Pop culture enthusiasts across the world are in shock after a report from Yard, an environmentally conscious marketing agency, revealed their favorite stars’ private jet usage is contributing thousands of tons of carbon emissions yearly. Amid this revelation, we must ensure celebrities and public figures are held accountable for actively choosing to use climate-damaging transport.
At the top of Yard’s celebrity polluters was music star Taylor Swift, whose jet averaged over 170 flights this year alone. The average flight distance hovered around 139 miles which is less than half of 502 mile average for most commercial flights. While her publicist attributed Swift’s emissions to loaning out the private jet, it’s hardly justification for the nearly 8,300 tons of carbon her plane has released into the environment.
Swift is an egregious climate offender: her output stands over 1,000 more tons of carbon than the second highest celebrity offender, Floyd Mayweather — even though Mayweather has taken the most flights this year out of any other celebrity. The famed boxer also holds the title for the shortest recorded trip, a 10-minute flight to Las Vegas that emitted 1 ton of carbon.
What is most glaring about the data is what these celebrities use their jets for. Many of them do use them for cross-country flights or intercontinental travel, but most of them average less than 100 minutes or 200 miles in the air. Swift averages about 80 minutes of flight time, or 139 miles. A car ride of the same distance would amount to about two and a half hours and only be 6 percent of a ton, according to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. A plane ride of the same distance would emit at least a ton of CO2. Surely a tour bus or private limo could provide the same level of comfort without the obscene pollution.
Aviation is responsible for only 2.4 percent of carbon emissions yearly but that doesn’t mean reducing its impact is a futile effort. If flying less or flying on commercial flights can reduce that number in any way, it’s worth the effort. Climate change is steadily affecting the availability of crops and contributing to natural disasters, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
Private jets aren’t the only way celebrities attribute excessively to carbon emission. When cryptocurrencies were the zeitgeist of 2021, actors like Matt Damon hopped on the chance to promote and make use of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency markets for their own profit. Cryptocurrency eats up a huge amount of energy, so much so that Texas opted to limit cryptocurrency transactions so the power grid could remain stable during the recent heat waves. For celebrities like Damon, celebrating cryptocurrency was an easy advertisement gig and an investment, when in reality it represents a lack of concern for those directly affected by climate change and cryptocurrency’s obscene power usage.
Once the climate controversy surrounding these celebrities drifts back into the periphery, there should still be a stigma about how they flaunt their unhealthy wealth. Yard’s story came weeks after Kylie Jenner shared an Instagram post where she posed in front of two private jets with co-parent Travis Scott. She captioned the post, “you wanna take mine or yours?” This ideological exceptionalism regarding the climate extends to those who can afford not to care.
Bill Gates released a book last year titled “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster” despite admitting that traveling on private jets is his “guilty pleasure.” Gates owns a fleet of private jets that he uses liberally while calling for climate conservation.
Blatant pride in actively harming the environment is the ultimate example of the upper-class obliviousness toward the consequences of excess. It’s a trend that is echoed far beyond individuals: 90 companies are responsible for two-thirds of the world’s carbon emissions, according to Science Magazine.
Personal responsibility is key in the fight against climate change. Constantly the average citizen is encouraged to turn off the lights, recycle and carpool their way to a greener tomorrow. All these things are valuable and necessary, but environmentalism and accountability doesn’t stop at a certain level of income.
Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla