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CNN NEWSROOM

Olympic Dreams Derailed By COVID; Bezos Set To Blast Off; Third Australia State Locks Down As Delta Variant Spreads; U.K. Issues First-Ever Extreme Heat Warning; The Cost of Climate Change; Amazon Founder Bezos, Three Others Set for Suborbital Flight. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired July 20, 2021 - 02:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[02:00:02]

KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Dreams derail. COVID is sabotaging some athletes hopes of bringing back Olympic gold. Fear of the Delta variant infects U.S. markets, the Dow plunging more than 700 points in one day. And we're at T-minus seven hours to lift up for Jeff Bezos and the rest of his Blue Origin crew. Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to all of our viewers here in United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

We begin in Tokyo where more than 70 COVID cases have now been linked to the Olympic Games. This includes Kara Eaker of the U.S. gymnastics team and U.S. basketball player Katie Lou Samuelson both of whom are pulling out of the games and with just three days ago until the opening ceremony. Fears are growing that the games will turn into a COVID super spreader event. But Olympic organizers insist they'll be safe.

CNN's Will Ripley is in Tokyo for us? Well, the situation seems to be going from bad to worse. What's the latest?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kim, Olympic organizers are trying to downplay the growing fears that this games could turn into a super spreader event. They're pointing to the raw numbers. They say more than 22,000 people have arrived in Japan so far, yet only a few dozen cases of foreign visitors have actually been detected. Athletes are tested for COVID every day and they say they've expected all along that cases would pop up from time to time.

But given the densely packed conditions inside the athletes' village, eight athletes sharing a small apartment sometimes four of them using one bathroom, taking off their mask when they're eating and drinking and safety procedures that some doctors say are for COVID -- what they knew about COVID a year ago, not today's Delta variant. There are growing concerns that athletes could be putting themselves at risk of catching the coronavirus and especially if they're not vaccinated, potentially having very serious consequences.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RIPLEY (voice-over): Even Olympians are not immune from the cruelty of COVID-19. The pandemic striking some of the world's top athletes, including a U.S. gymnast just days before the opening ceremony. Catching COVID early this year cost Priscilla Loomis more than eight weeks of training. The American-Antiguan high jumper still has trouble breathing.

PRISCILLA LOOMIS, ANTIGUAN-U.S. HIGH JUMPER: Absolutely devastated. I am heartbroken. I'm in healing right now. I'm in mourning.

RIPLEY: Loomis says she ignored doctor's advice and kept training but failed to qualify for Tokyo 2020.

LOOMIS: This was a -- this was my final -- this was my final curtain bow.

RIPLEY: British Oonah Cousins qualified for the Olympics in March 2020. She came down with a serious case of long COVID leaving her with chronic fatigue.

OONAH COUSINS, BRITISH ROWER: I'm really struggling to exercise still, kind of by comparison, I was doing like 30, 35 hours of training a week when I was well and now I can probably do like 320 minute sessions in a week super lightly.

RIPLEY: And this is more than a year later?

COUSINS: Yes. I just really struggled with really intense fatigue.

RIPLEY: Cousin's calls her coronavirus battle and emotional rollercoaster.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We are dealing with a disease that we didn't even know how to define a year ago.

RIPLEY: CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta says researchers don't fully know why the virus hits some people harder than others.

GUPTA: So if you're an athlete, you could have symptoms from COVID that lasts a long time and really impact your performance for a long time as well.

RIPLEY: Are these athletes putting themselves at risk if they're coming here?

GUPTA: I think it's really tough to justify bringing 206 countries states and territories together in the middle of a pandemic.

RIPLEY: A risk Vinesh Phogat is willing to take. The Indian wrestler is a gold medal favorite. Number one in her category. She says postponing competition by a year was an even bigger challenge than catching the coronavirus.

VINESH PHOGAT, INDIAN WRESTLER (through translator): Well, first starting system I had to start my training again from scratch. It was very difficult. RIPLEY: Surging cases in Japan and the world mean Olympians won't have fans in the stands cheering them on. Nobody knows if nearly empty venues will be enough to stop the Summer Games from becoming a super spreader event at Tokyo 2020 not just Olympic dreams, lives are on the line.

Olympics organizers estimate around 80 percent of the athletes here in Tokyo will be fully vaccinated. In the case of that us gymnast, Kara Eaker, she was fully vaccinated her father says and yet she's still tested positive for the virus albeit an asymptomatic case. What this could mean with the Delta variant is that athletes could catch it. And if their cases are not detected, they could potentially leave Japan and travel back to their home countries.

[02:05:07]

RIPLEY: And that is what is really a big concern for health experts here. Yes.

BRUNHUBER: And Will, understand 97 percent of the events being held won't have spectators, but organizers have some plans to kind of fill the void.

RIPLEY: Yes, this is going to be an opening ceremony like we have never seen before, Kim. Virtual crowd noise pumped in at some of these competitions, parents video calling in and chatting with athletes after their events. So they're trying to make it feel as much like a normal Olympics as they can considering that this is the most abnormal, most surreal, most bizarre Olympics that we may ever see.

Even the medal ceremony is going to be different. Instead of being presented with their medals, somebody will walk up with a tray and the athletes will put their own medal over their net camp.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Thanks so much. Will Ripley in Tokyo. Thanks for joining us. Surging COVID cases and fears about the Delta variant are taking a toll on financial markets. A sharp sell off on Wall Street is spilling over into Asian markets. And you can see there, lots of red. In the US the Dow plunged 725 points on Monday, the worst day since October. Airline and cruise operators took a beating with investors concerned about the strength of the economic recovery. So the Dow is up more than 10 percent this year as President Biden pointed out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's nobody suggesting there's an unchecked inflation on the way. No serious economist. That's totally different. I mean, look, the stock market is higher than it has been in all of history even went down this month. Even down this month. Now I don't look at the stock market as a means by which to judge the economy like my predecessor did.

But he'd be very -- he'd be talking to you every day for the last five months about how the stock market is so high. Higher than any time in history. Still higher than any time in history. So that's not how I judge whether or not we're having economic growth. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNHUBER: Journalist Manisha Tank is following developments live from Singapore. So, I went to -- into a bit more detail about the effects on Wall Street. But take us through how the same fears about the Delta variant are leading to sell offs in the Asian markets.

MANISHA TANK, CNN HOST: Yes. Well, of course, it's connected, isn't it? Here in Asia, we woke up to that news coming from the U.S. of that large point drop for the Dow in particular. And so we've seen most of the Asian markets open in the red and stay that way, extending their losses over the course of the trading session so far. Then, according to Reuters, that there is a lot of talk in the market at the moment about growth expectations.

And I think it's really poignant when you think about some of the analysts' comments which were around here, we were trying to figure out how we were going to live with COVID. And indicating that markets haven't learned to live with COVID just yet, you know, and this is something I might come back to as we talk about the trajectory for places like Singapore which have talked about how this balance can be maintained.

It's a different story for other countries in the region in Southeast Asia, in Indonesia, we've seen cases which are surging that is now being accepted with a rather ominous title of being the epicenter of COVID-19 in Asia. And it is Southeast Asia's largest economy, it's being watched very closely. And people are realizing they're waking up to the fact that the Delta variant really does threaten the prospects of economies being able to stay open.

The question is, do you need more lockdowns. And on that note, it's worth updating South Australia as decided to go into another lockdown because they've detected new cases there, which need ring fencing. And this is something we've seen here in Singapore as well, where we see these new clusters pop up. It's aggressive ring fencing that keeps the variance under control. But that's not necessarily been what we've seen in other economies in this region.

And so we have a very patchwork approach to COVID-19. And that's also been reflected in how we expect economies to perform here. And this is something of course, markets are watching very closely.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely. All right. Thanks so much. Manisha Tank, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it. Australia's COVID lockdowns are expanding as the Delta variant spreads across the country. Starting in a few hours. South Australia will go into a seven-day lockdown. It's the third state to enter lockdown amid the latest COVID outbreak. Areas around Sydney and Melbourne had already imposed new restrictions.

Just 11 percent of Australians are fully vaccinated against COVID. Canada will soon reopen its border with the U.S. for the first time since March of last year. The government says fully vaccinated Americans will be allowed into Canada starting August 9th which is less than three weeks away. More now from CNN's Paula Newton. PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're 6016 long months Canada says it's finally ready to reopen its borders to international travelers. First up fully vaccinated Americans and U.S. residents currently living in the United States can come to Canada beginning August 9th and they want us to quarantine for two weeks. Next up international travelers.

[02:10:06]

NEWTON: Again, this only applies to fully vaccinated international travelers, and they can come September 7th without having to quarantine for two weeks. Now all of this comes as Canada passes a significant milestone. More than 50 percent of the population is now fully vaccinated. They've surpassed the United States and that's with having started in the spring with a punishing third wave of COVID-19 and a scarcity of vaccines.

Canada says though there will be no victory lap here. It's being cautious and saying what it's really aiming for, is at least 75 percent of its population to be fully vaccinated by September. Paula Newton, CNN Ottawa.

BRUNHUBER: Meanwhile, the U.S. isn't making any commitment about reopening its side of the border with Canada. The White House says it's continuing to review travel restrictions, and any decisions on reopening will be guided by the medical experts.

The terror group ISIS is claiming responsibility for a blast in Baghdad Monday that killed at least 27 people and injured dozens more. Explosion tore through a busy market in the predominantly Shia neighborhood of Sadr City. According to the Iraqi military the explosion was caused by an improvised explosive device. But police say the investigation is still underway. Officials say women and children were among those killed and wounded. The attack comes as Iraqis prepared to celebrate the Islamic religious festival Eid al-Fitr.

All right. Still on CNN NEWSROOM. New reporting suggests that software meant to track terrorists and criminals may also be targeting journalists, activists and others. We'll have details on the international investigation next. And new allegations that Beijing has been hiring criminals to hack and extort billions of dollars around the world. We'll explain why the White House says it's surprised by the alleged plot next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRUNHUBER: A new report is shedding light on how a military grade surveillance software is being used by governments around the world. The Pegasus spyware sold by an Israeli company is intended to track down terrorists and criminals. But according to a new investigation by a group of international news outlets, it may also have been used to target journalists, activists, politicians and others.

The software reportedly can infect smartphones without so much as a click. So in theory that means anyone can be targeted without even knowing. Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower who revealed the U.S. government's secret surveillance programs back in 2013 says the Pegasus report shouldn't be raising alarm bells. He says this type of technology shouldn't be sold.

Telling the Guardian newspaper, "This is an industry that should not exist. They don't make vaccines, the only thing they sell is the virus."

Earlier, I spoke with a researcher whose group independently reviewed the Pegasus report's findings.

[02:15:09]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUNHUBER: John Scott-Railton joins me now. He's a senior researcher at the citizen lab at the University of Toronto's Munk School. Thank you so much for being here to talk to us about this. Predictably, some governments caught up in this. India, for example, are denying the allegations. And as we just heard, the company behind Pegasus says, the reporting is flimsy. Now your group reviewed the methods that were used to uncover this spyware hacking. So what's your response?

JOHN SCOTT-RAILTON, SENIOR RESEARCHER AT THE CITIZEN LAB: Well, I would say that most of the denials from this company are a bit of a fairy tale. The forensic methods are solid. And the cases that they've uncovered are deeply troubling. And as you've seen, span the globe. From my perspective, this is just more of what we kind of suspected, but now know about this company and the harm that it causes.

BRUNHUBER: You speak about the cases. I mean, we heard ahead of this and in general terms about who was targeted but take us through one or two of the cases and what real world consequences this surveillance may have had.

SCOTT-RAILTON: Well, I'm sure your viewers are familiar with Hotel Rwanda. The man on whom that film is based is now in jail in Rwanda for speaking his mind, his daughter, an American has been fighting for his release. Her phone has been repeatedly hacked with Pegasus. Meanwhile, journalists from Hungary to India and the rest of Europe have all been targeted with Pegasus technology, and that is only the beginning.

BRUNHUBER: So what messages to send to journalists and activists, even ones who weren't named as targets? Obviously, this isn't the full extent of the problem here. Will this have a chilling effect on their work? And should they be taking, you know, countermeasures here?

SCOTT-RAILTON: Fear is a key part of the authoritarian toolkit. They -- when they discourage people from speaking their mind and acting on their conscience, that's why this software is so dangerous. I think its very existence is going to mean that more authoritarian regimes will not turn Democratic. At the end of the day, we all need to take steps to protect ourselves. The challenge with Pegasus is that even when you have experts helping you, you may not be protected. BRUNHUBER: So -- all right. Let's say you know, our audience watching this at home, they're saying, you know, I'm not political, I have nothing to worry about. Why should I care? I mean, you've written about how it could be relevant for anyone no matter where they are. So explain this for us.

SCOTT-RAILTON: You may not know any of the people who were victimized in this particular disclosure. But you don't know whether that's going to be true tomorrow. Companies like NSO, want to sell the same untraceable, incredibly invasive technology to your local police department. Think about those implications for a second.

BRUNHUBER: Finally, the company behind this, it claims the technology is used to fight terror and crime. It says clients that misuse the software will be cut off. You've written -- when your customers are dictators, they will do bad things. And so knows this, we know it now everybody knows it. So what's the solution here? How do we prevent this sort of thing from happening?

SCOTT-RAILTON: Well, NSO has said that they've suspended two of their customers based on their own investigations, internal investigations. Of course, we don't know which customers they are. At the end of the day, if they really wanted to prevent the harm that that company is causing, they would suspend their operations. What we know is that this is an industry that is built around growing its business by selling to dictators.

When you sell invasive surveillance tools to dictators, they're going to use those tools to take people's personal lives and dump them out on the table. To stop it I think one of the most important actions that can happen is an immediate moratorium on the sale and transfer this technology. The industry is sprawling out of control and the harms that it's causing, we're only really beginning to understand.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. The implications are absolutely frightening. Listen, thanks so much for coming on and breaking this town for us. John Scott-Railton really appreciate it.

SCOTT-RAILTON: Thanks, Kim.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRUNHUBER: The U.S. and its allies are accusing China of using criminal contract hackers to conduct a wide range of cyberattacks around the world and for profit. U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to receive another briefing on that today. White House officials said they were surprised at the extent of Chinese involvement in the cyberattacks. Now this comes at a time when President Biden continues to take a hard line on China.

CNN's David Culver has more from Beijing.

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is considered to be a dramatic escalation in the tensions between the U.S. and China. Though this goes beyond the U.S. making accusations. It's the Biden administration with a coalition of European and Asian allies that are saying Beijing is behind a series and widespread malfeasance in cyberspace. They say includes ransomware that's cost some companies in the millions of dollars.

[02:20:10]

CULVER: Now, they don't go into too many specifics. But the allegations are not all that new. In fact, just go back to March of this year. And Microsoft said that it received targeting from a Beijing-based hacking group that likewise was going after certain U.S. organizations. They say everything from law firms to universities to infectious disease researchers. Now at that time, China responded through its foreign ministry by calling the claims groundless.

They also suggested that it's very difficult for anyone to actually trace the origins of some of these very sophisticated cyberattacks, suggesting that it could have been a facade that it came from China but perhaps it was from another country or another organization. The Biden administration in these most recent accusations, say it's Beijing's Ministry of State Security. That is the sprawling and secretive civilian intelligence agency that is behind these most recent attacks.

And they claim that that ministry is using these criminal contract hackers to carry out the attacks. As of now, the Biden ministration has not laid out any specific plans or new punishment or new pressure to apply to Beijing. And if they were to, it's likely that Beijing will act in reciprocity. That's the word they like to use as they will likewise apply the same sort of counter attack that the U.S. or any other country puts on China, for example, sanctions.

So whether it's human rights, whether it's the crackdown on prodemocracy protests in Hong Kong, whether it's now cyberattacks, China is facing mounting international pressure, not only coming from the U.S. but now this coalition in the community of global leaders that likewise are claiming China is behind something far more sinister in Beijing saying that that is not the case. It is an escalation, no question between these two countries.

And just another move in the tit for tat that has brought us to this point in what is likely considered to be an all-time low between U.S.- China relations. David Culver, CNN, Beijing.

BRUNHUBER: And in a further response to these allegations, many Chinese embassies accused the U.S. and its allies of hypocrisy. China's mission to the E.U. says a certain country in the West is guilty of "massive and indiscriminate eavesdropping across the world." All right. We have this in just too CNN, Israel is retaliating for two rockets fired into the northern part of the country from Lebanon. The military says its Iron Dome defense system destroyed one of the rockets.

The other landed in an open field. Rocket fire from Lebanon is extremely rare and Israel isn't issuing any special guidelines or restrictions on movement, indicating it doesn't expect any more launches. Proves electoral authority is declared Pedro Castillo the country's president- elect. The left-wing school teacher and union leader from rural Peru call for national unity as he dressed his supporters Monday in Lima.

Castillo narrowly won a runoff against right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori. The official results were delayed for more than a month due to Fujimori's allegations of voting irregularities. Fujimori said she will respect the results of the election. But she didn't walk back or earlier allegations. Castillo and his party have denied any wrongdoing.

Could more have been done to save lives ahead of floods in Europe? That's the question being asked in Germany and Belgium right now. We'll explain why their flood warning systems have come under fire.

Plus, more extreme weather this time in the U.K. where a historic heat warning has just been issued. More on the details when we come back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:26:23]

BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. A top E.U. official is sounding the alarm about climate change and its impact on Europe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

URSULA VON DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION: The big picture is clear. We have to do more on climate protection. And we have to do more on climate adaptation. So be resilient also for those incidents. And we have to act quickly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNHUBER: Those comments from Ursula von der Leyen come after days of historic flooding in Europe. At least 195 people are now confirmed dead in Belgium and Germany. With Europe's cleanup and recovery ongoing people are asking what failed. Belgium is observing a day of national mourning. And officials there are facing tough questions about its flood warning system. Chris Burns reports from the city of Verviers.

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As this town struggles to recover from the devastating flood, the question is in the debate is whether all this could have been avoided. The mayor of this town told CNN that she did not receive warnings in time to evacuate, to prevent all the death and destruction that have been happening over those couple of days with those heavy floods. Here's what she told us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MURIEL TARGNION, VERVIERS MAYOR (through translator): At 10:00 p.m. there was still not a drop of water in the city of Verviers. And at 3:00 in the morning, we saw almost a tsunami on the river. Not as large as the sea, of course, but a wave of three to four meters that was coming in and that engulfed with his and other municipalities. With water as high as 24 meters in the whole city.

So had we been warned, we could have evacuated some of the population. We could have avoided deaths. We could have moved cause. People could have taken what they cared about upstairs. We wouldn't have avoided all the damages. But we could have saved lives and preserved what citizens cared most about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNS: Meanwhile, the cleanup efforts continue here. You can see there's a lot more work to do. And throughout the town. They are digging they're looking and we actually got evacuated from one point where there was a gas leak in one of the nearby towns. So it's very complicated to continue with this search. Also the question of restoring public services because here in Verviers only about 40percent of homes have their electricity.

They do have water but you can't drink it yet. It's still dangerous to drink. So this anger and frustration over the fact that perhaps this could have been avoided, there's going to be a parliamentary investigation. And people want to get to the bottom of why there was a communication breakdown that led to that tsunami that came down this river. Chris Burns for CNN in Verviers, Belgium.

BRUNHUBER: Britain's national meteorological services issued their first ever extreme heat warning. It will be in place through Thursday and cover the Southwest U.K. CNN Meteorologist Karen Maginnis joins me now with more. So, Karen, I mean some of the temperatures we're talking about here in Atlanta, we wouldn't, you know, think much of it but certainly for the U.K. it's a -- it's a big deal. Tell us more about it.

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: it is stunning. Yes, in other parts of the world, even across the southeastern United States. 30 degrees Celsius around 86 degrees Fahrenheit is nothing really that monumental, but in an area where temperatures would average around 22 or 24 degrees Celsius to be 30, 31 degrees, possibly 32, that is stunning.

[02:30:00]

And this is the first time that these amber alerts, the amber warnings, have been issued across the southwestern quadrant of the United Kingdom, including Cardiff, which will be about 20 or 29 degrees.

London is going to be hot. It is going to be around 30 degrees there. And guess how long these temperatures are going to continue? Well, it looks like at least the next two days, three days for some areas before you see any kind significant improvement, meaning temperatures coming down back to more normal levels.

The average high is 22 degrees for London. To be 30 degrees is staggering, so take it easy. But there is that relief and it comes by the weekend with much cooler air pushing through. Paris is also going to be very hot. We'll come close to that 30 degree mark as well before those temperatures start to cool off by about the weekend.

All right, lots of tropical activity to tell you about, across the western Pacific. Here is Hong Kong and it looks as the eye is just about ready to cross the coast a little bit further to the south of Hong Kong. Right now, winds associated with Typhoon Cempaka is 120 kilometers per hour.

This is going to be interesting, because it is just going to just kind of curve around on itself. It will move towards the west, then swing to the south, then to the southeast, it will impact the area, mostly across Eastern Hainan, we think, by about 72 hours, 65 kilometers per hour winds, moves back out into the South China Sea and perhaps regaining intensity.

And then very quickly, info tropical storm brushes by Okinawa and produces very heavy rainfall for Taipei. They need it desperately. Kim?

KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN NEWSROOM: All right, lots us keep an eye on there. Thanks so much, Karen Maginnis, I appreciate it.

80 large wildfires are burning in the Western U.S. fueled by a hot dry summer, Oregon's Bootleg fire, the biggest of them all, larger than the Los Angeles area. A state forestry official says the fire is generating so much energy and extreme heat, that it is changing the weather it is only 30 percent contained.

California is fighting nine large wildfires on more than 70,000 hectares of land wild fires there had burned five times more acreage this year than last.

Though, from wildfires in the Western U.S. to floods in Europe, this summer may be giving us an early preview of the devastating cost of climate change.

CNN Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir takes a look at the impact it is having.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL WIER CNN, CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It is becoming more obvious by the year. As humanity, overheats earth at a terrifying rate, our planet's atmosphere now holds way too much water in some places, not nearly enough and others. And from the U.S. to Europe corners of the so-called first world are getting their first taste of what fossil fuel wealth could ultimately cost.

There are so many fires burning out west. There is now a fuel shortage for, the planes used to fight them. And there is so much dry vegetation to burn in part because of the mega drought, now covering over 90 percent of the American West. Scientists estimate it will take ten rainy years to refill the reservoirs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a really bad time to be a Christmas tree farmer, probably the worst year we have ever had. WIER: But while people from San Diego to Siberia have been praying for rain, Western Europe spent the week praying for it to stop. Parts of Belgium, Austria and Germany are reeling under standing water and mud after some of the worst flash floods in memory.

It is horrendous, Angela Merkel said, after tearing towns and lives crushed by walls of water.

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR: The German language does not really have words for this devastation.

WEIR: When the E.U. released its ambitious climate plan last, week many saw Germany's entrenched manufacturing base as a blocked progress. But now, as elections near, politicians from the chancellor on down are calling for climate action. But what will it take to move American politicians in ways that climate marches and strikes have not?

Sadly, the data tells us we are about to find out.

RUSSELL VOSE, CHIEF OF CLIMATE MONITORING, NOAA: The last seven years have been the warmest on record and they really stand out from the record that preceded it. In fact, to me, when I look at them and almost hints it a bit of an acceleration and the rate global warming (ph) we are seeing globally.

WIER: That's horrifying. And is it safe to say then to flip it in a more alarming way, these were the coldest seven years for the rest of our lives?

VOSE: Well, that is a-- that is an interesting question. My line of work is not so much making predictions. We tend to look back. And -- but having said that I do not expect ten years from now that it will be cooler than we are today.

[02:35:02]

If you're betting (INAUDIBLE), it is probably a safe bet to assume it will be warmer in the future, barring, say, some major volcanic eruption.

WEIR: Which means that in addition to stopping the source of the problem to avoid cascading pain, we must brace for the pain that is already on the way.

Bill Weir, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRUNHUBER: A dream of a lifetime is about to come true for the richest man in the world, as Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos prepares for his history-making flight. We will talk with a retired NASA astronaut of what is Bezos and his crew can expect.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF BEZOS, FOUNDER, BLUE ORIGIN: I am so excited and curious. You know, everybody who has been to space, every astronaut comes back and they say that it change them somehow, they see the thin limb of the Earth's atmosphere and realize how fragile the Earth is. They see it just one planet. I do not know how it is going to change me but I know it is going to and I am excited to find out how.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNHUBER: That was the world's richest man talking about his date with destiny just hours from now. Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos hopes to make history and have the title of astronaut to his resume. He will be lifting off into space at about 9:00 A.M. Eastern Time in the U.S. on a rocket built by his company, Blue Origin.

Now, this comes just a little more than a week after fellow billionaire Richard Branson made his first suborbital flight. Along for the ride will be his brother, Mark, as well as the oldest and youngest people ever to travel into space. 82-year-old Aviator Wiley Funk, who was one of the Mercury 13 women and recent Dutch high school graduate, 18 year old Oliver Daemen. When asked about the safety of the flight Bezos, was predicatively (ph) confident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEZOS: We really believe this flight is safe. We would not -- you know, people say -- I had friends say to me, how about the second flight or the third flight? Why do you have to go on the first flight? And the point is, look, we know the vehicle is safe. If the vehicle is not safe for me, then it is not safe for anyone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNHUBER: Former astronaut Leroy Chiao joins me now. Thanks so much for being here with us. The world watched earlier this month as Richard Branson flew into space, now Bezos. So, take us through the difference between the two in terms of the technology used to get up there and how different the ride would be for the passengers.

LEROY CHIAO, RETIRED NASA ASTRONAUT: Sure. Well, Richard Branson, about a week-and-a-half ago, went into space, touched space and they did so board his Unity spacecraft. And it is -- basically, the difference is he went aboard a small space plane and so it was carried aloft to around 50,000 feet by a carrier aircraft and then the spacecraft dropped down off that aircraft and then lit its rocket engine and went up and touch space, went a little bit above 50 miles, which is the definition of space, according to the U.S. government, and then came back down and glided down and landed on a runway.

[02:40:06]

In the case of Jeff Bezos, so, you know, his spacecraft actually flies on top of a rocket, so the rocket launches and lifts the capsule, up and he is going to go above the Von Karman line, which is about 100 kilometers or 62 miles and it will be a parabolic arc, same kind of a profile in that both spacecraft get about three or so minutes of weightlessness before falling back down.

The participants inside will get a view of the Earth, see the curvature of the Earth and foresee Earth limb, the blue line, as it is called, with the sunlight going through the atmosphere, they will see the blackness of space. Then they will fall back down into Earth. And instead of gliding down and landing on a runway, like a space plane, the capsule will come down under a parachute and then be recovered on the ground.

So in either case, both spacecraft will give the participants a view of the Earth and then experience weightlessness of just a few minutes, but it will be a thrill no matter how you go.

BRUNHUBER: Well, yes, I want to ask you about that because you sort of talked about what they will see. I want to expand a little bit about what they will feel. I mean, tell me what that might be like in terms of sort of what you feel up there when you see this unique vista.

CHIAO: Sure. I mean, they will get to see the beauty of the Earth, the colors, they will get to see the brightness and, you know, it is really a pretty awesome sight. And, of course, you can watch the videos and photographs that astronauts have shot, but there is nothing like being there yourself.

So, it might feel what has been termed the overview effect, I certainly did, where, you know, you get that bigger picture perspective. And, you know, for me, it made me wonder and think about what is out there give me a greater appreciation of life on this Earth.

BRUNHUBER: After his spaceflight, Branson announced, welcome to the dawn of a new space age. Is that what we are seeing here? I mean, they talk about democratizing space travel. But, realistically, most of us will never get anywhere near a ticket.

CHIAO: Right. So, you know, as far as the -- as far as democratizing spaceflight, if you will, this brings the price tag down. I mean, if you are going to go orbital with the Russians or another venue right now, it is a -- SpaceX is also selling missions aboard for its Dragon spacecraft. But if you are going to go orbital, which is a much bigger deal, it's going to cost you in the neighborhood of $50 million or so for approximately one week in space, in orbit.

This is touching space so you are only up in space for a few minutes, but instead of 50 million, you are talking 250,000, or somewhere around that, U.S. dollars, much lower sum but still out of reach for the vast majority of people, you know? It is like the choice is you build a house or you go and buy a house, or you go and touch space. So you've brought the price down quite a bit, but it still just for a few.

BRUNHUBER: Thank you so much, Leroy Chiao, we really appreciate it. CHIAO: My pleasure. Thank you.

BRUNHUBER: And CNN will have full coverage of the Blue Origin launch. It is happening, well, just about seven hours from now. That's at 2:00 P.M. on Tuesday, if you are watching in London, 9:00 P.M. in Hong Kong.

And that wraps up this hour of CNN Newsroom. I am Kim Brunhuber. World Sport is next.

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