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East Coast Continually Pounded by Storms; Strange Things Happening in the Animal Kingdom; What's Causing the Extreme Weather; A Link Between Climate Change and Health?

Aired December 10, 2013 - 23:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: You are looking live at New York City. It's not even winter yet, but today is a record for snowfall for the day dating back to 1932. And that's nothing. 90 percent of the country will have below normal temperatures by morning. Anybody else out there think this is extreme weather?

It's 11:00 in the east, everyone. Do you know where your news is? I'm Don Lemon. This is THE 11TH HOUR, the last word on today and what you'll be talking about tomorrow.

And baby, I know it's a cliche but it is cold outside! But is it just weather, or should we be worried? Really worried?

The person who knows all about this is Chad Myers, live in the CNN -- we usually call it the Severe Weather Center. I'm going to call it the extreme weather center for tonight, Chad. We are being pounded by storms every few days. What's going on?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Don, all the cold air that should be up in Canada that should be making more ice in the Arctic has now spilled all the way down to the Deep South, all the way here. So anytime this cold air mass comes in and then we get another low to run up through here, we get an ice or a snow storm. Look at these lows tonight. Wind chill International Falls tonight 56 degrees below zero. We should have this in January or February, not today.

The deal is, as the jet stream sets up and the lows run up the east coast, we get storm after storm after storm. And they are set up every three to five days all the way until January. Like lining up planes to Newark -- Don?

LEMON: So this started last weekend. Are we expecting any more severe weather this coming weekend?

MYERS: Right there, my friend. There's your low. That's going to run up the east coast. It's going to go right up through the same kind of place, the same track with ice and snow and maybe even more snow this time than ice. I'll take that because the ice was so ugly to drive in across New York and D.C. and Baltimore. We didn't get much today. Today was a quick hitter. But this could be a much bigger storm coming in on Saturday night and Sunday. I guess that's good news. It's the weekend and it could be pretty. But at some point in time, you just say "uncle," enough's enough. LEMON: Right. Hey, Chad, I've been wanting to ask you this all day. You know the missing family of six in Nevada that was found. No frost bite. What sort of extreme temperatures did they experience?

MYERS: Don, truly unbelievable. I don't know how that happened. You had a car that was upside down. All weekend I was saying please start the car. Warm up the engine a little bit. Warm up the car. Car's upside down. The pickup for the gas tank is upside down. They couldn't even get the car running. 17 was the high on Sunday. The morning low was 16 degrees below zero Monday morning. The high yesterday 17. At least the sun was out. Back down to 10 below zero. Figure this out, Don, 16 below is 116, 115 degrees below your skin temperature. It's 50 degrees below freezing. The fact that they are in great shape is a testament to what the man and woman. Those two people really knew how to take care of themselves and keep those kids safe as well.

LEMON: One more question. You got time for me?

MYERS: Yeah, sure.

LEMON: Why so many extremes in weather, Chad, really?

MYERS: I wish I could handle that question, Don. And you know what, 20 years from now, we're going to look back and go, that was so easy. That was the answer. Maybe we'll look back 20 years from now and say, I can't believe we had to deal with cancer back in the year 2013. It was so easy to fix. I hope that's the case.

I don't know exactly what's happening but certainly the carbon in the atmosphere, you're going to talk to -- there's a lot going on here that's extreme one way or the other, either super hot or super cold. There doesn't seem to be any normal anymore.

LEMON: We're going to talk to Philippe Cousteau.

MYERS: Yeah.

LEMON: You know the last name. He is our special correspondent here. We'll get to him in just a moment.

Thank you Chad Myers. Appreciate it.

MYERS: You're welcome.

LEMON: We're seeing crazy weather everywhere. And it goes beyond storms. There are very strange things happening in the animal kingdom, as a matter of fact. So strange that, as Miguel Marquez finds out, some are calling it global weirding.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A feeding frenzy along the California coast --

(SHOUTING) MARQUEZ: -- like none ever recorded.

KATHERINE WHITAKER, PRINCESS MONTEREY WHALE WATCHING: In talking to the old timers, the fishermen who have been out here for 60 years, they've never seen anything like this.


MARQUEZ: Monterey Bay now a massive soup bowl, as the locals call it. Feasting humpback whales that should have gone south months ago.

(on camera): What would keep whales like this here?

WHITAKER: We're talking about miles and miles of anchovies mountains deep.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): And it's not just whales. There are sea lions in droves, even killer whales.


WHITAKER: You've got to understand the entire food chain to get to understand this. And you won't know that unless you know more about the weather and the currents of the ocean.

MARQUEZ: Knowing more a top priority for climate researchers as they grapple with new environmental trends.

JIM COVEL, MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM: One of my favorite sayings right now is we may be experiencing global weirding.

MARQUEZ: The Pacific recently has seen its fair share of weird. An invasion of humboldts up and down the California coast. Sea lions calves this year dying off in worrying numbers. And in recent weeks disturbingly, sea stars from Alaska to San Diego wasting away, literally melting.

COVEL: Starting to see animals that were common here 30 and 40 years ago maybe shifting their ranges farther north.

MARQUEZ: One possible cause or contributing factor, changing ocean temperatures, increasingly warmer water pushing north into the Arctic, helping to create another climactic shift. Arctic Sea ice melting during summer to record lows.

JENNIFER FRANCIS, RUTGERS INSTITUTE OF MARINE & COASTAL SCIENCES: Just in the last 30 years we've seen the amount of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean decline by a factor of three quarters.

MARQUEZ: One effect, says researchers, the jet stream, that super speedy river of wind, as the Arctic warms it grows weaker and it's moved south.

FRANCIS: We expect the likelihood of the kinds of extreme weather events that are associated with very slow-moving weather patterns to increase.

MARQUEZ: Extremes running hot and cold increasing frequent in ferocious fires out west, a 500-year flood in Colorado, powerful tornadoes earlier and later in the season than normal. That's Washington, Illinois just a few weeks ago. Cold and snow early and fierce this year in South Dakota. More powerful hurricanes reaching farther north than ever before.

Back here on the California coast, whatever is keeping the anchovies around longer, whale lovers aren't complaining just yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are whales everywhere.


MARQUEZ: It's an experience that just might be --


MARQUEZ: -- once in a lifetime.


MARQUEZ: For THE 11TH HOUR, Miguel Marquez, CNN, Monterey Bay, California.


LEMON: Appreciate that, Miguel Marquez.

So what does this strange animal behavior mean? If you want an explanation on what's going on in the animal kingdom, you can't go wrong with a guy named Cousteau.

Philippe Cousteau is a CNN special correspondent. And he's also the president of Earth Echo International.

You have been to the Arctic twice, most recently with CNN. What is going on up in the Arctic that's affecting us down here?


It's a lot of changes happening not just in the Arctic but around the world. And what a lot of people forget, though, is that the Arctic, though it is the smallest ocean and the shallowest ocean on the planet, it is arguably the most important ocean. Because even though it's far away and very cold, very remote, it is considered the air conditioning unit of this planet. And the challenges that we're facing there is, of course, sea ice loss over the last few decades has been record-breaking. And of course, what we found when we were there about a year and a half ago was not just that the sea ice area is shrinking Arctic -- we've lost about 30 percent over the last 30 or 40 years -- but in fact the thickness of the ice is changing as well. It's getting thinner. And that's of great concern as well. All of the dynamics changing in the Arctic are affecting -- has a trickle- down effect of the oceans around the world.

LEMON: So there, when you were saying it, you called it the air conditioning of the world. But, look, you compare this to a thermostat, right? Sort of a global thermostat. You traveled around the globe. Do you agree with what you heard in Miguel's story, the person who's calling it global weirding?


COUSTEAU: I think global weirding is actually really appropriate comment. Now originally, it started with global warming. What we realized was that, indeed, some places will get warmer, some places will get cooler. It's actually not an overall warming trend which caused the change to climate change. But climate or global weirding is certainly another good phrase, because things and systems are just fundamentally out of whack. A lot of that, being that they cover 70 percent of our planet, is driven by the oceans, which is such a vast area, complex area, that we still don't fully understand. It's of grave concern to scientists how quickly those systems are changing.

LEMON: I want to talk to you about those beached pilot whales, those 29 of them found off the Florida coast. Many of them found off the Florida coast that were dead. Not everything has to do with the environment, I would imagine. I mean, what is to blame? Is man to blame for this?

COUSTEAU: Well, it's so hard to tell what happened specifically with those pilot whales down in the Everglades. Pilot whales do tend to beach themselves and, oftentimes, en masse, in large groups because they're so communally tied together. It was a very remote area. I know that there's been some necropsies, an animal autopsy, that's been conducted last week. We're getting the results of what those are to maybe give us an indication if there was disease involved or pollution. But it's really too early to tell. It's a little speculation at this point.

But certainly, we are seeing marine mammal species around the world suffer because of pollution and over fishing and the changes that are happening in the ocean caused largely by man.

LEMON: Special correspondent, Philippe Cousteau.

I want you to stay right there because I want you to join our debate on what's causing this extreme weather and how much we should worry.

And later, one of the things we know you'll be talking about tomorrow.


LEMON: Welcome back. I'm Don Lemon. This is THE 11TH HOUR.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, extreme weather, one of the hottest debates in the country right now. Going head-to-head tonight, Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club; Marc Morano, editor-in-chief at; and back with us is Philippe Cousteau, president of Earth Echo International and also a CNN special correspondent.

So, Marc, I'm going to start with you.

Look at what we're experiencing now. We're experiencing below- zero temperatures in Chicago earlier than anytime in the last two decades, a record snowfall for today in New York. Tomorrow morning, 90 percent of the country will face below normal temperatures. If this isn't climate change, then what is it?

MARC MORANO, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, CLIMATEDEPOT.COM: So record cold is now evidence of man-made global warming? What evidence would disprove climate change? It seems like no matter the weather, everything that happens proves it.

The bottom line is, in 2013, we're having one of the least extreme weather years on record. This report came out about a month ago. And if you look at the longer-term trend, there's actually a declining or no trend in U.S. droughts or global droughts. There's no trend in floods going back I think up to 127 years. One study was the "Journal of Nature" on the droughts. Tornadoes, big tornadoes, F-3 and larger have been on decline since the 1950s. Hurricanes, the U.S. has gone almost eight years now, over eight years without a major category 3 or larger hurricane hitting, the longest period since before 1900. So on every measure of extreme weather, it ain't there. Global weirding is nothing more than a pseudoscience expression. And in the 1970s, the global cooling scare, as popularized in the media and by many scientists, they blamed extreme weather, in fact, specifically "Newsweek," the 1974 tornado outbreaks, on global cooling.

LEMON: OK, Marc --

MORANO: They had their own 1970s version of global weirding.

LEMON: -- we get your point. You don't think it's real.


LEMON: Michael --

MORANO: Scientific journals don't think it's real.

LEMON: Michael, obviously, you think he's wrong, don't you?

MICHAEL BRUNE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SIERRA CLUB: I do. All of what Marc said would be very compelling if it were true. This is something that has been settled. The science is settled right now. The top climate scientists in the world, thousands of them, are now as confident that climate change is real as they are that cigarettes make people sick. The only folks who are arguing this are the occasional climate skeptic or the people who are paid for by the fossil fuel industry. We know that the extreme weather events that we're seeing, the record wildfires, the record droughts, the extreme storms that we're seeing, the hurricane that we saw with a 1,000-mile diameter that hit the eastern seaboard late October of last year, are precisely what scientists have said would be the cause of global warming and climate change.


BRUNE: What we need to do now -- the danger here, Marc, is we should not be burying our head in the sand when the seas are rising. We have to face facts, face reality, and start to embrace the solutions to climate change that are evident and available today.

LEMON: OK, listen, I want to -- there are people who say -- not necessarily climate change deniers, just rational people -- saying we really haven't been keeping records for that long, considering how long the earth has been around. This is just a natural phenomenon that occurs. Warming is going to happen. Since the Ice Age, the earth has been warming, and it's normal.

How do you respond to that, Michael?

BRUNE: Well, we do have records that go back hundreds or even thousands of years that can show how the earth's temperatures have increased dramatically in the last 150 years. And the concentration of global warming gasses in the atmosphere are at levels that we haven't seen in millions of years. And we know that this is because of the burning of fossil fuels.

But if you put all of that aside, the thing that we need to embrace right now that is these extreme weather events that we're seeing that we're beginning to experience right now are causing a serious deterioration of the quality of our lives across the country. I've talked to ranchers in Nebraska who have lost their cattle because of the severe drought that we're they're experiencing. I've talked to families in Texas, the massive wildfire outside of Austin, Texas, destroyed 1200 homes in a period of less than 24 hours. My own family's house was flooded in New Jersey because of Superstorm Sandy. And around the country, if you haven't experienced an extreme weather event in the last couple years, give it a little bit of time because, over the next couple of decades, almost all of us are going to have some relationship to these extreme weather events.

LEMON: All right, Philippe, I'm going ask you a question in a moment but this one is for you, Marc.

The new study in the "Journal of Nature Climate Change" says the Arctic is linked to extreme weather further south, like heat waves, downpours and so on. What do you make of that?

MORANO: It's a wild theory. They had similar theories in the 1970s, trying to blame extreme weather on these kinds of variables. The bottom line is the Arctic ice was started monitoring in 1979 at a high point of the 1970s global cooling scare. We lost ice. This year, by the way, we rebounded, depending on what dates you want to pick, almost a third or more of the ice, and global sea ice currently is the highest in 25 years. Antarctic Sea ice is at or near record. Which no one wants to talk about, Antarctic Sea ice, because it's inconvenient to the narrative.

But the idea that we're having extreme weather -- listening to Michael talk there -- it's mind boggling. The earth is geologically billions of years old and we're sitting around here scratching our heads saying, wow, we had a hurricane last year, which was barely a category 1 when it hit. By the way, it's not me, and he's mentioning funding by the way, which I think is funny. The Sierra Club took $26 million from natural gas and Michael has the audacity to try to imply that skeptics are fossil-fuel funded.

The bottom line is these are in scientific peer-review journals, the studies I just cited, "The Journal of Nature" on drought, and floods was in a hydrological journal. There's no trend. You can't find the trend. Professor Roger Pilky Jr, the University of Colorado, is testifying in Congress tomorrow on these very points. You can't find the memo. Yes, you can make a lot of interesting stories out of it. Sierra Club can raise money. But it's akin to saying many bad things will happen, therefore, when a bad thing happens, you say, see, I told you so. It's consistent with our theory.


MORANO: Extreme weather is consistent with the history of the earth. There is no trend to point to climate change. It's not there.

Now, that's separate from the larger question of, is climate change happening. That's a different question. But, of course, climate change is governed by hundreds of factors --


MORANO: -- more than just one factor.

LEMON: Marc and Michael, stick around.

Philippe, you've got to be aggressive if you want to get in on these guys because they're really fired up about this.


COUSTEAU: I'm actually enjoying this back and forth a little bit. I certainly have things to say, as you know, Don, but --


LEMON: I know you do. And I want to talk to you about the human toll --


LEMON: I want to talk about the human toll and what it means to our health.

COUSTEAU: That's what we lose in this debate.


LEMON: So stick around. We're going to do it right after the break.

So should we just stop fighting about it and get to work changing it? We're going to talk about that when we come right back.


LEMON: I'm Don Lemon. This is THE 11TH HOUR. Thank you for all your feedback on social media, @the11thhour.

I'm back with my Michael Brune, of the Sierra Club; Marc Morano, of

Marc, you have a lot of people mad on Twitter. So go check your Twitter account after this.


Philippe Cousteau, of Earth Echo International, and our special correspondent.

Philippe, you think we need to change the focus of this conversation and talk about the link between climate change and health, especially for children who may be suffering from asthma or other ailments?

COUSTEAU: I do, Don. I think we can sit here and argue all day long, and certainly we've done that for several years and the climate deniers have had their say, I think too much of a say over the last few years, based on the flimsiness of much of the science that they're quoting or misquoting, as the case may be.

Nonetheless, I think we need to start talking less about climate change and more about carbon. We need to be talking about the human cost. We need to remember that people suffer from fossil fuel burning in this country. The economy suffers. A great example, $18 billion a year is spent dealing with the impacts of asthma in this country, largely from outdoor air pollution. The cost to our security. A terrific article actually by CNN last year talked about how one in eight casualties in the war in Iraq was from our war fighters, our brave men and women in uniform, escorting fuel convoys. The DOD is one of the biggest investors in renewable energy. We also need to remember things like ocean acidification, another carbon problem where our oceans, absorbing carbon, become more acidic, and all the impacts it has on ocean wildlife. I think we need to get out of this bickering and start dealing with the very human cost and the costs to our economy and our security and start enacting solutions.

LEMON: Marc, come on. Listen, he makes a very good point. Because even if you don't agree with climate change, why not take steps to improve the environment and improve the earth?

Listen to what George Clooney said and then we'll talk about it.



GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: If you have 99 percent of doctors who tell you you are sick, and 1 percent that says, ah, you're fine, you probably want to hang out and check it up for the 99. You know what I mean? The idea that we ignore that we are in some way involved in climate change is ridiculous. What's the worst that can happen? We clean up the earth a little bit? And, yeah, I find this to be the most ridiculous argument ever.


LEMON: There you go, Marc. What's wrong with cleaning up the earth a little bit?

MORANO: There's nothing wrong. In fact, Dennis Rancourt, a professor in Canada, on the left-wing side of things, said that global warming has been hijacked by the environmental movement. That's the problem. Real environmental problems are forgotten here.

When you have Philippe Cousteau talk about the children, children benefit from carbon-based energy. As you look around the world, 1.2 billion people don't have running water or electricity, living in dire poverty. They need coal plants and natural gas and oil. That is the most pro-child thing you can do.

LEMON: Listen, Michael --


COUSTEAU: Wait a second now.


COUSTEAU: The United Nations estimates --

LEMON: Hold on.


COUSTEAU: -- coal-fired power plants cause mercury pollution. They can pollute -- that over a million women of child-bearing age now have enough mercury pollution in their bodies to cause some sort of mental and physical deformities to their children.


COUSTEAU: -- the best thing we can do for our children.

MORANO: In places like Africa, and particularly and the United States where it's 35 percent to 40 percent of our electricity, to ban it when you have no replacement other than fracking, which has been working out great -- (CROSSTALK)

LEMON: It's been a great conversation. We're not going to come --


LEMON: We'll keep talking about it.

Hey, Michael, quickly, do you think the administration is doing enough about this?

BRUNE: I think the administration is doing a good job. They get an incomplete grade so far.

One quick point, though. The best way to get pollution to the 1.2 billion people, or power to the 1.2 billion people that don't have it, the cleanest way and the cheapest way is solar and wind.

LEMON: All right.

BRUNE: We have solutions right now to climate change that are cheaper than gas, cheaper than coal, cheaper than oil.


LEMON: Michael, Marc, Philippe, thank you very much.

And before we go tonight, here's something you'll be talking about tomorrow. "New York Times" reports President Obama's approval ratings have bounced back to where they were before the whole Obamacare mess. But only 42 percent of Americans now approve of the president' overall performance. 50 percent disapprove.

Tomorrow, on THE 11TH HOUR, the Connecticut pastor who says he is sick of Newtown. The tragic loss of his own son, and what he's doing to end gun violence.

That's it for us tonight.

Brooke Baldwin, "In Case You Missed It," starts right now.