Why celebrity private jet travel is a climate nightmare


Music megastars Taylor Swift and Jay-Z are no strangers to being at the top of rankings. But recently the two Grammy-winning artists found themselves featured prominently on a new list: “Celebs with the Worst Private Jet Co2 Emissions.”

The analysis of flight data, which was published online Friday by a U.K.-based sustainability marketing agency, came on the heels of other big-name celebrities such as Kylie Jenner and Drake weathering intense public criticism after it was revealed that their emissions-spewing private jets logged trips as short as 17 minutes and 14 minutes, respectively.

Using data from a popular Twitter account that tracks flights of jets owned by famous people, the marketing agency found that so far this year, planes owned by celebrities emitted an average of more than 3,376 metric tons of CO2 — roughly 480 times more than an average person’s annual emissions. Swift’s jet was identified as the “biggest celebrity CO2e polluter this year so far,” racking up 170 flights since January with emissions totaling more than 8,293 metric tons, according to the analysis, which was not peer-reviewed. A plane owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather came in second, emitting about 7,076 metric tons of CO2, with one logged trip only lasting 10 minutes. Jay-Z’s jet was third with 136 flights totaling about 6,981 metric tons of emissions.

Kylie Jenner gets roasted for flaunting private jet in climate crisis

In a statement to The Washington Post, a spokesperson for Swift said, “Taylor’s jet is loaned out regularly to other individuals. To attribute most or all of these trips to her is blatantly incorrect.” Representatives for Mayweather and Jay-Z did not respond to requests for comment.

While the analysis notes that its list is “not conclusive” and there is “no way to determine if these celebrities were on all the recorded flights,” the authors emphasized that the purpose of the report is to “highlight the damaging impact of private jet usage” — a reality that is critically important for frequent fliers and the public to recognize, according to several experts who were not involved in studying the flight data. Many other people also often rely on private jets, including politicians, government officials, athletes, business executives and wealthy individuals.

“A short jump with a private jet requires lofting into the air a 10- to 20-ton jet and then moving it from point A to point B,” said Peter DeCarlo, an associate professor of environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins University who studies atmospheric air pollution. “I know no one likes being stuck in traffic, but you’re not launching your car into the air. … The act of taking a huge piece of metal and putting it up into the sky is going to be an enormous carbon footprint that’s really not necessary, especially for these kinds of short distances.”

And although DeCarlo and other experts acknowledged that a blanket ban on private jet travel, which can fill essential transportation needs in certain situations, isn’t the solution, they encouraged people — especially celebrities with significant social influence — to consider the environmental impact of their choices and the message they could be sending.

“There are valid statements that grounding private jets probably isn’t going to do what we need to head in the right direction regarding climate change, but it’s just really bad optics,” DeCarlo said. If people look up to celebrities as role models, “they want to emulate that behavior. Then, a private jet becomes a status symbol and something that people aspire to, and that’s not what we need right now in the context of climate.”

What is the environmental cost of taking a private jet?

A report published last year by Transport & Environment, a major European clean transport campaign group, found that a single private jet can emit 2 metric tons of CO2 in just an hour. To put that in context, the average person in the E.U. produces about 8.2 tons of emissions over the course of an entire year, according to the report.

But while these jets are often widely panned for their environmental impact, it’s important to think about their emissions relative to other forms of transportation, said Chris Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University.

Compared with fuel-efficient commercial planes and climate-friendly cars, such as hybrid or electric vehicles, the emissions per passenger mile are substantially higher for private jets, which typically carry few passengers and travel shorter distances, Field said. But, he noted, the fuel economy of a private jet with a reasonable number of passengers could be comparable to a single person driving a Ford F-150 pickup truck.

“There’s a certain level of environmental irresponsibility in one person driving an F-150, and certainly, you could say the same thing about business jet…

Read More: Why celebrity private jet travel is a climate nightmare

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