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Nearly 600 Wildfires Burning Across Greece. Report: Climate Change Transforming Life As We Know It; More Provincial Capitals Fall In Taliban Offensive; China Racing To Contain Growing Number Of New Cases; Understanding How Aerosolized COVID Affects Spread. Aired 12-1a EST

Aired August 10, 2021 - 00:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM. Hello, I'm John Vause. Ahead this hour, code red for humanity. In a major report for the U.N., thousands of scientists follow the irreversible impacts from climate change. But what we do now will determine how bad this crisis will be.

The double dilemma, one of the world's leading experts tells CNN this is a whole new ballgame, with COVID droplets believed to be staying in the air and contagious for much longer compared to the previous variants.

And another regional capital falls as the Taliban offenses sweeps across Afghanistan. The number of children being killed has suddenly escalated.

It's now too late for this planet to avoid the extreme weather caused by climate change. For the next 30 years at least, temperatures will continue to rise, so do sea levels and the threat to life as we know it.

It's been eight years since the last Intergovernmental report for the U.N. And the latest is blunt and stark. The crisis is inevitable, unprecedented and manmade.

The U.N. Secretary General calls it a code red for humanity. The report says some of the effects are irreversible and only deep cuts to carbon emissions will slow the trend. Heat waves, droughts, floods, storms are all more frequent and will be more intense.

Wildfires, another major threat. At least 600 are burning across Greece right now. The flames have consumed more than half the country's second largest island Evia.

The drought and lingering heat in the northwestern United States fueling an intense fire season. The Dixie Fire, which is less than a month old is already the second largest in California history.

Climate activists say every fraction of a degree of warming has an impact.


GRETA THUNBERG, CLIMATE ACTIVIST: So, I hope that this can be a wakeup call and that's it really gives perspective and that it once again can be a reminder that the climate crisis is not going away. It's only escalating and it's only growing more intense by the hour.


VAUSE: The Prime Minister of Greece has described an unprecedented disaster as hundreds of fires sweep across the country, destroying homes as well as livelihoods.

CNN's Eleni Giokos has more now from the island of Evia. Here she is with those details.


ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Firefighters have been working around the clock to try and douse the flames in Evia. Right now, this island, which is the second largest in Greece is the eye of the storm of the wildfires as it ravaged various parts of the country. Over half of Evia has been burned according to officials, and the number is growing.

This place behind me has been burning for most of the day despite efforts with helicopters and aircraft to put this out, it's still raging and burning. The only thing that will ensure this doesn't spread are sand roads which are being dug deliberately to try and stop the spread of the fire.

International assistance from 22 countries around the world has assisted in trying to put out the flames. But you see wherever you look on various hills, you'll see enormous flames and plumes of smoke and also, devastation clearly evident.

Locals tell me they felt that the national assistance came too late that local authorities also reacted very slowly and they told me that the livelihoods comes from the forest, whether it's resin or honey, or olive trees as well as figs, most of that has been destroyed.

Eleni Giokos, CNN, Evia, Greece.


VAUSE: Here are some of the key findings from that U.N. report, the world has warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius of a pre-industrial levels. Scientists often say 1.5 degrees is a critical threshold for the worst effects of climate change. Heavy rainfall happens 30 percent more frequently, drought 70 percent more often. And the report says it's unequivocal that humans have caused this climate crisis.

We have more now from our Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: The drumbeat of this on front pages every week now in different parts of the world, kind of simultaneously. That's the paradox of this emergency. It won't be like a 9/11 or a Pearl Harbor where everyone feels the effects immediately and leaps into action but we're seeing you get the heat waves.


WEIR: Hurricane Harvey 15 percent more water. So, a warmer planet means too much water in some places. Not nearly enough in other, that springs the drought out west. So much of the West locked in a drought with no end in sight, they say could need 10 years of rain of wet years to recharge the reservoirs out there.

And if you look at -- well, this has have too much water in places from Texas to we saw in Germany and Belgium we've seen it in Asia as well. But this, I want to show you this before and after of the Lake Oroville Dam in California. The lake, they've -- doesn't have enough water to go into the spillway. So, they've shut down the hydroelectric dam there.

But just a few years ago, the same spot was inundated by floodwaters which is called weather whiplash on which this new report says is the new normal now as things get hotter, faster, and with more extreme consequences than anybody ever predicted.

What science agrees on now unequivocally is the only way to stop this from going out of control is to stop using fuels that burn. And the faster we do that, the better the more life that can be saved.

But look around you, everything we touch is in some way based with fossil fuels. So, everything has to change.


VAUSE: Zeke Hausfather is with The Breakthrough Institute, which is working on solutions to our climate crisis. He was also a contributor to the U.N. report. Thank you for taking the time to be with us. We appreciate it.


VAUSE: OK, so one of your specialties is climate modeling, which essentially predicts the future under a variety of different scenarios, are giving us time to act now to try and reduce the worst of the impacts of the extreme weather like we're seeing at the moment.

Last month though, Science Magazine reported this. But as climate scientists face the alarming reality, the climate models that help them project the future have grown a little too alarmist. Many of the world's leading models are now projecting warming rates that most scientists, including the model makers themselves, believe are implausibly fast.

So, how accurate are the climate models, which have gone into this U.N. report? How difficult is it to model a future where there's essentially this increasing number of unknown unknowns? HAUSFATHER: So, our climate models have historically been quite accurate. In fact, this report discusses how climate models since the 1970s, when they were used to predict the future did really well in predicting what actually happened after they're published.

Now, some of the latest generation of climate models are running a little bit hot. And this recent report actually did quite an interesting thing. They didn't use those hot models, they effectively gave them very little weight, because those hot models didn't agree very well with historical observations.

But the rest of the models, the ones that were, you know, giving the same amount of warming roughly that the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report projected, are still plenty bad. We don't need these extremely high sensitivity models, in order to, you know, need to reduce emissions as quickly as possible.

VAUSE: What it seems we do need is some kind of massive supercomputer that could be developed by not just a government or you know, our country, but by governments, by a consortium of governments to look into the future. Because that data what we can work out now is going to be crucial to how we prepare for this crisis, right? And we don't have that at the moment.

HAUSFATHER: So, we're always working to improve the quality of our models. And actually, this recent report made a really big step forward in that direction.

You know, for the first time since the 1970s, they meaningfully narrowed this value that we call climate sensitivity, which is essentially a measure of just how much warming or CO2 emissions will cause.

You know, back in 2013, scientists gave a range of warming they expected in 2,100 that they admitted there's a one in three chance we'd end up outside of that. This report gives similar warming ranges, but now says there's only a one in 10 chance we'd end up outside of that, that means our climate crystal ball has gotten a lot less cloudy.

VAUSE: While the climate scientist -- science rather has improved a lot, the climate action has not. And the sad reality is from this report is that no matter what we do, from this point on the planet will continue to heat for the next what, three decades.

Just one scenario here, if climate emissions were slashed dramatically right now in a very short period of time, what's the best-case scenario we're looking at? Is it just going to be at state of play as it is right now that we're going to lock this in where we are right now and sort of freeze it in time.

HAUSFATHER: Yes, so the world will keep warming as long as our emissions remain above zero. That's the brutal math of climate change. But the good news is, and this is something that's covered in the new report, is that once we get our emissions down to zero, warming will more or less stop. The report does not find evidence that we're necessarily committed to more warming once we get our emissions all the way down to zero. The challenge, of course, is that means every country in the world, not just the U.S. but China, India, everyone else, all working together to get their emissions ultimately down to zero. And that's a pretty big task. And that might be in many ways, the defining challenge of the 21st century.

VAUSE: I -- that's, you know, basically you're talking about carbon neutrality here and a lot of governments who said they're working towards that. No one's talking about an economy that is carbon negative, which will, you know, essentially remove carbon from the atmosphere. Is that even possible?

HAUSFATHER: We have technologies to suck carbon out of the atmosphere, but they're pretty expensive right now, and they're not deployed at scale.


HAUSFATHER: But if we ever want to bring temperatures back down, because it seems like at this point, it's pretty likely we're going to pass the one enough 1.5-degree threshold that the Paris Agreement said. If we ever want to bring temperatures back down to that level, we are going to have to remove carbon from the atmosphere, not just bring our emissions to zero.

And so that involves, you know, planting a lot of trees involves having a bunch of direct air capture machines that are actively sucking carbon out of the atmosphere. Those use a lot of energy, we need to make sure that we're powering them with energy that doesn't, you know, produce carbon in the first place.

So, it's a big challenge. But we have some of the technologies already, and there's a huge amount of money being plowed into more technologies in that space.

VAUSE: Which way back tipping points here to me in many reasons -- in many ways as being the crucial moments that we're facing. But it seems that narrowing down just when and under what circumstances those tipping points actually happen is pretty difficult.

HAUSFATHER: It is and most of the tipping points we talk about are ecosystem specific tipping points. You pass a certain amount of warming and most of the world's coral reefs start to die. You pass a certain amount of warming and you're committed to long term sea level rise because of ice sheet melting.

What there isn't much evidence for thankfully, today, is that there's not a specific point in the climate where once we pass it, things spiral out of control. And the whole world warms a whole bunch more.

That said, you know, it's been within two degrees of today's levels for the last three million years. And so, the further we pass -- where we push the earth past where it's been for the last few million years, you know, the bigger the chance that there'll be dragons. Things that our models don't predict unknown unknowns. And that's what a lot of climate scientists are really worried about. And one of the main reasons we push to keep warming, you know, below this two-degree level.

VAUSE: Yes, there's uncertainty ahead. But there is certainty as well if we don't do anything, then it's just going to get worse. Zeke, thank you for being with us. We appreciate it.

HAUSFATHER: No worries, great to be here.

VAUSE: Take care.

We'll have a lot more on this climate report later this hour also throughout the day here on CNN.

Well, the battle for Afghanistan's future is looking increasingly dire. At least five provincial capitals have fallen to the Taliban. In just a few days, sixth also reported to have fallen.

UNICEF says at least 27 children have been killed in the past 72 hours, more than 130 others have been injured.

A senior Afghan official says government forces and the close air support because in his words, things are getting nasty. Nick Paton Walsh is tracking developments.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: A startlingly bad five days for the Afghan security forces and government after 20 years of war in Afghanistan. Beginning on Friday, when the first provincial capital fails around near the border with Iran, things then spiraled over the weekend, three more provincial capitals falling, bringing now to a total by Monday's and of five with two other cities, intensely pressured.

Now, over the weekend, a key city fell Kunduz that has twice in the past six years being taken by the Taliban briefly only to have Afghan security forces combined with U.S. airstrikes, kick them out. Seems unclear at this stage, if that's something the Afghan government can repeat again, because the insurgency's momentum seems to have moved on already threatening another provincial capital, Samangan and another key city too, Ghazni.

There is a real I think sense of fear that Afghan security forces are simply not quite sure which fire to put out next, where to deploy the finite resources they have of effective Afghan commandos, so much of the Afghan police or army. At times ramshackle when it comes to taking on a dedicated and focused insurgency.

There's also a key battle raging in the south of the country in Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province, which many U.S. troops and NATO soldiers have lost their lives in over the past years, obviously a decisive symbolic fight for the Afghan government there.

And also to Afghan officials expressing concern because while U.S. airpower reduced in how much it's used at the moment, compared to previous years, has been very helpful for Afghan forces. It hasn't really changed the dimension much in the last five days. And the concern is, in three weeks, it is due to stop entirely.

The U.S. has been very explicit that at the end of their presence on the grounds, by the end of the month, they will also stop airstrikes against the insurgency that is that is their policy.

And so, the concern amongst Afghan forces is that even though the last five days haven't been altered much by the use of U.S. airpower, things could get significantly worse come the beginnings of September.

I think many were expecting that this sort of insurgency advance was inevitable once the U.S. withdrew from the ground to the extent that it has already. But I think many are concerned to see it happening quite so quickly around Kabul, it seems quite so forcefully and with fears to about how the capital may become increasingly vulnerable in the months ahead.


WALSH: The Taliban clearly feeling a degree of momentum here able to apply pressure on many different urban centers at the same time, and Afghan Government surely wondering quite where its next crisis to tackle will come from.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.


VAUSE: Ahead here on CNN, China facing its very severe coronavirus outbreak since last year, and it seems the old pandemic playbook needs some major updates.

Also, just how contagious is the highly contagious Delta variant? We have new concerns about the airborne risk, in a moment.


VAUSE: Despite worldwide infections of the coronavirus continuing to climb, many countries appear determined to return to some kind of normalcy. Canada once again welcoming travelers from the United States.

On Monday, long delays were reported as the border open to fully vaccinated Americans causing a lot of tourists for the first time in 16 months. Fully vaccinated travelers from other countries will be allowed to enter in early September.

Monday marked the first day of expanded health past requirements in France. The pass is proof the holder has been vaccinated, has tested negative or has recovered from a previous infection. It's needed to eat in a restaurant, drink in a bar, travel on a train.

China is trying to contain a growing number of COVID cases with 15 high risk areas now reported in 13 different provinces, some cities are conducting several rounds of mass testing as new local infections continue to rise.

Manisha Tank joins us now live from Singapore with more details on this.

Yes, we've seen this with China before, they've actually been very effective in coming down hard in trying to contain outbreaks where and when they pop up. This time, doesn't seem to be as effective as it has been in the past.

MANISHA TANK, JOURNALIST: Absolutely, John. And you know, this feels like a bit of a narrative right across this region, countries that we thought had got on top of the pandemic very early on around this time last year. And now, reporting a very different scenario as we deal with variants. And we deal with these variants coming back into their communities.

You were just giving some of the numbers there on China. And I think it's worth saying that these residents of Beijing that have traveled to those areas or have an intention to travel to those areas where these new cases have been picked up, which is more than a hundred locally transmitted cases are being told that they can't leave the city unless it's for an emergency of some kind.

And as you also said, you know, health screenings are increasing, but people who have traveled, they're being monitored very closely to make sure that these cases are not spreading to more than one area.

It's worth bearing in mind of course, those Winter Olympics we just got over the Summer Olympics, but those Winter Olympics are happening in Beijing 2022, they're just six months away. And I'm sure that authorities that will be organizing those will be keeping a close eye on how the country and how the city is going to handle these cases as we move forward.

I want to jump though to Australia where we've had new cases reported. 356 local transmissions in the state of New South Wales, the capital of which of course is Sydney. Sydney has been now in its seventh week of quite stringent lockdown and local authorities there saying, well, if it wasn't for these lockdowns, actually, our numbers could have been a lot higher.


TANK: Important to report that the vaccination rate in Australia is still quite low at 22-1/2 percent or so, that is running out.

And bearing that in mind, let's flip over to Thailand. Again, this narrative where we saw countries that wanted to get ahead of this early on really dealing with a difficult situation, the death tally just in the last -- just on Monday in the last 24 hours actually, 235 in Thailand. Again, low vaccination rates, those who have received both doses of a vaccination 6.7 percent, so much work to be done on that front.

And just finally, John, I want to leave you with Vietnam where 9,000 -- just under 9,700 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported. More than a third of those are in the country's biggest Ho Chi Minh City and again, vaccination rates 8.2 percent, back to you.

VAUSE: Manisha, thank you. Manisha Tank there live for us in Singapore. Appreciate it.

David Edwards has spent 20 years as a professor at Harvard at the forefront of Aerosol Science. He joins us now from Boston. David, thank you for being with us.


VAUSE: I'd like to focus on the airborne transmission of the Delta variant in particular, what we know what we don't know. And I'll start off with an advisory message, if you like. Well, part of it from the World Health Organization. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a person infected with the COVID-19 virus, breaths, talks, coughs, or sneezes, liquid particles of various sizes are expelled into the air. Larger particles are called droplets. Smaller particles are called aerosols.


VAUSE: OK, so now we got the terms down, we're talking about those who are infected with a Delta variant have a much higher viral load, a thousand times according to one study from China. Does that mean a thousand times more virus is released into the air as droplets and aerosols? And are the aerosols from the Delta variant in the air are contagious for a longer period of time compared with the original version?

EDWARDS: Well, John, we are still learning about the Delta variant. We have basically been doing studies in India since the December of last year when the Alpha variant was the primary variant up through June when the Delta became the primary variant. And we've learned a lot.

But generally, we know that the Delta variant, as you mentioned, is extremely virulent and contagious. And there's evidence and we have evidence that is right now in a peer reviewed publication that the virus is able to get into the air much more successfully than previous variants.

One of the things that the virus does, John is it lands when you first breathe the virus into your lungs, it typically lands in your upper airways on mucus. And if your immune system is working effectively, it sweeps that mucus to the mouth and you swallow it soon after inhaling it.

When the mucus breaks down, and it begins to break up. When you breathe, that virus can get in the air and these little droplets that we talked about, these respiratory droplets that are very small, and travel deep in your lungs and back from the outside environment. And what we're finding is that different variants released different kinds of surfactants. These are little soap like molecules that cause the surface of the mucus to break up more easily.

And so, we don't know for sure, but I suspect that one of the reasons why the Delta variant is as contagious as it is, is it's really much more effective in getting into the air.

VAUSE: What does this mean for that current guidance of limiting time in crowded areas to no more than 15 minutes?

EDWARDS: The risk factors differ a lot whether we're inside or outside, and particularly because of the air circulation. When there's not effective air circulation as can happen indoors. Because these droplets are so small, and because the virus remains live in droplet form for quite a long period of time. It can be true that if you have 10 people who walk into a room who have an infection over the course of a day, and I come into that room. At the end of the day, and there's nobody in the room that their virus can be in the air and can infect me, so there's this danger in indoor environments of the -- and particularly the Delta variant because it is likely much more aerosolizable that indoor environments can be risky, even if I don't see someone near me, actually.

Otherwise, if I'm in a public environment, and I am near someone who's infected, we understand now that talking is a particularly important factor of transmission, you produce many more virus droplets if you're infected in the air by speaking than by just breathing. And in distance matters in that case.

VAUSE: But experts in Australia are warning about the risk of outdoor transmission, there was an outbreak of COVID infections linked to a gathering at a beach north of Sydney, a one epidemiologist told the public broadcaster ABC.


VAUSE: We now need to understand that we are potentially at great risk of aerosol or airborne particles, there's tiny droplet nuclei that can hang in the air for longer if there's no wind. And that means that you can be at risk outside, not just inside.

So, how much greater is the outdoor aerosol spread of the Delta compared to the original version?

EDWARDS: The data that we have yet to publish suggests that it's the Delta variant is several hundred times more able to get into the air than the Alpha variant, which is the previously most virulent variant of SARS-CoV-2.

So, whether I'm indoor or outdoors, the risk of me being infected goes up for sure. And it's true that if I'm near someone, whether I'm inside or outside, my risk of being infected by the Delta variant goes up. So, yes, if there's no longer wind, and if I'm outside, I have a risk and it goes up with Delta.

Now, what can we do? So, we've know a lot about mask, we know about social distancing. One thing that we've learned during the pandemic, and actually we knew quite a bit even before the pandemic is that humidity matters. So, it turns out that your upper airways humidify the air you breathe, which is critical for whole body health, as well as filtering the air particles.

And so, when you breathe really dry air, that dries out your upper airway lining fluid and it reduces ability to clear particles and therefore to keep your lungs clean.

So, we know that and we knew prior to the pandemic that breathing dry air increases risks of the lower respiratory diseases like COPD or asthma, but now we know also COVID-19.

So, what do you do? So, breathing, if you're in an indoor environment, which is very likely air conditioned, very likely you have low humidity. You want to increase the humidity, relative humidity of 40 to 60 percent is found to be most effective.

And it turns out John, that masks -- one of the roles that masks plays and clearly, one of the reasons why even cotton masks are turning out to be effective during the pandemic is that they humidify the upper airways, they keep humidity.

So, we're exploring right now. My team is particularly focused on how do you hydrate the upper airways in really simple ways that are kind of the equivalent of being near sea with a strong wind coming at you so. So, it turns out that both water and salt.

Actually, your upper airways carry -- contains salt, and they keep the airways hydrated by this balance of water and salts. And so, we're learning how to place little droplets of water and salt to help keep your airways hydrated and you as safe as you can be.

VAUSE: David, I've got a thousand other questions and I'd like you to come back at some other time so we can get more in depth on this but it's been great having you with us. I really appreciate it.

EDWARDS: Thank you so much for having me.

VAUSE: Joint U.S. in South Korea military drills are set for later this month. And while they've been scaled back because of the pandemic, the North Koreans seem as angry as ever. Kim Yo-jung the powerful sister of leader Kim Jong-Un says both countries will face a more serious security threat for ignoring earlier warnings.

Anticipation is building in the French capital for the possible arrival of football legend Lionel Messi. Paris Saint-Germain fans have gathered for the second straight day outside their stadium. Former Barcelona star has yet to be spotted in Paris but French media reporting he could might just arrived today.

Messi bid a tearful farewell at the backer on Sunday saying he really wanted to stay and that PSG was a possibility but not a done deal.

A lot more on Messi's next move ahead, WORLD SPORT is coming up later this hour.

We'll take a short break. When we come back, birds that mate for life. Now, those lives are under threat. We'll have more on the climate crisis and puffins in a moment.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: A Chinese court has upheld a death sentence for a Canadian man convicted of drug smuggling. Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was arrested in 2014, five years later sentenced to death. He says he is innocent.


The high people's court upheld a lower court's decision on Schellenberg's case, saying it was accurate. The sentence was appropriate.

This decision, though, comes amid worsening diplomatic tensions between Canada and China.

Live now to Beijing. Steven Jiang is standing by. So what are the other details here? What is -- you know, how much of this is politics? How much of this is drug smuggling?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, you know, this decision is not really shocking for anyone who knows anything about how the Chinese legal system works, you know, with its almost 100 percent conviction rate. And very rare for a higher court to overturn death sentences.

And so now Schellenberg's death sentence is going to be reviewed by the Supreme People's Court before an execution could be carried out.

But this case is attracting global attention because of geopolitical tensions, as you said. And the Canadian government has now said they condemn this decision, and they will continue to engage with Chinese officials at the highest level to request clemency for Schellenberg.

Now, this of course, is also, this decision is reinforcing the notion in the minds of many of China's critics, that this is a prime example of Beijing's so-called hostage diplomacy. That's, of course, something the Chinese government has strongly denied.

But it's worth a rewind a little to take a look at the timeline of Schellenberg's case. He was first charged in January 2015 as an accessory to the smuggling of more than 200 kilos of meth.

And then, on November 28, 2018, he went through his first trial and was convicted, then sentenced to 15 years in prison. That date of his first trial is very important, because a few days later on December 1, 2018, Meng Wanzhou, a very high-profile Chinese executive from the tech giant Huawei, was arrested in Canada.

And she was arrested by Canadian authorities on behalf of the U.S. government for her alleged role in dodging U.S. sanctions against Iran. That move by Canada infuriated the Beijing leadership, with officials here promising serious consequences for Canada.

And within weeks of that, Schellenberg was ordered to force a retrial. It was during that proceeding, prosecution -- the prosecution claimed they had uncovered new evidence and now he was being tried as a principle to that case, convicted and sentenced to death in January 2019.

So he appealed that decision and was granted a hearing in May of last year. And today, the higher court upheld its decision. So this, of course, is also interesting, the announcement today, because case in Canada has also entered a crucial final argument face, as she continues to fight her extradition to the U.S., so all of this is in the eyes of many people more than just a legal procedure, but more about international politics, and he was mentioned that Schellenberg is not the only Canadian facing potential execution. 2 other Canadians were arrested shortly after and they have been tried for alleged espionage, and that could carry potential death penalty -- John.

VAUSE: Steven, thank you. Steven Jiang in Beijing.

Well, a major report from the U.N. has warned the earth is warming much faster than previously thought. The dramatic effects are playing out right now.

Droughts, wild fires, hurricanes and flooding are all increasing in frequency and intensity. The U.N. secretary general called the report a code red for humanity. He says only the most ambitious plan will help prevent further global warming.

The headline from "The Guardian" summed up the report's findings this way: "Global Climate Crisis Inevitable, Unprecedented and Irreversible."

But also irreversible is extinction. Rising temperatures are damaging ecosystems and putting species at risk. In the U.K., puffins are already in danger. CNN's Scott McLean shows us the threat to their habitat.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A few miles off England's sandy, northeastern coastline, there's a rocky archipelago. Isolated, barren and nearly unscarred by humans, save for a few lighthouses and a 650-year-old former monastery.


For centuries the Farne Islands have been left almost unchanged, attracting only a few solitary hermits, sunbathing seals and hundreds of thousands of breeding birds, like the Atlantic puffins.

But even on this remote outcrop, where only nature appears to govern who survives and who doesn't, there's now another force to contend with. Climate change.

Every morning Gwen Potter and her team of park rangers arrive before the crush of tourists.

GWEN POTTER, NATIONAL TRUST COUNTRYSIDE MANAGER, FARNE ISLANDS: They are very delicate. They can sometimes collapse, so we've got to be very careful.

MCLEAN: They go borough to borough, shoulder deep, to count how many puffins are underground with their eggs.

POTTER: Oh, unoccupied.


POTTER: I really want a nibble.

MCLEAN: The global population of Atlantic puffins is in steep decline, so the count is done every summer. The growing frequency of extreme weather threatens to flood their burrows and the eggs inside them. Rising temperatures are disrupting their food chain.

But on this sunny day, it's hard to imagine the Farne Islands puffin has anything to worry about.

(on camera): I'm just looking at all the birds behind you. It's difficult to envision that these birds could be in any way be threatened.

POTTER: What we're seeing here is a snapshot in time. But over the long term, all of these birds are declining.

MCLEAN: You'll often see puffins holding fish in their mouths. That's their primary food source called sand eels. When eel eggs hatch, they're supposed to feed on plankton, which blooms at around the same time of year.

But with rising sea temperatures, those two events are now out of sync by almost three weeks. Less food for sand eels ultimately means fewer sand eels for puffins.

POTTER: And these puffins also, they -- they pair for life. Puffin divorce rate, we believe, is quite low.

MCLEAN: They're better at commitment in relationships than we are?

POTTER: They're much better at bird marriage than human marriage, Yes.

MCLEAN (voice-over): A human commitment is exactly with these birds need. The 2015 Paris climate accord committed world leaders to keep global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius.

But a newly-published report from the WWF warns of an uncertain future for the Atlantic puffin if temperatures rise more than 1.5 degrees. Leaders will have another kick at the climate crisis can at the COP26 summit this fall in Scotland.

MARK WRIGHT, WWF-UK DIRECTOR OF SCIENCE: If we do not step up at the end of this year at the climate meeting, it will have been a complete abrogation of responsibility, a real missed opportunity. And we'll be letting down future generations if we don't act now.

MCLEAN: Puffin populations in Norway have dropped sharply. And in Iceland, colonies are at risk of dying out completely, according to the WWF.

But on the Farnes, the puffin population appears stable after declining over the past two decades.

POTTER: What really causes issues is rapid change. And while our lifetime may not feel like a rapid change, that is a rapid change.

MCLEAN (on camera): They can adapt to a slowly changing climate but not at the rate that we're at right now.

POTTER: That's exactly it. Yes.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Meaning the rest of the world will have to change, so these islands don't.

Scott McLean, CNN, on the Farne Islands in northern England.


VAUSE: Climate change also fueling winter wildfires in South America. One hundred and fifty thousand hectares have been scorched so far this year in Bolivia's Eastern Santa Cruz region. Officials say so far this month, there have been more than 830 fires.

Ahead here, no vaccine, no service, no love boat. A U.S. cruise line now requires COVID vaccinations for passengers. We'll have the details in a moment.



VAUSE: In the U.S., many students are heading back to the classroom, even though there's a skyrocketing number of cases among young people.

New COVID cases among children and teenagers were nearly five times higher between June and July, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

CDC numbers show COVID hospitalizations for young patients now at levels we have not seen since January. The trend is so alarming one health expert says it's time for schools to consider vaccine mandates.


DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT: It's not even going to be enough to have mask mandates in the schools. We need all of the adolescents vaccinated, and really, we need to move towards vaccine mandates for the 12- to 17-year-olds in the schools.


VAUSE: The cruise industry has scored a vaccine victory. A U.S. federal judge has ruled the Norwegian Cruise Line can actually require proof of COVID-19 vaccinations in Florida, despite the stand [SIC] -- the state banning vaccine passports.

That decision could pave the way for more companies to implement that same requirement.

CNN's Pete Muntean has our report.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a pretty big blow to Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida rule that prohibits vaccine passports.

Norwegian Cruise Lines took this to court and won, just in the nick of time, because its first fully vaccinated crews set sail for Miami this weekend.

In a statement, Norwegian said litigation was a tool of last resort, but it had to do this to fight for what's right for its guests.

Now passengers will have to show proof that they are fully vaccinated, thanks to this court decision. And it really lays out two big points.

First, it said that brand trust will be severely harmed and could be destroyed if there was an outbreak of COVID-19 on any of Norwegian's cruise ships.

Also, the judge equated this to free speech, that it's essentially protected by the First Amendment if a passenger wants to show proof that they are fully vaccinated.

Governor Ron DeSantis is vowing an appeal of all this. He says this is not protected by the First Amendment, and it is discriminatory.

This really comes as the entire travel industry is trying to figure out what is the right move when it comes to vaccines. United Airlines just mandated that its workers will have to be fully vaccinated by October 25, but the airline says any move to vaccinate passengers would have to come from the federal government.

Pete Muntean, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: I'm John Vause. That is it for this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. Please stay with us. I'll be back at the top of the hour for more CNN NEWSROOM, but in the meantime, WORLD SPORT is up next.