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Pope Meets with Iraqi Leaders; U.N. Security Council Split on Response to Myanmar Coup, Violence; E.U. Pressuring Vaccine Makers to Honor Delivery Contracts; Oprah's Interview with Harry and Meghan; Prince Philip Moved to Private Hospital; COVID-19 Overwhelms Brazilian Hospitals. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired March 6, 2021 - 02:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, welcome to our viewers, joining us all around the world, I am Michael Holmes, appreciate your company.

Coming up here, on CNN NEWSROOM, Pope Francis making a daring trip to bring his message for unity and respect to wartorn Iraq. We take you there, live.

Also, Brazil's COVID outbreak, one of the worst in the world. We speak with a doctor there who says, the country's hospital system is on the brink of collapse.

And, the winds of war of words, heating up with Harry and Meghan, preparing to open up like never before.


HOLMES: Pope Francis is in Iraq, hoping to build interfaith relationship and shine a light on the plight of Iraqi Christians. He just wrapped up a meeting in Najaf with the grand ayatollah. It is among the most significant summits ever between a pope and a leading Shia Muslim figure

Pope Francis will depart for the plain of Ur, the biblical site considered to be the birthplace of Abraham. This all follows his solemn remembrance on Friday at a Baghdad church where dozens of Iraqi Christians were massacred in 2010. CNN Vatican correspondent, Delia Gallagher, traveling with the pope. She joins me now, on the line from Najaf.

Also, Ben Wedeman in Baghdad for us.

Delia, let's start with you. You've been traveling with the pope.

How has the trip been going and give us a sense of how important this is to him?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Michael, this meeting that just wrapped up with the grand ayatollah is really one of the significant moments of the trip, even though it was a private meeting. I have to say, it was slated to last a half hour and they went on for nearly an hour.

You have to read this in light of two things. One is that under the papacy of the previous pope, Benedict XVI, there were tensions with Muslim leaders. It has been a priority for Francis to reach out to these leaders and he is doing that now with the most authoritative leader of the Shia Muslims.

If you connect that to his meeting, 2 years ago, with the leader of Sunni Muslims, the grand imam, this is really part of Francis' agenda to reach out to branches of Islam and, indeed, to reach out to other faiths as well, which is what he will be doing in about an hour, when he heads to Ur.

There, he will have another interfaith meeting with various representatives of religions in Iraq. His discussions are for Iraq but also for the wider world, as it were. Really going to his agenda, if you want, for a way forward to a path of peace which he thinks he can do by reaching out to the various world religious leaders.

HOLMES: As you say, it was important for him to mend fences, if that is the right way to put it, with Muslim leaders.

But generally speaking, interfaith dialogue, how much of a priority is that for this pope?

GALLAGHER: As you say, Michael, if you put it into context, under Benedict, relations weren't so good with some Muslim leadership, so I think he thought going in it was important to reestablish that.

I think he thinks that it is the way forward for peace in the world, to reach out to moderate leadership, whether it is Islamic or any other religion but, in particular, focusing on Muslim leadership.

He believes that that is going to make some contribution. Sometimes, we don't see an immediate effect of this dialogue and a lot of it happens behind the scenes. The Vatican has a whole office for dialogue.

Certainly, for Pope Francis, who has such a heart for the people who suffered because of terrorism and the people who suffer because of persecution, that is another big thing here for persecution of Christians, this community which has really significantly dwindled, this is the land of the most ancient Christian community in the world.


GALLAGHER: And it has dwindled down to around 250,000. It's significant historically and for the modern day. He is really focused on trying to encourage in whatever way he can. Sometimes you don't see an immediate effect but maybe these meetings have some long-term effects. Michael?

HOLMES: Delia Gallagher there, traveling with the pope. Let's go to Ben Wedeman now, someone who knows the region well.

Najaf, give us some context, a holy city for Shia Muslims, a place of pilgrimage. Ali al-Sistani, one of the most senior Shia clerics, speak to the significance of this from a regional point of view.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is highly significant, given the grand ayatollah's position as, really, a leading authority, one of the leading authorities of Shia Islam. If you look at the context of Shia Islam, there is two competing centers of Shia theological and indeed, political, thought.

One, of course, Najaf and the other is Qom in Iran, where they really have very different philosophies about the role of clerics in politics.

In Iran, for instance, Ali Khamenei is the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, where the attitude is that theologians should have involvement in the daily politics. Whereas Ali al-Sistani believes that, yes, Shia leaders should provide general guidance but should not become involved in daily politics.

So, you have these two competing trends and it is significant that Pope Francis is coming to meet with Ali Sistani and, recently, for instance, the chief justice of Iran traveling to Najaf but Sistani would not meet him.

So certainly, the message he is sending by meeting with Pope Francis and meeting longer than was planned, sends a message that he is more open to interfaith dialogue than he is, necessarily, with a dialogue through the trend, the political ideas, that are coming out of Iran.

HOLMES: Great point. Certainly, when Sistani issues a fatwa, people listen, and we saw that in the fight against ISIS as well. You know Iraq better than most.

How was the visit being received on the street?

I know you have probably been out and about, talking to people.

What did they tell you?

WEDEMAN: By and large, people are enthusiastic about the visit, regardless of their religion. Keep in mind, this is a country that is often thought of as wracked by war, terrorism, unrest and violence of various shapes, which is true, has been true but things have changed.

ISIS has been, by and large, defeated. Baghdad, which was a dangerous city before, is much safer. Many Iraqis are starting to resume a semblance of normalcy in their life.

There continue to be huge economic problems; corruption in politics is endemic but, nonetheless, it is gratifying to Iraqis, whether you are Muslim, Christian, a Yazidi or whatever, to see the pope announces his visit in December, make public his hour by hour schedule and see it all live on television. Keep this in mind, successive presidents through Bush, through Obama,

through Trump, their visits to Iraq were tightly held secrets until the moment that they arrived. And, they were very quickly in and out.

So this sort of very public, festive visit, sends a signal to many Iraqis and to the rest of the world that, perhaps, Iraq is not a wild jungle of war and terrorism, that people live ordinary lives and are happy to see someone see the stature of Pope Francis come and make a very public visit -- Michael?

HOLMES: You make an excellent point. You and I, both, have seen enough unannounced visits by politicians and this was very announced. That is a significant thing in itself. Ben Wedeman in Baghdad, Delia Gallagher in Najaf, thank you so much, we will check in with you as the day progresses.

Pro-democracy protesters are gathering in cities across Myanmar right now.


HOLMES: We've seen police and military forces using more violence recently, such as this tear gas being fired earlier today. They are also, of course, shooting to kill. At least 55 people have died in the crackdowns. Protesters, pleading for international help.


HOLMES (voice-over): Those are the voices of demonstrators in Yangon, yelling, "Invoke R2P immediately."

That is a reference to the U.N.'s responsibility to protect principle, which says that the international community must protect people when a state fails to do it. Paula Hancocks shows us the dangers the protesters are facing.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Protesters bang pots and pans on the streets in central Myanmar, unaware it is about to turn deadly. They duck and run for cover, as security forces start to fire, and 22-year-old Zin Ko Ko Zaw is shot in the head.

His brother carries him to a waiting ambulance, but it's too late.

Reliving that moment, he tells me, "My brother was shot and fell down. Blood was coming from his mouth and his head. I dragged him away from there and he died in my arms."

His parents say he was the breadwinner of the family, working at the local market. They were all at the protest together, his mother says, but were separated when the shooting began. She says, "We are risking our lives to claim victory. We don't have any weapons, but they are fully armed. All we can do this protest. They're shooting us with live bullets. Please help us."

Makeshift hospitals were set up for the injured, treating a steady flow of protesters with gunshot wounds.

TOM ANDREWS, U.N. SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN MYANMAR: Now we're seeing orders that police and military soldiers shoot people down in cold blood.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Security forces were caught on camera, taking three charity workers from their ambulance in Yangon and beating them with guns and batons. The charity says the three are now in hospital with non-life- threatening injuries.

HANCOCKS: Is anybody safe at this point?

ANDREWS: No. No one is safe. I mean, here, ambulance workers, people that are there purely to save lives, to help anyone who is -- who needs emergency medical care. They're not there to hurt anyone. They're there to help everyone.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): The level of force being used by security forces has increased since Sunday. Dozens have now been killed across the country. Activists on the ground say the actual death toll is far higher than that the United Nations has been able to confirm.

Makeshift shrines are emerging on the streets where protesters fell. Funerals are becoming a daily occurrence.

As Zin Ko Ko Zaw's family prepares for his funeral, they say they hope his death has not been in vain. His parents praying the next to fall will be the military dictatorship that took their son -- Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.



Simon Adams is executive director of the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect. Joins me now from New York.

The secretary general's special envoy on Myanmar said journalists are being targeted, snipers are freely killing civilians and pleaded with the U.N. Security Council to condemn what's going on. You have China and Russia, likely not going to make that happen.

Even if it did happen, would have an impact on the generals?

SIMON ADAMS, GLOBAL CENTER FOR THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT: First of all, thanks for having me on, Michael.

I think she's trying to increase the pressure on the U.N. Security Council. I think it's extraordinary that more than a month has gone past, people have been gunned down in the streets of Myanmar and yet the U.N. Security Council has still hasn't said anything, they've now deferred the situation until Monday.

I think we saw today in Myanmar people holding candlelight vigils, calling on the international community to uphold their responsibility protect the people of Myanmar. I think they have a right to expect that it should do that. I think the U.N. Security Council and countries around the world should be doing more.

HOLMES: I wanted to ask you about what you see as the role of the military chief, Min Aung Hlaing, and why he has seized power. This is very much about him and his ambitions, his personal financial interest.

ADAMS: Absolutely, I think one of the things that people forget is that the military in Myanmar is not just an instrument of terror, it's also a massive economic enterprise, tied up in business, all kinds of business dealings. This is very much about him.

We should keep in mind.


ADAMS: This is the man who is responsible for overseeing the 2017 genocide against the Rohingya minority in the north of the country in Rakhine state. Now he has seized power in this coup.

This is about his personal ambitions to lead the country, this is about him securing his nest of money, this is about him keeping an iron grip on the contrary.

HOLMES: To that point, do you have any sense of what the military's aim here is?

It is pretty much ensuring that people will reject them and their political role completely and forever, you can only suppress and repress for so long.

What would be the military's end game?

ADAMS: You're right, this is a military whose history is soaked in blood but I think they greatly overestimated their own popularity with their own people and thought they would passively accept this.

But the world has moved on, Myanmar has moved on since 2011, to go back further, since 1988, the last time the military suppressed mass democracy protests. So clearly people are not going to accept this, which is putting so much pressure on the international community to not only look the other way, to not pretend is not happening, or to issue statements of concerns but to impose arms embargo, targeted sanctions, refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.

HOLMES: There is a lot that could be done that is not being done, you're right about that. I also wanted to ask you, as this crackdown has worsened, the crowds on the streets just seemed to grow.

Has the fear barrier been broken, do people see this as their only shot, where is the momentum right now?

ADAMS: It's extraordinary to see the bravery of these particularly young people but across all sections of society in Myanmar, dock workers on strike, teachers marching in the streets, young people out there protesting. Doing so in often very imaginative and innovative ways. I think they deserve our support and admiration for that. Certainly

the momentum is very much on the streets. It doesn't seem to make a difference at the moment how vicious the military is, how much bloodshed they inflict on these people. They keep coming out.

HOLMES: You did mention some of the things that could be done in terms of sanctions, in terms of a military weapons ban and so on.

Do you think those things will work, especially if China continues to support the junta?

These are generals who have lived with punitive measures before for a long time.

ADAMS: I think anybody who thinks they don't care about the sanctions, we should ask ourselves why is it then they rush to try and withdraw $1 billion from an New York account the day after the coup?

They're trying to get money around them, they're trying to protect themselves. The Chinese have been traditionally their shield and protector at the U.N. Security Council, but there are many, many things other states can do.

Some things like an arms embargo and targeted sanctions but ultimately should be the U.N. Security Council who refers the situation to the International Criminal Court. Somebody like the general belongs in handcuffs at The Hague, not trying to run a country.

HOLMES: U.N. Security Council appearing to be a toothless tiger when it comes to self-interest of the permanent members. Simon Adams, I wish we had more time. Thanks very much.

ADAMS: Thank you very much, Michael.


HOLMES: We're going to take a quick break, when we come back the drama between vaccine makers and the European Union continues, as concerning new variants spread. We will be going to London when we come back.





HOLMES: An Italian lawmaker is now defending her country's decision to block AstraZeneca doses being exported to Australia. Italy invoking E.U. powers against the company for not honoring its delivery contracts. Brussels supporting the move with the European Commission, calling on vaccine makers to step up.

CNN's Nina dos Santos joins me now from London to tell us more about this. What's the latest on what's become a pretty complicated vaccine

rollout for Europe?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR: Yes, this is important, Michael, because what we're seeing is E.U. nations going it alone, starting to curtail the exports of some of these supplies. This legislation has been around for about a month.

It almost scuppered the whole Brexit deal when it was first inserted into one of the clauses. That was when it was the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine that was exported from Belgium.

This time it's the AstraZeneca that have been exported from one of the hubs in Italy. But either way, what it does is show the fragmentation of E.U. unity at a time when they need it most. This botched vaccination rollout, it's acutely embarrassing both for the commission president Ursula van der Leyen and is also extremely worrying for the individual 27 member states who are clamoring for additional supplies.

Some of them now having to do their own side deals with extra vaccine providers. Remember there are 3 vaccines that have been approved by the E.U. medicines authority. One of them is Pfizer BioNTech, one is Moderna, the other one is AstraZeneca, which has been developed in a post Brexit Britain.

All three of those vaccines actually have been having some supply problems, some scaling up problems to increase manufacture, but it is the AstraZeneca vaccine that's faced the ire of E.U. lawmakers, repeatedly saying the company hasn't delivered on contracts.

The company has said that the E.U. took a long time to negotiate, signed on the dotted line later than others hadn't appreciated that to make the hundreds of millions of doses, that you need time and you need investment early.

AstraZeneca vaccine, remember, has also been subject to significant briefing against the highest echelons of German and French politics. Emmanuel Macron said it didn't work for the over 65s. Then they rowed back on those comments.

But to drop that into an environment where there's already vaccine skepticism, some people said was deeply irresponsible. Now there is concern that new variants mean that some countries in the E.U. have to strike out well beyond the E.U. borders. Denmark and Austria struck a deal with Israel and Hungary is also getting the Russian vaccine, even though it has not been approved by E.U. regulators. Michael.

HOLMES: Fascinating stuff, thank you Nina, Nina in London.

Just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, the controversial interview expected to chip away at the royal family mystique, why Meghan Markle says she's opening up now to Oprah Winfrey.




HOLMES: Oprah Winfrey's highly anticipated interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on Sunday. In the latest clip released from that exclusive interview, Meghan Markle tells Winfrey why she is speaking out now.


MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: So as an adult, who lived a really independent life, to then go into this construct that is different than I think what people imagine it to be, it is really liberating to be able to have the right and the privilege, in some ways, to be able to say yes. I mean, I'm ready to talk.

OPRAH WINFREY, ACTOR AND ACTIVIST: And say it for yourself and not have to consult with anybody at this point.

MARKLE: Yes, to just be able to make a choice on your own and just be able to speak for yourself.


HOLMES: That interview comes as Buckingham Palace has announced it will investigate allegations that, at one point, Markle bullied several staff members.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Prince Philip was moved back to his original private hospital. Buckingham Palace reporting, the 99-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth, underwent a successful heart procedure on Wednesday. Joining me now from outside, in London, CNN's Anna Stewart.

It's interesting, Anna, obviously, the palace is always cautious and circumspect when it comes to any information about members of the family, so what do we make of the information we do know?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We don't have a huge amount of information and, as we heard, we heard Prince Philip moving hospitals after the move had taken place. He moved back to the private hospital he was originally in and, perhaps, this is some good news.

He was in St. Barts for a few nights, that is where he had the procedure for a pre-existing heart condition, that was deemed a success, transported here two days after the procedure. We're hoping that means that medics felt he was well enough to come here.

The palace said that he has been staying in hospital, one assumes this, but I no longer commit to any hospital. One would assume here, for a number of days, and he will be continue to receive treatment. Unclear whether that is treatment for the pre-existing heart condition or for the infection, which we know he was being treated before. Prince Philip is 99 years old, of course, the medics will be cautious. Michael. HOLMES: We wanted to ask you about Meghan Markle and the interview. We don't know much about the content but also the timing of the interview, what could be the potential fallout.

STEWART: The timing certainly isn't the great, not least for Prince Philip. But let's hope he's not getting cable in the hospital behind me. In terms of the content, what we've seen from some of those clips, really, has been explosive.

We do need to see them in context of the full interview. The latest bit you aired with Meghan saying that it is liberating to now be able to say yes to interviews with the likes of Oprah. And we also saw Prince Harry, recently, do an interview with James Corden. Other clips, we've seen Meghan say that the firm, another term for the royal family, played an active role in perpetuating falsehoods but we want to know a lot more about that. There were also questions we haven't heard the answers to, the questions Oprah asked to Meghan were, were you silent or were you silenced?

Was there a breaking point?

There are the Prince Harry parallels that are drawn between his wife and his mother, the late Diana, Princess of Wales. So there is a lot in there.

In terms of the fallout, in terms of the family fallout, Michael, I think you're seeing it on a very public stage. I think this is a combination of years of whatever going on behind closed doors; publicly, of course, this will play massively in the media, at least for the next few days.

HOLMES: I think we used the word, this time yesterday, rather unseemly. Anna Stewart, outside yet another hospital. Good to see you Anna, thank you.

We are going to take a quick break. We will be right back with more.





HOLMES: Welcome back to our viewers, all around the world, I am Michael Holmes. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you for doing so.

Coronavirus cases surging in Brazil and pushing hospitals to a breaking point. The outbreak there is one of the worst in the world. And while other countries realize the benefits of lockdowns with vaccinations and wearing masks, things are growing much worse in Brazil.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hospitals bursting at the seams. Medical staff pushed to the brink. With each minute that passes, one person dies of coronavirus in Brazil as new infections soar to record levels.

GOV. JOAO DORIA, SAO PAULO: The health system in Brazil is on the verge of collapse. ICU beds are missing. There is no national coordination to combat the pandemic in Brazil.


DARLINGTON (voice-over): In an interview with CNN, the governor of Sao Paulo painted a grim picture after Wednesday saw more coronavirus deaths than any other day of the pandemic. He puts Brazil's largest state on lockdown in what he calls phase red. It is a move the country's president is fiercely against.

"Stop this fussing and whining," Jair Bolsonaro told Brazilians Thursday.

"How long will you keep crying?" he said, criticizing coronavirus restrictions.

Last week he threatened to cut off emergency aid to states that resort to lockdown measures, as their hospitals, meanwhile, begin to buckle. More than a third of states are reporting ICU beds at 90 percent capacity or above.

It comes as a second wave of infections surges across Brazil, which the country's health minister largely blames on a coronavirus variant first discovered in the northern Brazilian city of Manaus, which has now spread across the world.

But it also comes after large gatherings and parties during Carnival festivities last month.

GONZALO VECINA NETO, SAO PAULO UNIVERSITY (through translator): Yes, we are going through the worst scenario of the pandemic since its start. You just have to the look at the trend of the average number of deaths. This could have been avoided and the most important factor is gatherings.

DARLINGTON (voice-over): So far, Brazil's attempts to roll out COVID vaccinations have been patchy at best. After repeated delays and political infighting, many are finding it nearly impossible to get inoculated.

LUCIANA, SAO PAULO RESIDENT (through translator): There are lines. On Saturday, the line was 8 hours long.

WALDIRIS, SAO PAULO RESIDENT (through translator): Everyone is afraid. The vaccination needs to be faster.


WALDIRIS: It's taking too long. DARLINGTON (voice-over): Less than 4 percent of the population has

been vaccinated with only 1 percent receiving the necessary two doses to get fully immunized. The health minister says 138 million more doses can be expected by May, months away, as many continue to die each day in Brazil's coronavirus pandemic -- Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paulo.


HOLMES: Dr. Miguel Nicolelis is a professor of neurobiology at Duke University, joining me from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Doctor, you have been there throughout the pandemic in Brazil, try to give us a sense of how dire the situation is there, in terms of the spread of the virus and the impact on the health infrastructure.

DR. MIGUEL NICOLELIS, DUKE UNIVERSITY: For sure this is the worst moment of the pandemic in Brazil. It is something I have never seen in my life. It is a situation in which, you could say, the whole country is under siege.

The virus has spread everywhere. And just tonight, I am reading the news on the newspapers and I'm seeing on TV the collapse of one capital after another. We have 26 states in the capital of Brazil and more than 19 states right now are reaching full capacity of ICU beds. So this is the worst I've ever seen in Brazilian history.

HOLMES: You have these regional health systems, state health systems, near collapse; ICUs near capacity and the virus itself spreading like wildfire. And yet, a president, in Jair Bolsonaro, who continues to play down the situation.

He said, just the other day, he would not have lockdowns at all if it were up to him and he was railing against face masks and so on.

How much damage has the president done to Brazil's efforts to try to get this under control?

NICOLELIS: His actions, behavior and words have been horrible. It is tremendous damage. He has demoralized the health system and the professionals who work in the health system. He has downplayed the severity of the pandemic.

He has made fun of the deaths, saying that this is just life and that we all should take it as it is, because we will all die eventually.

But it has been a tragedy. It has been something that the history books will tell. It is the largest human crisis in Brazilian history in five centuries.

HOLMES: I know that you said it is entirely possible that you could have a half million deaths by the end of the year. Part of the issue is the country's own variant, the Brazil variant, and how much more contagious and potentially deadly it is.

Speak to the combination of that, plus the lack of central government leadership. It is a pretty deadly combination, as you see other countries, you know, plateau or improve, in terms of cases and deaths. And Brazil is going the other way.

NICOLELIS: It is like you are in a battlefield, surrounded by the enemy. Supplies are running low and there is no general to say to the army, OK, this is the strategy, this is what we should do.

When you have this many people getting affected every day, 70,000, 65,000, you give the virus the chance to mutate. And when the virus has this huge human reservoir to mutate, you are going to see a huge number of variants coming out.

They may be more lethal, they may infect more people, they may be even resistant to the 2 vaccines that Brazil has right now. So Brazil, in my opinion, right now is the largest open sky laboratory for the brewing not only of SARS-CoV-2 but we could have it at the limit, the emergence of a new hybrid, a CoV-3 right here in Brazil that could spread to the entire planet.

HOLMES: Exactly, some things you pointed out are quite relevant. The Brazil variant has been able to infect some people who have already recovered from the original version. The fact is, mutations happen where there is spread.

If there are more mutations that evade the vaccines, they will get to the rest of the world. I wanted to just ask, you before you go, for you. You live in the U.S., you have been down there for a year, in Brazil, living through this.

What has it been like for you as a doctor?

NICOLELIS: I came to take care of my mom in February and got trapped. I couldn't leave the country and I got invited to direct the largest scientific task force in the country. So, I got into this. But every day I have to look at these numbers, these graphs, these predictions of more death and more lives destroyed.


NICOLELIS: And I have to tell you I'm a physician, I'm a scientist, I have a 40-year career, I have never seen anything like that. You look around, you're losing friends, you're losing people you went to medical school with, relatives.

And every family in Brazil has a story to say. So, as I say, the lack of leadership, the lack of a federal government and the lack of any strategy, of any sort, is taking Brazil to the brink. Nobody can predict what will happen in the next 4-8 weeks down here.

HOLMES: A really dire time for Brazil and, as you pointed out, that could end up impacting the rest of the world. Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, we have to leave it there. I really appreciate your time and good luck, sir.

NICOLELIS: Thank you, I appreciate it. Thank you for the invitation.


HOLMES: Massive craters have been appearing in Siberia and now scientists say they know why and how it might relate to climate change. Jennifer Gray explains.


JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): For several years now, mysterious giant craters have been appearing in the Siberian tundra, like golf holes in a game played by giants. At least 17 have been found so far.

With the help of 3D mapping drones' scientists have begun to work out how they formed. It starts with the buildup of methane gas in the permafrost.

EVGENY CHUVILIN, SKOIKOVO INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (through translator): As the pressure in these gas accumulations increases, a mound form. Once the pressure passes a critical point defined by the density of the upper layers of ground, an explosion throws debris hundreds of meters. That's how these craters, which can be 30 to 40 meters deep and over 30 meters wide, are formed.

GRAY (voice-over): Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, trapping Earth's heat and warming the climate. As the warmer climate melts the Siberian permafrost, more methane escapes, sometimes in the form of these exploding craters.

That sends more methane into the air, heating the planet even more. These exploding crater have been mainly limited to two Siberian peninsulas. That's because these areas have unique conditions, very thick permafrost that's highly saturated with methane that also contains pools of liquid water.

SUSAN NATALI, WOODWELL CLIMATE RESEARCH CENTER: So far this is where we have seen them and these characteristics are pretty common in this area. So, I'm not saying it can't happen but it's much more likely to happen when you have these features.

GRAY (voice-over): Natali also says these craters and other changes are indicative of a rapidly warming and thawing Arctic. And that can have severe consequences for Arctic residents and the globe.


HOLMES: I'm Michael Holmes, thanks for spending part of your day with me, follow me on Twitter and Instagram @HolmesCNN. I'll be back in about in 20 minutes or so with CNN NEWSROOM.