Sailing: America's Cup heroes Peter Burling, Blair Tuke call for athletes to battle against climate change

Champion sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have conquered the world, but it's one they're desperately trying to conserve, as they call for Kiwi athletes to use their voices towards one of the planet's greatest issues.

They believe not enough of their contemporaries are capitalising on their platforms to make an impact on climate change.

"You can't talk about climate change or climate action without talking about the ocean," Tuke told Newshub.

Climate change is an issue the pair want to see more athletes speak up on.

"I don't think it's just athletes," said Burling. "Everyone's got to be part of the solution, if we're going to make a change, and sport's just a great way of connecting people to these issues and getting them to buy into making decisions to be part of that change."

To that end, the America's Cup champions and Olympic gold medallists founded Live Ocean in 2019.

"You're now starting to see athletes around the world, while they're still competing, having a voice and trying to make real change, because the opportunity's so big to connect and ignite people around really important issues," said Tuke.

They aren't the only ones using their platforms for climate action. Among those who would like to see others suit is one of the All Blacks' greatest adversaries.

Sixteen months ago, former Wallabies captain David Pocock, now a senator in Canberra, spearheaded a 'Who's Who' of Australian sport,  as they penned an open letter, encouraging bold action.

"I feel like sport's at its best when it's challenging society to be more inclusive and think about issues,” said Pocock.

David Pocock attends an Australian parliamentary summit
David Pocock attends an Australian parliamentary summit. Photo credit: Getty Images

Those issues include flooding and rising temperatures.

Last year was the hottest year on record, taking that dubious distinction from 2021. The average temperature was 1.2 degrees warmer than normal (13.8 degrees Celcius), while last winter was the warmest and wettest on record.

"Climate change is already having a big impact on sport and it's only going to get worse," said Pocock. "It's going to affect how and when our sports can be played."

As a result, AFL and Australian cricket are among sports to start their own foundations. Tuke would like to see something similar in New Zealand.

"I think sportspeople here in New Zealand definitely have a big opportunity," he said.

Pocock concedes it can be a tough position for athletes.

"You immediately open yourself up to a whole bunch of criticism, which always starts with 'just stick to sport'," he said

But Burling and Tuke are refusing to listen.

"I think the more people that understand what's going on out there... we genuinely need to do something to create change," said Burling. "You look at some of the modelling of where things could head, it's a pretty scary world."

It's a planet they dearly want to help save.