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Steep Drop in Economy Due to the Coronavirus Outbreak; Preventing Economic Crisis After Epidemic; Number of Coronavirus Infections Continuous to Grow; Austan Goolsbee, Economics Professor, University of Chicago Business School, is Interviewed About the Economic Impact of Coronavirus; How to Stay Safe During Coronavirus Outbreak; Dr. Bruce Aylward, Assistant- Director General, W.H.O, is Interviewed About the Coronavirus; Interview With Author Christiana Figueres. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired March 9, 2020 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
With plunging oil prices and coronavirus wiping trillions off the books, I speak to the man who helped drive America's recovery after the great
recession of 2008.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are facing an emergency, a national emergency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Crisis in Italy, but containment is possible. Look at China, says the W.H.O chief senior advisor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIANA FIGUERES, CO-AUTHOR, "THE FUTURE WE CHOOSE: SURVIVING THE CLIMATE CRISIS": Collectively, we can decide to choose a better path, to
write a future that we really want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Another life or death matter, climate change. The architect of the Paris agreement says we do have control of our future as long as we act
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The impact of the coronavirus outbreak has stunned the global financial markets, the price of oil and the world's health care systems. We will hear
about the drastic economic consequences in a moment. But first, here's a snapshot of where the world stands at this hour, including social
restrictions in some places not seen since World War II.
This is Central Milan during Monday morning rush hour. The usually bustling streets of the country's financial and fashion hub are eerily quiet as the
country struggles to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
Over the weekend, the Italian government introduced drastic quarantine measures restricting the movements of nearly 16 million people in the
country's north. Police checks have been set up to enforce the new rules and public events have been canceled including sporting matches and
Italy's the country worst affected in Europe by the coronavirus outbreak with thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths. Neighboring France is also
experiencing an accelerating infection rate prompting even tighter restrictions on public gatherings. The worsening situation across Europe is
leading to a collapse in tourism and problems in manufacturing, and it's sending shock waves through global markets.
BRUNO LE MAIRE, FRENCH FINANCE MINISTER (through translator): Europe must prove its political effectiveness. I expect a strong, massive and
coordinated response from Europe to avoid the risk of an economic crisis after the epidemic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: In Greece, the country's Olympic committee announced Monday that the traditional torch lighting ceremony for Tokyo 2020 would be held behind
closed doors. Across the Middle East, many countries are also taking tougher action. The gates at this border crossing between Iran and Iraq
have been locked to try to limit the spread of coronavirus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIGADIER GENERAL ADNAN ABDULLAH, IRAQ'S DIRECTOR ASSISTANT OF SHALAMCHEH BORDER CROSSING (through translator): The border point was shut down with
the aim of keeping our people in Basrah and Iraq safe and to prevent the epidemic into our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Iran remains the epicenter of the outbreak in this region. Authorities are spraying disinfectant in public places to try to curb its
spread. But despite their efforts, the number of new infections is continuing to grow.
And on Monday, Iran's judiciary chief announced that 70,000 eligible prisoners would be granted temporary leave to try to deal with the outbreak
in the prisons. In the United Arab Emirates, schools have been closed as a precaution, giving students an early start to the spring break.
Across Asia, many countries are continuing to record rising numbers of infections. In South Korea, one of the worst affected countries, military
teams are still doing their large-scale disinfecting. While in Bangladesh, the first confirmed cases of coronavirus have sparked panic buying of face
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The coronavirus is infecting people all around the world. People are all very scared. We are all buying
masks to protect ourselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But in China, where the outbreak began, the government says the number of new infections continues the drop. And so, authorities are now
closing most of the temporary hospitals they set up in Wuhan to deal with the crisis. It is a small sign of hope, more than two months after the
country first identified COVID-19.
And any sign of hope would be welcome. But on one of the most stunning days since the global financial crisis, markets plunged so deeply trading on the
New York Stock Exchange had to be briefly suspended. The last time oil prices plummeted so steeply was the start of the first Gulf War.
And Austan Goolsbee thinks things could still get, as he says, a heck of a lot worse. He is the man who guided President Obama's economic policy after
2008 that led to a rebound. And he is now economics professor at the University of Chicago and he's joining us now from Chicago.
Welcome to the program, Austan Goolsbee.
AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO BUSINESS SCHOOL: Thank you and great to see you again.
AMANPOUR: I mean, you know, in a way, you have been here before. The world shuddered terribly for a long time in 2008. And we'll get to how, you know,
the sort of mechanics of getting it back but everybody's asking about the oil prices. The steep drop, what does that mean for the global economy and
what does it mean for individuals?
GOOLSBEE: Well, mostly it comes about I think because people in the oil markets anticipate there's going to be a very dramatic drop-off of demand
for oil. Partly, there's this fight going on between Saudi Arabia and Russia, but mostly, I think it's a bad sign for the world economy because
they're saying we think people go into their homes and not want to come out and they're not going to be driving and the planes aren't going to be
flying and they're not going to be using as many fuels.
And so, that extent kind of outweighs, at first glance, especially in the United States where people drive a lot, you might think, well, if the price
of gasoline goes down then wouldn't that be good? And the positive nature of that as a -- let's call it the equivalent of a tax cut is outweighed, I
think, by the fact that this is only happening because everybody is going into borderline panic mode.
AMANPOUR: So, you heard the French finance minister say, certainly, Europe must prove that it can do something to avoid a major economic crisis even
an economic epidemic after the health crisis. Is this -- I mean, when was the last time you saw an economic crisis as a result of a health crisis?
GOOLSBEE: You know, it's been a while. I would say if you've seen other -- you know, whether it's SARS or Ebola or other virus outbreaks, in localized
regions, for sure they have a significant economic impact.
The thing that's different about this is like, you know, maybe the flu pandemics in the late 1950s or going back to World War I times, this one is
now spreading all around the world. And the thing that's a little weird is, as I say, the economic implications in a way are similar to the
implications on the health side of the virus, that the health side is much more dangerous for the elderly.
I believe that this economic impact of this virus is much more dangerous for the advanced economies where so much more of their economic vitality is
in service-based industries which are exactly the things that shut down when people get afraid.
So, people stop going to sporting events and they stop taking public transportation. They stop flying on airplanes. They stop going on cruises.
All of that entertainment, leisure, all of that stuff is much bigger as a share of the European and the U.S. economies than it was in China, than it
is in Iran or in countries that are not as rich.
So, I think we do need to establish some pushback on this -- on the economic implications. I think it could be worse for a place like the
United States or in Western Europe. And in a weird way, the thing about virus economics and the virus business cycle that's a little different from
just a regular recession or even a big financial crisis like 2008 is many of the most effective things that you can do have nothing to do with the
They are about, how do you slow the spread of this virus? That it is not that people don't have the money, it's that they are unwilling to go out of
their houses and spend it. So, everything that you're going to say on your program and that the governments of the world are addressing on the health
side, that's the best economic medicine too.
AMANPOUR: OK. That is really interesting and it starts sort of a series of questions on how then do you stem this? Just take us back to 2008 and what
-- I mean, first it was under George W. Bush, the Bank Bailout, then you all had a big recovery and stimulus and you had to really sort of try to
control this financial, you know, spiral downwards.
You've sort of said it's different this time. But what did you do last time, you know, to stabilize it that could translate to this time?
GOOLSBEE: Yes. Well, look, it was horrible. You -- just even you describing it, I mean, my neck is starting to sweat again. It was awful.
And the things about that crisis that are similar to this crisis, there are a lot of things that are different, but the first is, as Paul Volcker used
to tell me over and over during the last crisis, when you get into a crisis, the only asset that you truly have is your credibility.
And so, his view was, whatever you do, do not blow your credibility because then as you go forward through the crisis, you're helpless. People don't
believe what you're saying and you can get into this paradox that I have noted, which whatever you say, people start to take to mean the opposite.
So, if lost your credibility and you start telling people there's no reason to panic, it causes a panic. And if you tell them, the market -- there's no
reason for the market to fall, it causes the market to fall.
So, that in the United States especially, but in several of the countries of the world, we're getting into this regime where we're purposefully not
testing people because we don't want to admit that the numbers are going up. That's the absolute worst thing you could do. Because then, when you
actually come at it with seriousness, people are doubting what you say.
And if you look at the Chinese government, they've clearly had this problem. And so now, when they say there were no new cases outside of
Wuhan, everyone says, well, wait a minute. Is that really true or are they covering something up? OK. So, first is, you got to establish the
credibility. Two is in a way, you got to stop the bank runs.
There was an infection in the financial crisis every bit like the health infection that's taking place now which was people got scared and they
pulled their money out. And when they pull their money out of Bank A then Bank B is like, well, I got to be -- I got to get my money out before the
And a similar dynamic is kind of taking place here where I really think that the greatest stimulus of all, if you could imagine it, would be if
they came out and said, we have a treatment that can make the symptoms for the elderly or for whoever not as deadly. I think that would calm people a
great deal and you would see a lot more economic activity.
So, the massive stimulus tax cut monetary interest rate cutting approach, which is our normal approach, we should just recognize that will have a lot
AMANPOUR: That's so interesting.
GOOLSBEE: Than it does in normal regions.
AMANPOUR: That's so interesting because you also talked to Paul Krugman, the economist and New York Times columnist, about this. And he said just a
week or so ago to you, whatever the shock is and there will be one, the problem is that we, the United States, we don't have any more arrows in our
quiver and we're out of ammunition. So, is that kind of what you are saying that there is no way to have a financial economic stimulus to get people
out of -- to get the economy out of this? What does he mean?
GOOLSBEE: Yes. Kind of. What he meant is, look, the interest rate is already epically low. So, how would you cut it normally to face a regular
recession? The fed would cut interest rates 4 to 5 percentage points. But the interest was already very low to begin with. So, what are they going to
do? They can't cut rates more than that.
And you have seen that play out now. You know, the treasury, the interest rate yield on treasury bonds has literally never been lower. It's lower
than it was at the peak of the financial crisis. So, that's -- so, that part's pretty scary.
I'm saying a second thing, which is, even at -- on the fiscal side, if you gave someone a tax cut of $1,000, are they going to go spend it when they
don't want to leave their house? So, the -- even the normal fiscal channels if you had the runway to land a plane, does anybody want to fly?
And I think those are going to be hanging over us in a way that I think will lead us back to the realization that hopefully this is a virus that
follows an infection pattern like other viruses that it will have a peak and maybe in the summer it goes down. So, it's got kind of a temporary
nature to it.
And our best bang for the buck is get the focus out on solving the medical problem and slowing the spread of that disease. In a way, that's the most
effective thing to do for the economy. Besides giving --
AMANPOUR: So, it's -- yes. It's interesting that you say people aren't spending because one of the things President Trump has said is that, you
know, if there is to be a silver lining is that Americans are staying home and spending at home and not going abroad, et cetera, to spend abroad. Just
listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: A lot of people are staying here and they're going to be doing their business here. They're going to be traveling here.
And they'll be going to resorts here and you know, we're in a great place. It's where some foreign people come. But we're going to have Americans
staying home instead of going and spending their money in other countries and maybe that's one of the reasons the job numbers are so good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: What do you make of that?
GOOLSBEE: Look. I think that's deeply bonkers. I mean, I don't -- I'm not trying to insult anybody, but that's coming from the same place of when the
president announced, well, we only have 14 cases and, in a few days, it's going to go to zero. I mean, it's just totally -- that's utterly inaccurate
as a description of the economy.
If people stay in their houses, the fundamental thing that you've already seen is that the savings rate starts going way up because so much of what
we spend our money on are these face to face services which are exactly the things that shut down when people can't go out. And if you watch in Italy,
that is now going to be the test case.
The Northern Italian economy is very similar to the economy in the United States and in other rich countries in Europe. And they're going into
quarantine for 16 million people because they're trying to slow this virus. That's not going to be good for the economy in those places. It is going to
be really tough for the -- in the economy in those places.
AMANPOUR: I wanted to ask you about -- let me just see if I can just figure this out. One of the big problems is that America seems to be
battling a sort of a triple whammy.
You've got this virus but you've also got a situation where not enough people have insurance, health insurance and the public health care system
is very patchy at best, and there's a huge gig economy, so that people don't even have guaranteed sick days, guaranteed sick pay, nothing, and
they may even, you know, want to go into work even if they're exhibiting symptoms.
Now, as you know, the Congress has given $8.3 billion and president has signed it into law to fight this. But Jillian Ted, the U.S. editor of the
F.T., chair of the editorial board, she says that, don't get too excited. People should note what is sadly missing in this bill, a commitment to plug
the holes in America's medical and social safety net that have been exposed by the disease known as COVID-19. And she says, if that's going to
continue, those holes are going to be even more exposed.
GOOLSBEE: Yes. Although there's no way to doubt that. I think that's very insightful. We have got millions of people without health insurance. We
have got even more millions of people who do not have paid sick leave and they are going to not just be tempted, they're going to have to go to work
because they need a paycheck. And as they do that, it's going to make the virus spread more.
You add on top of that that we have had major problems here in the United States getting tests, although we have a rash of non-testing. People who
have symptoms who probably have the coronavirus but they can't determine that they have it, they are not imposing self-quarantine or any forms of
social distancing. I am afraid that that's going to make the U.S. a place where the disease is prone to spread even faster than it has in other
AMANPOUR: And finally, do you -- will the word recession be used any time soon? And how do you see this playing out? Is it as long and dramatic as
2008 or is it a, I don't know, peak of disease dependent financial hit?
GOOLSBEE: Yes. Look, I hope it is the latter. That if it comes to the summer and the virus kind of peaks and goes down, like the official reports
are in China, that would be far better for the economy. That said, I think the experience in China where you saw a production fall, I believe, 20
percent, that vastly -- that's a vastly bigger hit on the economy than any recession.
So, if you had production fall 2 percent, 5 percent in a recession, you'd say, that's a steep recession. Things like this virus induced drops in
activity, I think, for sure people will be talking about recession. And if the virus doesn't have the flu-like feature that it gets milder in a short
period of time, then I fear the recession could be pretty serious.
AMANPOUR: Austan Goolsbee, thank you so much, indeed.
So, from protecting our livelihoods we move on to protecting our lives. We have all seen the guidance of frequently washing our hands for 20 seconds
at least and we've heard about panic buying at supermarkets. But what is really going to keep us safe? If anyone knows it is our next guest, Dr.
Bruce Aylward. He is the senior advisor to the director-general of the World Health Organization. And he's joining us now from Geneva.
Doctor Aylward, welcome to the program.
DR. BRUCE AYLWARD, ASSISTANT-DIRECTOR GENERAL, W.H.O: Thank you very much, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, you have heard what Austan Goolsbee, former economic advisor to President Obama have said, and one of the things I want to ask you,
because you have spent a good deal of time in China at the peak of this, you were in Wuhan and elsewhere.
When Austan Goolsbee and many others have said, is China really, really being transparent? Do you really trust in their credibility when they say
that cases dropped from several thousand per day to 100 now?
AYLWARD: Yes, Christiane, absolutely. When we went into China with our team of 25 people to look at the phenomenon, we were -- as epidemiologists
and as public health people, we're really interested in two things, what's happening to the trends of the disease and what's happening to the
transmission chains, the clusters.
And there were multiple ways that we looked at this in China. We looked at the data, we looked at what we were hearing from docs, we looked to hear
about beds opening up, we looked at what was happening at fever clinics. We talked to researchers about their ability to recruit new patients. And
every single piece of data clearly aligned saying that this was real, cases were truly falling. And one would expect them to drop rather rapidly as
we've seeing in the last few days.
AMANPOUR: And again, from 2,000 at its peak of new infections per day to now, the Chinese say 100 per day. I mean, that is a really huge sign of
hope. We also reported at the beginning of this program that some of these mass emergency hospitals that you saw that were quickly put up by the
Chinese in Wuhan and elsewhere, some of them are being dismantled now.
So, if you look at the United States, if you look at Italy, if you look at Iran, what lessons can China teach the world? So, in other words, why is
Italy in this terrible state right now, you know, developed country in the middle of Europe?
AYLWARD: Right. Well, the big lessons, first of all, that we learned from China, you don't learn in Wuhan. In Wuhan, you learn what can go wrong if
you let this virus run. And for China at that early stage, remember, new virus, never seen before, didn't have a diagnostic, didn't know what would
happen, we didn't know how to control it. So, this is what happens.
But what we have learned from the other areas of China, there's 31 provinces, all of them got infected. None of them had the experience of
Wuhan because they acted differently. And first, they went fast. Speed meant so much. Secondly, to get that speed, they mobilized the whole
population. The population, the people became their surveillance system to help find this disease, prevent the disease. But when it did occur, rapidly
get isolated so that they didn't spread it to others. And that was because the population knew what the problem was and they were a big part of the
solution. That is the big, big lesson.
You cannot do this by government. You cannot do it by the health authorities alone. You need it all working in sync. That's the critical
AMANPOUR: I want to play this little bit of a soundbite today from Kathleen Sebelius. She used to be head of the Health and Human Services
Department in the United States. And this is what she said just very briefly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: I don't hear any conversations with other world health leaders. This clearly
is an international crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, that's very short but she is basically saying that her own country needs to learn from other leaders around the world. How do you
think the United States, which is obviously the biggest, most powerful, most important democracy in the world, is dealing with this right now? I
mean, Austan Goolsbee was talking about a credibility gap. I mean --
AYLWARD: Well, let's take a step back for a second, Christiane, because what people have frequently talk to me about is the China approach. And I
hear this all the time. And I remind them that, hang on a minute, this is not a China approach. These are the fundamentals of public health. And
there is no agency in the world that has been better at this or codified it for the world and then helped train so many people around the world at this
than U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the Epidemic Intelligence Service. This is what they do and they developed a whole field epidemiology training
And in fact, that program, which they helped embed in China, actually is part of the backbone that's helping with the response. So, this is not a
foreign approach. These approaches, this way to manage and tackle communicable disease, this is international. And no one's better at it or
has been than the U.S. historically.
AMANPOUR: As you know, not too long ago, the CDC -- basically the Trump administration declined to extend of like an $80 billion help to the CDC
which was enforced for the Ebola crisis. And, you know, at the time when they didn't some people said, well, what if there's another epidemic? And
we could be in deep trouble. What do you think should be the decisions of the U.S. government right now?
AYLWARD: Well, I'm not going to speculate on what the U.S. government would be doing. I mean, I worked and trained in the country and I've worked
with a lot of fantastic public health people in the country. They know what needs to be done. They need -- they know the population needs to understand
this disease. They know that they've to get the testing up of anyone who might be a suspect case. They know they have to find the cases and the
contacts to make sure they don't infect others because this is a relatively straightforward business.
Viruses only survive in people and they have to get from one person to the next person. So, you've got to find the people who've got those viruses,
got to find the people who are at high-risk risk and then make sure that they aren't infecting other people however you solve that problem.
And, again, I have fantastic confidence in the ingenuity, innovativeness of U.S. states and U.S. federal authorities to figure out the ways to make
that work best in the context of the U.S.
AMANPOUR: And you're absolutely right. There's no doubt that the CDC stands at the pinnacle of this business, so to speak.
But I want to ask you, you know, countries like China did take draconian or whatever, whatever word you want to use to describe it, they quarantined
some 60 million people in total. Italy in Europe is quarantining 16 million people right now in the north of the country. What do you say about
quarantine? Is that the way to go? Is that what we might see in France, in the U.K., in the U.S.?
AYLWARD: Well, here, Christiane, I have to say, China learned a lot of things the hard way and as being the first in on this, so to speak. And
what they reinforced again and again to me, because I kept thinking I've got it after a short time there and I hadn't, they had to reinforce. Look,
Bruce, it's a graduated differentiated approach. If you've got zero cases, you do this. Sporadic cases, you do that. Clusters of cases, you do this.
Community wide transmission, the kind of situation in Wuhan or beyond, you do that.
And so, they kept reinforcing those and they kept coming back again and again. It is not about locking down populations. It's not about mass
quarantine. You should never have to get there if you act early and fast and stay one step ahead always of this virus.
If you're having sporadic cases, you do X. If you're starting to have clusters, you look at where those clusters are happening and stop, you
know, if there are gatherings, if there -- I think sometimes they have been religious events and other events, then they stop those and they stop them
early to prevent further spread. So, it really depends on where you are and taking -- being one step ahead of that virus, because it's going to move
fast to the next level.
AMANPOUR: So, as you look at what happened and you've got all sorts of graphs and things that you've seen the way it moves, you know, in China and
now, elsewhere. What do you, as the World Health Organization, what are you projecting for the travel of this virus westwards now?
AYLWARD: So, you know, this is a virus that's on the march. That's very, very clear. And one of the things that were striking, what we saw in China
and now beyond, is how fast this moved across that country and then to these other countries.
But the reality is, is that its march is not unstoppable and it is not predetermined. You know, half of the world's countries, yes, they have this
virus. But, you know, China provided an incredible first line of defense. We need all these infected countries that are having now their outbreaks to
provide another line of defense because it is not inevitable this moves everywhere. That's what we learned from China. This is a virus that can
actually be controlled.
So, we're seeing a march and people are saying inevitable that this is going to go everywhere. Why? Because we are not acting on it fast enough,
because we're not implementing the kind of, you know, case finding, contact tracing that we need to? And that's something we still have control of. So,
let's roll up our sleeves and get at it.
AMANPOUR: OK. It's really fascinating because you're giving a much more -- a very sort of sanguine view of how with the correct information, the
correct public health methods, you can actually get out ahead of this.
I want to ask you about the word, and the word is pandemic.
The W.H.O. is not calling that yet, but, as you can see, there are -- the use of that word is happening in the public sphere right now.
Why do you not and do you feel you might be on the verge of using pandemic?
AYLWARD: Well, my question back, Christiane, always is, why is everyone in a rush to use a word for a disease which isn't global at this point?
You know, as our director general said today, Dr. Tedros, this is a virus that has pandemic potential, yes, but it is not predetermined. And if we
get there, it may not be a function of the virus, but actually how we respond to it.
Half the countries of the world are infected or have reported cases, yes. Cases are increasing exponentially in some places, yes. But this is still a
time for action on it. And people keep talking about this pandemic as if it's predetermined.
What we have is not a global outbreak, Christiane. What We have are outbreaks that are happening globally. Each one of those can be tackled.
Find the cases, find the controls, do what we can to control, contain this, because every transmission train you slow down, you're slowing down the
infection, you're saving lives.
That has to be our focus with a virus like this.
AMANPOUR: And you have said, you know, there needs to be a response, whether it's the U.S. or anywhere, that requires speed, money, imagination
and political courage.
What do you mean by political courage and imagination?
AYLWARD: Well, the challenge always with something like this is, you have got to make big decisions based on very little information.
We don't understand everything about this virus. And people keep saying, we don't know this, we don't that. Yes, but we do know how to stop it. And we
do know that it increases exponentially.
So, you have to make a decision about what this virus will do if it's left uncontrolled. And that requires courage, actually. And this requires
telling your populations, getting out in front and telling your populations, here's where we are today and why we're doing this. Here's
where it could go next, in which case we will do Y.
And that way, you help bring the population with you. There's going to be surprises, yes, still along the way, but this is not a virus that you want
to wait for those surprises with.
AMANPOUR: Do you buy the criticism that people label China's reaction, once it got out ahead of the initial denial and punishing those who were
actually blowing the whistle in Wuhan, do you by the assessment that it was heavy-handed, that it comes at the expense of people's liberties,
AYLWARD: If I can make two comments here first, Christiane, and first is the one I keep hearing about, China did this and China did that at the very
beginning of this.
There were -- or we have reports that there were bureaucrats that blocked this, blocked that. But China, as a nation, did not step in and block
reporting, block this, block that.
And often, as you know, there may be an interpretation of things as you go down a system like China's that gets harsher and harsher. And what the
president has already said is, there have been shortcomings, we have got to go back and look at every piece of this to make sure this doesn't happen
So, there's a recognition already in China that there are things that they can do better as they go forward. So that's, I think, important to
But the second one is, what struck me the most, when people often ask about China, one was the virus that you could control, a respiratory virus like
this, but the other thing that struck me was the hundreds and hundreds of people I spoke to in markets, on planes, and trains, and streets, and
What we heard again and again and again was just this common sense of, fear of this virus and what it could do to their population, and especially
their older population. They were worried about that, and a tremendous sense of responsibility and a fear that they could fail and their personal
and collective need to stop this thing and protect the world.
I heard this again and again from average Chinese, average docs and nurses. Well, they weren't average. I thought they were heroes. But we kept hearing
this message, not from the top, from the government. I was hearing this from the average people.
And I want to make sure, Christiane, that, in all the coverage of this and all the way we talk about the country, we do not diminish the work of
people, just everyday heroes, in the response in China. They're very, very human people.
AMANPOUR: Oh, Dr. Bruce Aylward, I'm not talking them down. I think it's a huge, huge accomplishment and a sense of hope, and certainly a lesson to
see, that these cases are coming down.
AMANPOUR: I mean, I hope to God that the rest of the world can get there as well.
That's great advice from you, Dr. Bruce Aylward. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.
AYLWARD: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, if there is a silver lining to this crisis, it's visible in the skies above China.
The dramatic slowdown in manufacturing and driving has caused a reduction in carbon emissions. We have all seen these NASA satellite images which
show the improvement in China's air quality.
Now, someone who has dedicated her life to climate change policy is Christiana Figueres. She's architect of the 2015 Paris agreement. She was
the U.N. negotiator.
And in her new book, "The Future We Choose," she urges us all to harness our technological, political and economic potential to create long-term
solutions. Despite the very real threat that climate change poses to our planet, she tells contributor Sheelah Kolhatkar why she doesn't lose hope.
SHEELAH KOLHATKAR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CONTRIBUTOR: So, there's a sense right now that we are in something of an environmental freefall.
CHRISTIANA FIGUERES, CO-AUTHOR, "THE FUTURE WE CHOOSE: SURVIVING THE CLIMATE CRISIS": Crisis, maybe?
KOLHATKAR: Crisis is a good way of putting it.
KOLHATKAR: Just at the moment when things seem really dire and urgent, it feels, at least from the outside, that policy decisions, global
cooperation, all of that is sort of moving backwards.
What are the odds that we can turn things around in time?
FIGUERES: Well, interestingly enough, the odds right now are 50/50. That's what makes this a very exciting moment, because we have 50 percent
probability of actually walking down the crisis path onto, honestly, irreversible damages that we will never be able to control and that are
life-threatening for the human species, without any exaggeration.
But we also have 50 percent probability of actually doing something completely different. And that's the excitement of the moment, because,
collectively, not individually, but, collectively, we can decide to choose a better path, to write a future that we really want, and that we can look
That's the exciting moment. Can you believe it? We are right at the crossroads of humanity having the possibility to go one way or the other.
Well, guess which way we have to go? Only the positive way.
KOLHATKAR: You mention two dates in your book--
KOLHATKAR: -- 2030 and 2050.
What's the significance of these two years?
FIGUERES: By the end of this decade, by 2030, we have to have achieved a reduction of 50 percent of our current level of greenhouse gas emissions.
And if we do that, then we stand a very good chance of creating a fantastic world. If we don't, we basically have closed the door to anything that we
could possibly control or influence over natural disasters that will completely take over.
And the ultimate consequences of this very evident by 2050. But we can't wait until 2050 to decide that. It has to be now.
KOLHATKAR: Ten years is not very far away. A lot has to happen in 10 years. And I feel like I blink and a year has gone by. So how is this going
to happen so quickly?
FIGUERES: The fact is that, as wonderful human beings that we are, we tend to overestimate what we can do in the short-term. I don't know what your
to-do list looks like every day, but mine is always way longer than I can possibly get to.
And we really tend not to have a realistic sense of what we can do in the short term, because we overestimate that.
Also, we underestimate what we can do in the midterm, so we underestimate what we are capable of doing in 10 years. And technology has come so far so
fast. The fact is that we are living in the moment of the most accelerated technological and policy shifts and financial shifts that we have ever
witnessed as a human race.
This is no longer a linear progression. This is now exponential. And we have to understand that, because we are in the low levels of that curve,
but it is going to be exponential, the transformation that we are capable of having. Hence, we can achieve much more in 10 years than we can possibly
conceive of right now.
That's the good news.
KOLHATKAR: You outline two possible scenarios for life on Earth in 2050.
The first scenario is what we will end up with if we continue on the current path, not really changing our environmental policies at all,
perhaps chipping away a bit around at the edges.
Could you describe a little bit what that world would look like, if we just continued laissez-faire on the path that we're on?
FIGUERES: So, in the year 2050, if we do not do what we have to do by the human race, we will walk out of our homes, and we will not be able to walk
down the street without putting a mask on, because the air is going to be so polluted that it will be life-threatening.
We will not be able -- because of heat, we will not be able to exercise or play outside. We will have to do all of that inside very large gyms that we
will have to build.
It is a world in which we will have much more prevalent diseases, because we will have much more dengue, we will have much more malaria. We will
certainly have much more asthma, all kinds of respiratory diseases, all kinds of heart diseases that come from air pollution.
And we will have a huge public health bill. This is a world in which we will look at the news every day, and we will see millions of people
migrating away from their homes because they do not have enough water, they do not have enough food, they do not have the environmental conditions to
make their home habitable.
They will be forced to migrate. And there will be millions of people migrating away from their homes. And we will have military protection at
many borders of countries.
That will produce a social, political and economic pressure that will unseat most democracies in the world. The social and political consequences
of unabated climate change are only beginning to be felt.
So are the biodiversity consequences. Australia has already lost 20 percent of its territory, burned down, one billion animals burned in -- burned
This is not farfetched. This is what science is very clearly putting out to us to contemplate this, not as a possibility, but, rather, as the path that
we are walking toward. So, this is no exaggeration. This is not a hyperbole.
This is the world that we would get to, which is not a world that you and I want for our children or our grandchildren.
KOLHATKAR: So, what's the best-case scenario?
FIGUERES: The world that we do want is a world in which we walk out of our homes and the air is fresh and moist. It almost feels like we are walking
in a forest, because, very likely, that's what we're doing, because our cities have been planted with just an unlimited number of trees, bushes,
flowers, vegetable gardens.
The rooftops are producing either vegetables or flowers. We have many, many more trees, and we have very few cars. So, the parking spaces, those ugly
buildings that we used to have as parking, they have actually been converted into green areas or into battery-charging stations.
And the walls, the vertical walls of buildings that used to be, you know, not very attractive cement have actually all been transformed into either
solar energy-gathering areas or they're completely covered with verdant vines.
So, we have a very different city experience that is actually much more enjoyable. And if we go to developing countries, the 800 million people who
today in developing countries have no access to electricity, hence, they're in extreme poverty, they would all have electricity in their homes. Every
person would have electricity.
That means that children will be able to study at night. It means that women can stay home and have a little cottage industry, and it also means
that clinics, no matter how remote they are, they will have a little refrigerator where they can keep medicines refrigerated, and women can have
That's a very different world.
KOLHATKAR: I'm going to ask you to read a short little passage from your book, "The Future We Choose."
KOLHATKAR: I have circled it there.
FIGUERES: "Optimism is not soft. It is gritty. Every day brings dark news, and no end of people tell us that the world is going to hell. To take the
low road is to succumb. To take the high road is to remain constant in the face of uncertainty.
"That we may be confronted by barriers galore should not surprise anyone. That we may see worsening climate conditions in the short term should also
not surprise us. We have to elect to boldly persevere. With determination and utmost courage, we must conquer the hurdles in order to push forward."
KOLHATKAR: Gritty optimism.
FIGUERES: Gritty optimism. I also call it stubborn optimism, because it is a little bit more provocative.
KOLHATKAR: When you were appointed to lead the group at the U.N. that ultimately created the Paris agreement, you initially said you never
thought it would happen in your lifetime.
Yet, in 2015, 195 countries unanimously agreed to adopt this agreement. You describe a moment with the green gavel going down.
What was it like? How did it feel at that moment?
FIGUERES: Well, I have to say that, when I walked out of that press conference -- and, today, I'm trying to find out who was the brilliant
journalist who asked me that very provocative question, because he did.
And I do remember it was a male. He said, do you think a global agreement would ever be possible? And I said, not in my lifetime.
And you know what, Sheelah? I walked out of that press conference a changed person, a completely changed person, because I realized that, while I had
uttered the zeitgeist of the moment, the complete lack of confidence and the despair and the grief about not being able to agree collectively on a
path forward in climate, I also realized that is com -- that is a reality that we cannot allow to happen.
That is a reality that has such cataclysmic consequences on the future of humanity and of the planet, that it's not something that can happen on our
And so I walked out of that press conference determined to prove myself wrong and to begin to inject the world with a sense of confidence that,
yes, this is very complicated, yes, it's costly, yes, there are many different political positions on this.
But, above all of it, it is the right thing to do. And we have the capacity, we have the ingenuity, we have the creativity, we have the
finance, we have the technology. We know what the policies are. We can bring all of this together to co-create a very different reality.
And that's what we injected into the Paris agreement. That, you know, optimism, which is a choice -- it is not the result of having achieved
something. For us, optimism is a strategy. It is the input with which we actually face any challenge.
If we don't believe that we can actually succeed at something, the only guarantee is that we will fail.
KOLHATKAR: In 2016, the U.S. had a very consequential presidential election. And President Trump issued a formal notice that the U.S. is going
to withdraw from the Paris agreement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOLHATKAR: And when he was announcing this, he said: "The Paris accord will undermine the U.S. economy and it puts the U.S. at a permanent
And he's since said that the livelihoods and the employment opportunities for people who live in Ohio and Pennsylvania are more important than a
global climate change agreement.
What are the implications of that? That seems like a major setback, no?
FIGUERES: The sad thing is -- and I'm not a U.S. citizen, but I am deeply saddened by the fact that the current position of the U.S. administration
actually takes the United States out of the race into the 21st century.
And it opens up the space for other economies, namely, China, to be the decisive country in investing in wind energy technology and solar
technology, battery development, in electric cars, because they understand that that's what is going to make them competitive.
They understand that that's where growing demand is coming from. And want to be ready to serve as a market that is growing exponentially.
So it's very sad that the White House cannot see that that is in the interests of the United States.
Now, fortunately, 65 percent of the United States' economy continues to decarbonize, for two reasons. One, they happen to know that they live in a
democracy and that, eventually -- we don't know when -- but there will be different opinion in the White House.
And as soon as that occurs, the United States will dovetail back into the Paris agreement very quickly, because most people understand that this is
in the interest of the United States.
It's very sad when you see leadership in the United States leading people down a dead-end road.
KOLHATKAR: You talk a lot about personal responsibility and optimism.
But it's hard sometimes, when you look at the bigger picture, to feel like reducing the use of straws or taking public transportation, rather than
driving, is really going to make a difference, when these major policy decisions are being made that completely fly in the face of reducing fossil
So, how are individuals supposed to continue to feel responsible and like they can do something, they can make a difference, when our policy-makers
and our leaders in major polluting countries are not following the same thinking?
FIGUERES: Well, we first have to remember that there is no such thing as an impersonal corporation or an impersonal government.
I hate to break the news, but governments are made out of individuals. I hate to break the news, but corporations are composed of individuals.
And so it all comes down to the individual mind-set. I cannot tell you how many CEOs of major oil and gas companies -- and I work with many of them --
tell me that they're already on the path to a transformation because their 13-year-old daughter comes home every night and says, dad, what are you
doing about my future?
This is about individual choices. It is about individual responsibility.
Another example, plastic straws, because you mentioned that, Sheelah. How quickly did that image of a turtle with a plastic straw through its nose go
virally around the world? And that totally changed our concept of using a plastic straw.
Now, because of that change in individual behavior,because most of us decided, right, that's it, no more plastic straws, so what has happened
with that individual behavior that became very quickly a collective behavior?
First, those who pollute -- who produce plastic straws are not investing anymore into plastic straws. There are many new companies that are actually
producing jobs and economic growth by producing alternatives. In Costa Rica, my country, we're producing straws out of avocado seeds, to one have
one example, or metal straws.
But you have many industries that have grown up, many companies that have grown up because of the new demand. That was not a regulated demand. I have
yet to see a policy or a law that goes through in any country that says, thou shalt not use a plastic straw.
That transformation came through because of individual choice, responsible choice. And we have to remember that those choices that we make as
individuals do trickle up. They trickle up to corporations. They trickle up to governments.
KOLHATKAR: Your father was a three-time president in Costa Rica, a transformational leader in that country. He eliminated Costa Rica's
military, among many other things.
What did you learn from him?
FIGUERES: I learned many things from my fantastic father.
Among them, I learned that the purpose of our life is service to the common good. And for him, that was the nation. For me, it's the planet. But it's
the same principle. That is the north toward which we guide our lives.
I also learned from him to be incredibly stubborn when it comes to the common good. We do not compromise. Once we have put out a target, a
destination that we know is aligned with the common good, and, frankly, on the right side of history, like he did, and like we're doing now in the
planet, then we stop at nothing.
We stop at nothing, because we have to be able to turn over any stone that is in the way, because some things are just more important than our
personal little issues.
KOLHATKAR: This work is clearly very personal to you.
Is there anything you would like to be able to say in the future to your children, to future generations about what happened during this period of
FIGUERES: Sheelah, you're going to kill me with that question, because whenever I speak about kids, I can't contain it.
KOLHATKAR: There's a very moving passage towards the end of your book that maybe--
FIGUERES: Can you read it instead, because, honestly, it's just too much?
KOLHATKAR: "When the eyes of our children and their children look straight into ours and they ask us, what did you do, our answer cannot just be that
we did everything we could. It has to be more than that. There is really only one answer. We did everything that was necessary."
FIGUERES: And in the difference between those two lies humanity's destiny.
KOLHATKAR: Christiana Figueres, thank you so much for being here.
FIGUERES: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: The irrepressible Christiana Figueres with her heartfelt call to action.
And, finally, the U.K.'s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, has used the Jewish holiday of Purim to encourage people to extend a metaphorical hand of
friendship. In a time where social distancing is being encouraged to stop the spread of coronavirus, he says it's even more vital to express the
spirit of human bonding.
And the chief rabbi is reminding us that handshakes are not just for friends. Throughout history, they have sealed the deal among adversaries,
like Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, reducing Cold War tensions, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, ending apartheid, and Yasser Arafat And
Yitzhak Rabin, trying to make peace.
Today, more than ever, as we keep our distance to avoid illness, we must also signal our virtual embrace in order to maintain our humanity.
And that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast, and across social media.
Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.