Julian Carr Interview | We Meet the Skier Aiming to Change American Perceptions on Climate Change

Cliff-dropping king Julian Carr is hoping to drive the topic into the US national narrative...

Julian Carr ski hiking to the peak of Mount Superior. Photo: Scott Markewitz

In 2017 the Super Bowl had a total global audience of 172 million people. It’s reported that 70 percent of households in the USA watched the Super Bowl; that the 2017 edition was the third biggest TV audience in history, and that the Super Bowl has been the most watched US TV broadcast for eight years in a row.

It’s also reported that more 18-30 year olds tune in to watch the Super Bowl for the commercials than they do for the game. That’s why professional skier Julian Carr wants to utilise the platform to air a commercial about climate change which he believes could serve as a huge – and long overdue – wake up call to America.

The only problem is the price tag. He needs to raise 5.5 million dollars to do it first – and he’s created a Kickstarter for exactly that reason.

“I’ve seen and been lucky enough to go to quite a few talks by some of the leading planet scientists and the common theme when I’m at any of these talks is – ‘our message and data never reach a mass body’,” he tells us.

“97% of scientists are aligned that this isn’t a far-off topic or a maybe topic. Their data is conclusive. So I thought how about we get humanity’s biggest issue in front of humanity’s biggest audience. And these days that’s the Super Bowl.

Headshot, Julian Carr. Photo by: Jana Rogers

“The 18-30 year old generation – more people actually tune in to watch the Super Bowl for the commercials than the actual game. It’s this odd narrative in the United States that there’s so much media around the Super Bowl commercials that even the next week or two after the Super Bowl, there’s countless articles and media covering the commercials and the favourite and controversial commercials. I think that’s the perfect platform to put together a commercial to scream the scientist’s data.”

Carr is no stranger to the topic. The skier – famous for once dropping a 210ft cliff on skis – is an ambassador for both the Jeremy Jones-founded Protect Our Winters and Al Gore-founded Climate Reality Project.

He’s also managed to get advertising agency Goodby Silverstein on board to produce the advert for free should the crowdfunder be successful. They’ve done adverts for everyone from Budweiser to Doritos in the past.

But does he really believes that it’s possible to raise so much money?

“I do,” Julian says. “A large majority of the US care deeply about these topics so we need to get aligned with these people and if we can then they’re going to want to get this into the national narrative.

“There might be a five percent chance it goes viral but I’m a this pro skier, a cliff-guy who drops the biggest cliffs in the world, I’m working with one of the best ad agencies in the world, who are going to do it pro bono, and it’s the Super Bowl – it’s got all the ingredients for it to be a headliner and if there’s even a one percent change of it succeeding then it’s absolutely a project we should be persuing.”

We ask what exactly the aim of the advert would be if all did go to plan, and how it would make people care about climate change if they are currently of the belief that it doesn’t even exist.

Carr admits the focus would not only be on raising awareness in the US, but as a call to action to do something about it led by driving home the harsh truths of the research.

Julian casually dropping off a 210 foot cliff in Engelberg, Switzerland. Photo by: Oskar Enander.

“I don’t know if the majority of these people realise that we’re the only country that’s not in the Paris Agreement. And that’s ridiculous. And I don’t think quite a lot of people know what that means if you live in Louisiana or Florida or California. The coastlines will change and it will be insane.

“A big part of it is to show the reality. There’s carbon isotope graphs you can look at – when people [climate change deniers] say ‘this is part of Earth’s cycle, it goes up and down’ – you can study those carbon graphs, and they are up and down but they’re a really consistent reading machine for the past 800,000 or so years, and then the past 20 years it shoots straight up off the charts like it’s never happened before. We are contributing to that.

“Pop culture has an appeal but the advert would also be dire; a slap in the face to show people that if you think it’s a non-issue and you’ve dismissed climate change as totally bullshit – this is what you’re going to deal with and this is what your children are going to be dealing with. I want it to be a shake up in the national narrative. It has to be something that leaves a deep sense that it’s up to us and we have to do something about it.

“It’s a really easy analogy to say that smoking cigarettes is bad for you. Our planet is essentially smoking cigarettes like crazy. So why not make the world a better place? Let’s get the planet off cigarettes.”

Julian dropping more cliffs. Photo: Bruno Long.

The obvious question to ask a professional skier of course, is if he feels like he’s seen the effects of climate change first hand over the years in the mountains.

While highlighting some interesting points, Julian is measured in his answer and focuses more on the bigger picture.

“There’s more severity,” he says. “Here in the North West, in the United States two years ago, our number one resort that gets the most snowfall annually is Mt. Baker. They average 641 inches of snowfall a year and they closed in March because they didn’t have snow, and then last year we had one of the biggest winters I’ve ever seen – in Utah and in other places actually, and this year we’re having one of the worst, low-tide winters I’ve seen.

“I find that it’s pretty easy to say you can see the effects but I just look at some of the amazing documentaries like ‘Chasing Ice’ in Greenland, where they actually show you how fast ice is melting. Also looking at radars which show the polar ice caps and how they used to freeze completely before the year 2000 but now are not. Looking at polar bears, looking at the sea legacy project – to me there are more conclusive ways to see than me as a pro skier saying that I’m seeing the effects.

“I’m travelling at high alpine at places which typically have consistent snow so it’s hard for me to definitively say that that’s an effect of climate change but I will say that it’s pretty inconsistent and the severity seems to be changing. I have a limited scope and limited ability to provide a conclusive answer to that, but there are conclusive places you can look.”

Next up for Julian is a month-long ski trip to the powder of Japan. With the Super Bowl looming though, it will be interesting to see how the campaign gets along. At the very least, as the skier highlights, he will have brought the conversation back into the public eye once more.

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