don't put america first. >> the very next day, i would speak to the top diplomat who was a driving force behind the agreement, the former u.s. secretary of state john kerry, on behalf of all of our children. indeed, he had his granddaughter on his lap when he signed the paris accord at the u.n. he was as angry as i'd ever seen him. >> president trump clearly is trying to appeal to a very narrow base, shoring up his base. it's clear to me that this is more political, because it can't be substantive. there is no fact cited on which -- and no science cited. much of what he said with respect to the economic argument is simply not true. it's fake news. >> let me ask you that, because he -- let me ask you specifically, because there were lots of claims flung around in this bg juin now. first of all, "the world is laughingt us." he said, "those countries who
are expressing disappointment today are doing so because they want to put the united states at an economic disadvantage." and that also matches what the president said, that the world is laughing at us because of this deal. so, i ask you, did you negotiate a laughable deal that puts the united states at an economic disadvantage? >> if the world is laughing today, it's also crying. it's a laughing/crying at the president of the united states, who clearly doesn't know what he's talking about. he really is ignorant on the issue of climate change. and regrettably, the world is going to pay a price because american leadership is important on this. it took us years of work and leadership by the united states working very specifically with china. i mean, i would ask donald trump, does he think that president xi, president macron, that the prime minister of great britain, the chancellor of germany don't know what they're talking about? are they stupid?
is he accusing them of somehow buying into a hoax? this is one of the most cynical and, frankly, ignorant and dangerous self-destructive steps that i've seen in my entire lifetime in public life. >> obviously, china is stepping into the void. it's already very publicly this week signed a new climate alliance with the eu. what does that mean if china steps into the leading role that the u.s. had? >> well, it means that they're gonna have an opportunity to sell their goods, an opportunity to be able to advance their technology. they will have the full support -- they have anyway because it's a government enterprise in many respects, but they will be pushing the curve of technology where the federal government of the united states, because of president trump's decision, will be lagging. >> president trump's decision unnerved his european allies who had waited decades to finally get the u.s. on board. the newly elected french president, emmanuel macron, seemed to sum up their feelings
when he literally gave trump the cold shoulder as he swerved away from him at their first nato summit, heading straight for his fellow climate crusader, the german chancellor angela merkel. and macron drove the point home to america in english with a page right out of trump's playbook. >> to all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the president of the united states, i want to say that they will find in france a second homeland. i call on them -- come and work here with us. wherever we live, whoever we are, we all share the same responsibility -- make our planet great again. >> the view from america's oldest ally.
and right from the start, macron demonstrated a willingness to stand up to president trump when he challenged him to this hands-on version of a duel -- the white-knuckle handshake. i asked macron about his conversations with trump when he sat down with me for his very first interview as president. >> the very first disagreement is very well-known, is about climate. as president trump decided to leave paris agreement, i mean, that's his choice, and i do respect his choice. and he was elected on the basis of such a decision. but i do regret this decision. and i do want to convince him to come back to this agreement because for me, that's the core agreement for climate. and i do believe that, especially after these hurricanes we just had both in the u.s. and in france, we do see the direct consequences of co2 emissions and all this climate change.
we have to fight against this climate change, and we need global mobilization for that. so, we have a disagreement on this issue, but i will keep pushing. we had direct discussion yesterday. we will implement paris agreement on our own at the french level, but the european level, as well. we have a strong agreement with the chinese and the other players, and i think it's very important to preserve this multilateral approach. and now that's an issue for the u.s. itself to see what they want to do and what president trump wants to do with climate. but we have to deal with that. >> the president says, "this is a bad deal. we can get a better deal. it's bad for the economy. it's bad for the climate. it's bad for the united states." what do you say when he says that to you? >> i mean, first of all, it's not bad for climate and environment, definitely. and especially if he decides to leave, it will be worse because the u.s. is a very great contributor in terms of co2 emission. so that's an issue. and if you don't fix the
situation in the u.s., you are not credible to tell the others what they have to do. and you have direct consequences of the situation. so, no, this agreement is not bad for climate -- it's wrong. >> and you can watch the rest of that interview at amanpour.com. now, to understand just how far president trump's decision is leaving america behind, i spoke to christiana figueres. she was the u.n. official in charge of passing the landmark paris climate agreement. now she's out of office, and she told me that market forces are more powerful than politics. and nowhere is that more clear than in india and china, which are making strides often at america's expense. >> i think that what we're beginning to see -- and we may see it also at the g20 -- is the beginning of, let's say, a dissonance between the political discourse on one hand that is being, to a certain extent, defined by the united states and the real economy.
and so that dissonance -- it's possible that over the next three years or so, we may see that dissonance or that gap grow, but what is important to understand about that gap is that just because the political discourse is stuck someplace doesn't mean that the real economy is not moving forward. in fact, i think the most important shift that has occurred in climate is that we are beyond politics and ideology. we're onto the real economy. we're into the technologies, we're into the prices, we're into the market forces. and that is why i think many people are saying, "well, you know, it's okay. whatever happens in politics." the fact is, where the exponential progress is occurring is in the real economy, and that's the one that really counts. >> polls are showing that a rapidly developing majority of ordinary republicans, ordinary voters are on board with the climate science. >> 71% of u.s. citizens. >> and that's really important. including republicans -- that's very, very important. >> including republicans. >> however, not republican leaders, as i was saying -- at least, not many of them. >> obviously, you could attempt
to deny the science of gravity, but it doesn't really diminish the gravitational pull on you or on me. the best evidence is india, okay? because everybody thought, okay, india's gonna lag behind. no. india has come forward and they have said, "you know what? under paris, we put in a pledge that we would be at 40% renewable energy by 2030." now, because solar is cheaper in india than coal, now india has upped its predictions and they're saying, "we're gonna be not at 40, but at 60% renewable." and by the way, not by 2030, but three years earlier -- 2027. >> and china. >> and china -- closing coal plants, putting on, you know, more zero-emission electric vehicles than anyone else -- 5 million over the next three years, investing in a huge charging station infrastructure in china, and really moving forward. in fact, even intellectually and from an analytical point of view, really contributing to the developing practice of green
finance, because they understand that this is their competitive edge. >> enlightenment on this issue may have come to india and china, but in america, president trump continued to disappoint allies by appointing scott pruitt to run the environmental protection agency -- a man who made his career out of fighting and suing that very agency. so before we move on, let's be clear about one thing -- 13 federal agencies in the u.s. this autumn concluded that human activity is the dominant reason our earth is warming. the report says that sea levels have risen 7 to 8 inches since 1900, and nearly half of that rise has come since 1993. carbon dioxide is now at its highest level in 3 million years. and the effects are with us now. this year, we've seen the impact of extreme weather, especially in the united states, where hurricanes harvey, irma, jose, and maria have devastated the
caribbean, texas, florida, and puerto rico. wildfires ravaged california. the vast majority of americans now say climate change is happening, and weather-related disasters are becoming more severe. but that hasn't stopped the trump administration from waging a war on science from within. when we saw french president emmanuel macron inviting american climate scientists to continue their work in france, he had people like joel clement in mind -- a top climate scientist at the u.s. interior department until july. >> i was reassigned, i believe, in retaliation for the work that i was doing to address the health and safety risks that climate change presents to the alaska native communities on the edge of a melting arctic. >> and just remind us exactly what you were doing then and what you're doing right now. >> so, at the time, i was
organizing the federal engagement with this issue. it's a very complicated issue, trying to bring these folks who live on very narrow spits of land -- narrow spits of permafrost that is melting and no longer protected by the sea ice. so they're one big storm away from becoming refugees. that's what i was working on. now i've been reassigned to that accounting office that collects royalty income from the oil and gas industries. >> oh, my goodness. i mean, it's kind of orwellian, that -- royalties from the oil and gas industry. okay, so, from your perspective, what's happening? we see people being fired, we see people being reassigned, but what actual practical effect is that happening -- or will it have on the ground? >> well, we're seeing several effects already, and that's why i raised the plight of the alaska natives. those villages are really one step away from refugee status. but also, what are the implications for the opioid crisis or national security
diplomacy when you're removing the subject-matter experts and the scientists so systematically in an ongoing way from the agencies? it's troubling. and it's troubling to a lot of us that work in the civil service, and we are committed to the civil service. subject matter experts and scientists really make it tick. so it's troubling. as an american, i'm very concerned because there are likely to be greater risks to the health and safety of americans. >> there are some bright spots -- committed americans who argue that however much president trump wants to withdraw america from the global stage, one simple fact remains -- adopting clean energy makes economic sense. at the forefront is billionaire businessman and former new york city mayor michael bloomberg. we spoke about the dollars and sense of all of this in new york, along with carl pope. he's the former director of the environmental group the sierra club. and together, they have written "climate of hope". >> this issue, it is a local issue, much more than a national
or a state issue. most of the people -- 50% of the public, maybe more -- live in cities. and that's where the pollution comes from because they're the ones that use the energy that the plants producing the energy put into the air. they're the ones that have to face issues like crime and education and traffic. economic opportunities are done at the city level. and so, in this case, because of that, the federal government has not really had much to do with america's success in reducing carbon in the air and greenhouse gases. the state governments haven't had much success. it's really been done by local governments, where the public can talk to the mayor or the city council directly and say, "clean up this air. i want it done today." and they have to listen. or it's done by the private sector -- you and i who want to drive more fuel-efficient cars or paint our roofs white so that it reflects off the sun and reduces our cost. or at the corporate level,
because corporations want to be environmentally friendly. it helps in recruiting people. it makes them happy employees. it makes for happy customers. and most importantly, big investors want to invest in companies that are environmentally friendly. so that's where the problems are, and that's where the solutions are. >> so, carl pope, you know that the president and those who are against the idea of regulation on climate say that it's bad for american business. but we've just heard and we know that the stats show that actually it's a really moving, gangbusters kind of business. >> well, it is the biggest economic opportunity of the 21st century, and it's that in the united states, it's that in india, it's that in europe, it's that in china. globally, 20 years from now, we will be using entirely different technologies than we're using today. and prosperity will belong to those countries and those companies that figure out how to do that first. so, for example, donald trump comes along.
he says, "oh, barack obama wanted to clean up power plants. i don't. i'm repealing the rule." that, he might be able to do. you might be able to repeal the rule, but reuters went out and asked 20 of the most coal-dependent public utilities, "does this make any difference in what you're doing?" and only one of them said it made a little bit of difference. the rest said, "we don't plan around presidential elections. we plan for 20, 30 years." in 20 or 30 years, we're going solar, we're going to wind. companies like anheuser-busch, america's biggest beer manufacturer, has announced that all of its electricity will come from renewals. >> what about when people say, "oh, well, we're doing all this. we're controlling our carbon and putting in regulations. what about india? what about china? they're the big polluters?" >> the truth of the matter is, those countries are doing even more than we're doing. why? because they have a much bigger problem. you see pictures of not being able to see across the streets in the big cities in china and
india. and their governments can't survive unless they do something because the people are saying, "wait a second. i have to wear a mask. my kids are going to the hospital with asthma attacks. people tell me i'm gonna come down with stomach cancer because the water's not clean." and so those governments have to do something. now, they have bigger problems than we do. they're 3, 4, 5 times the size of america. they have antiquated infrastructures, so they have an awful lot of old plants that are more polluting than the newer plants. but nevertheless, china, i think, has already canceled the building of more coal-fired power plants than we have in this country. >> coal is so uncompetitive that the coal mining museum in eastern kentucky proudly announced that it had converted to solar power to save money. >> but the trump administration thinks fossil fuels will be with us for a long time to come. so, by the end of the year, when world leaders gather to celebrate the second anniversary of the landmark climate
agreement, president trump was not invited. instead, earlier, he had sent fossil-fuel executives to europe to plead his case. >> coal and other fossil fuels will help achieve the u.n.'s sustainable goals, like ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. i think the question and the discussion today needs to be not about if we will use coal, but how. >> now, that did not go down very well in the room. but there was an alternate american delegation at that summit led by the former vice president al gore and the governor of california, jerry brown, who warned the america first agenda, in fact, risked putting america last. >> well, it is a paradox that by espousing "america first," president trump is risking having america last -- or, if not last, second or third or fourth or fifth. the climate change, along with some other key risks, is
existential, it's taking increasingly the center stage. and if america is gonna be awol, absent, then others will occupy the field. and certainly, china with its size, its wealth, and its political commitment is in a position to marginalize america's role -- not just in climate change, but trade and with other relations. so it's one thing to stand up for american workers and stand up for our country, but we are part of the big world, and it's very important that our national leadership recognize that and forge the agreements on trade and climate change that the rest of the world expects from a great power as the united states is. it's not something you just can ignore. we're looking at starvation, disruption, mass migrations, the spread of diseases. and this is coming, and they're irreversible tipping points that the scientists -- not the politicians -- are warning us about. and the benighted program that
is being espoused from washington under the republicans and under trump, it is an outrage. it's deviant to the world norm. no one takes it seriously. it's such an absurdity. >> can i broaden it out a little bit, governor brown? because you've been very prominent in the sort of so-called resistance springing up to donald trump around the united states. >> we're fighting for fiscal rectitude. we're fighting for environmental sanity. we're fighting for immigration, humanity, and generosity -- in so many different ways. but i don't see it so much as a resistance, as i see it as action being taken at this level of government. and we will carry the ball until finally washington wakes up and we get the kind of leadership that is consistent with the problems that america and the rest of the world is facing. >> around this time, china's president was wrapping up his party congress with an extraordinary coming-out of his own -- "it was finally time," he said, "68 years since the
communist revolution that china assume global leadership on these issues." >> [ speaking chinese ] >> it will be an era that sees china moving closer to center stage and making greater contributions to mankind. [ applause ] >> [ speaking chinese ] >> openness brings progress, while self-seclusion leaves one behind. >> while back amongst european allies, in holland, climate and rising seas are not abstract thoughts, as much of the country is actually below sea level. and the dutch have been protecting it for hundreds of years. now they're exporting that knowledge. henk ovink is the country's first-ever special envoy for international water affairs. and he weighed in with practical advice after hurricane harvey flooded much of houston. >> first, we have to protect ourselves with dams, dykes, and levees -- natural solutions, any type of measurement.
second, we have to plan our cities for the future, for those uncertainties that come with climate change. more extremes will hit us harder and more severe, and we have to plan our cities for that. and third, response. now, in the united states, you would see the last one being there -- a collective effort to help when the disaster happens, but that's not the way to go. we should not respond to the disasters that happen to us. we have to prepare ourselves for an uncertain future. >> well, so give us a few actual concrete examples of what should have been, in terms of infrastructure, done differently. >> houston is a city that has only hardened surface. there's no capacity to hold any rain, and especially not in these amounts. if you look at the rivering system, it's totally urbanized or channeled up, so there's no room for the river to actually hold more excessive rains. if you look at the coastline of texas -- and we've done studies
with tu delft and other research institutes, like dell towers in the netherlands and engineering firms like arcadis and royal haskoning on how to enforce the coastline with natural barriers and increasing those barriers. but nothing is in place, so on protection as well as in storing the water and holding it and letting it go in a better flow than only having this massive amount. this is one. the other, of course, is critical infrastructure in your hospitals, your emergency shelters, your energy supply. they're all in vulnerable places and, therefore, hit first and hardest. and then the system breaks up. your city breaks up. and i have to say the latter, too -- poor people live in poor places all over the world. you see it, again, happening in houston, where the most vulnerable are not only hit hardest because they're in the worst place, they will also have the hardest time to get back on their feet. >> and finally tonight, nowhere
is the fragility of human existence on earth more visible than from space. astronaut scott kelly had plenty of time to contemplate our planet during the full year he spent orbiting aboard the international space station. he spent more time in space than any other american. and he gave me his perspective once he landed right back on earth. >> we have a beautiful planet. we should be very, very -- we should feel very fortunate. but parts of it -- parts of it are visibly polluted from space. and now we're alone in the world as not only the most powerful and the richest nation on earth, but the only one that denies climate change. and i, personally, think that everyone should have the right to have their own opinion. what i have a hard time understanding is when you are not a scientist, when you are not a climatologist for you to somehow say, "well, those 97%
of the experts that have studied this issue their whole lives, they're all wrong. and me, with no experience in this issue, with no background, with no understanding, i am right." >> and that's it for our program tonight. remember, you can always listen to our podcast and see us online at amanpour.com. and of course, follow me on facebook and twitter. thanks for joining me for this special edition of "amanpour" on pbs. and goodbye from london. ♪ >> "amanpour" on pbs was made possible by the generous support of rosalind p. walter. ♪ >> you're watching pbs.