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This Explorer Is Leading an Arctic Expedition to Show the Firsthand Effects of Climate Change

We chat with famed adventurer Sir Robert Swan about his upcoming journey to Antarctica that will use only renewable energy.
Image via 2041

Climate Week 2017 marked the launch of EV100, a global campaign to commit businesses to switching to electric means of transportation. The first ten members were announced including Baidu, Deutsche Post DHL Group, Heathrow Airport, HP Inc., IKEA Group, LeasePlan, METRO AG, PG&E, Unilever, Vattenfall.

To celebrate this step, VICE Impact, Formula E and The Climate Group organized an event called Velocity that gathered elected officials, business leaders, and activists to share their vision on how to accelerate climate action.


VICE impact met with a few of those officials, leaders, and activists to talk about the importance of Climate Week and EV100.

Today, in the second of three installments, we chat with polar explorer Robert Swan.

VICE Impact: What has your experience as a polar explorer taught you about climate change?

Robert Swan: Thirty years ago I was the first person, in history, to walk to the North and South Poles. And on those journeys we saw a few things that people are now taking seriously.

When we walked to the South Pole, we walked under a hole in the ozone layer. We walked across ice that was melting. And a couple of years ago, NASA came to me and said "Look, the Antarctic is starting to disintegrate. Areas of the Antarctic are gonna break off much faster than we anticipated. And why aren't people taking this seriously?"

So I have decided to embark on a new journey to Antarctica with my son, this time only relying on renewables. During this 60-day expedition, we're going to be launching a campaign called, "The South Pole Energy Challenge," which is a seven-year campaign to clean up 326 million tons of C02.

Rather than alerting people to the problem of climate change, we want to actually alert people to the solutions. We're gonna be creating the metrics to make that a reality, and hope we can get a message across to a whole different generation of people.

What message does an explorer bring to Climate Week in New York?


To come and see what people are really doing in the political and business world. I visited the United Nations yesterday in person, and it was quite depressing -- an awful lot of talk, very few solutions.

This is not about the inconvenient truth anymore. It's all about the convenient solutions that people can do with one click of a mouse. And there's lots of fantastic people out there scrolling through their phones, looking for hope, and they're not finding it. So, we must give people inspiration and things that they can actually do.

What about the launch of EV 100?

What we see here is a combination of industry and business that are talking about reality and money and costs. They're addressing the benefits to their businesses, to their customers, to their employees. That's what this is all about.

In sixty days time, we'll be at minus-40 degrees celsius. In a very dangerous position, surviving only on renewable energy. And if it doesn't work, we might not come home. I hope that people scrolling through life, might stop and see a picture of my son and I walking to the South Pole and say, "Wow, that looks a bit odd." And maybe then they do something.

Learn more about how to support the work of the Climate Group. If you want to support renewable energy in your hometown, support the Sierra Cub's Ready for 100 campaign.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.