David Wallace-Wells the Severity of Climate Change

David Wallace-Wells, the author of “The Uninhabitable Earth,” joins Christiane Amanpour to discuss why it’s time to panic about climate change.

Read Transcript EXPAND

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: David Wallace-Wells, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: So, look, panic seems to be the operating motivational system of the day. We’ve just had Greta Thunberg, we’ve heard what she said. And now, you are essentially saying the same thing in a much larger and bigger, more scientific way. Is it time to be terrified? Is it time to embrace the nightmare and fix it?

WALLACE-WELLS: I think the science says that the future is going to be quite terrifying even if we move very aggressively on climate. And so, I almost don’t think it’s a rhetorical question, it’s just a matter of responding to the science as it comes out. We’re at one — about 1.1-degree of warming right now and it’s almost certain that we will be unable to avoid 2 degrees of warming. At that point, many of the ice sheets of the world will begin an irreversible melt and we’ll see as many as 200 million climate refugees, that’s the U.N. estimate not mine, 200 million. We’re on track to hit 4 degrees of warming by the end of the century. And if we get there, we’re talking about $600 trillion dollars in global climate damages, that’s double all the wealth that exists in the world today, twice as much war impacts on agriculture and the economy, which could be 20 percent smaller than it would be without climate change or possibly even smaller than that. So, we’re heading into some unprecedented climate — an unprecedented climate and we have not really begun to think about the way that that will affect how we live on this planet.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, look, you’ve just given us these figures and for many people it’s quite sort of — they don’t understand what does 1.5 degrees mean, what does 2 degrees mean and nobody quite understands the scope of that. So, currently, where are we, at 1.5?

WALLACE-WELLS: A little below that, 1.1 about. And it’s going to get considerably worse from here. If we end up at 4 degrees by the end of the century, California wildfires will burn 64 times as much land as they did this past year, when they build more than — burned more than a million acres. That’s just one figure.


WALLACE-WELLS: But everywhere you look, every aspect of life will be touched by this force.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour speaks with David Wallace-Wells about climate change and Washington Post columnist Jason Rezaian about his 544 day imprisonment in Tehran. Hari Sreenivasan speaks with actor James Spader about his role as one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives in the TV series “The Blacklist.”