Why private jet travel for celebrities is a climate nightmare

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Music stars Taylor Swift and Jay-Z are no strangers to the top of the rankings. But recently, the two Grammy Award-winning artists have found themselves featured prominently in a new list: “Celebrities with the Worst Private Jet CO2 Emissions.”

The analysis of the flight data, which was posted online on Friday by a UK-based sustainable marketing agency, followed other celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Drake, who faced heavy public criticism after it was revealed that their emissions are private. The planes recorded flights as short as 17 minutes and 14 minutes, respectively.

Use of data from a The famous Twitter account Tracking the flights of celebrity-owned jets, the marketing agency found that so far this year, celebrity-owned jets have released an average of more than 3,376 metric tons of carbon dioxide — nearly 480 times the average person’s annual emissions. Identified as the “biggest known CO2 polluter of the year to date,” the Swift has flown 170 flights since January with emissions totaling more than 8,293 metric tons, according to the analysis, which has not been peer-reviewed. The plane, owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather, came in second, emitting about 7,076 metric tons of carbon dioxide, with one recorded flight lasting just 10 minutes. The Jay-Z took third place with 136 flights totaling about 6,981 metric tons of emissions.

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In a statement to The Washington Post, a Swift spokesperson said: “The Taylor plane is regularly loaned to other individuals. Attributing most or all of these flights to it 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 that “there is no way to determine whether these celebrities were on board all recorded flights,” the authors emphasized that the report’s purpose was to “highlight the adverse impact of private aircraft use” – a very important fact. For frequent flyers and for the public to learn about, according to several experts who were not involved in the flight data study. Many other people often rely on private jets, including politicians, government officials, athletes, businessmen, and the wealthy.

“A short jump in a private jet requires lifting a 10- to 20-ton jet into the air and then moving it from point A to point B,” said Peter DiCarlo, associate professor of environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Air pollution studies. “I know no one likes to be stuck in traffic, but you don’t launch your car into the air. … Taking a huge piece of metal and putting it in the sky would be a massive carbon footprint that isn’t really necessary, especially for these kinds of short distances.”

And while DeCarlo and other experts acknowledge that a blanket ban on private jet travel, which can meet basic transportation needs in certain situations, is not the answer, they encouraged people — especially celebrities with significant social influence — to consider their environmental impact. Options and the message they can send.

“There are valid statements that grounded private jets probably won’t do what we need to go in the right direction with respect to climate change, but it’s just really bad optics,” DiCarlo said. If people view celebrities as role models, “they want to emulate that behavior. Then, the private jet becomes a status symbol and something that people aspire to, and that is not what we need now in the context of climate.”

What is the environmental cost of flying in a private jet?

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

Chris Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University, said that while these aircraft are often widely criticized for their environmental impact, it is important to consider their emissions relative to other forms of transportation.

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

“There is a certain level of environmental irresponsibility with one person flying an F-150, and you can certainly say the same about traveling on a business jet,” he added.

Environmental concerns about private jets largely stem from how common they are and how they are used, for example, taking short flights or flying empty planes to more convenient airstrips, said Colin Murphy, deputy director of the Policy Institute for Energy. Environment and Economics at the University of California, Davis. Not only do users of private jets travel a lot, “but they generally do so in a less efficient manner than if they were sitting in a coach seat on a 777 or any of the traditional commercial aircraft.”

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A quick flight on a private jet confirms the “least efficient parts of the aircraft’s duty cycle,” Murphy said, noting that a huge amount of fuel is burned during takeoff and ascent. “You have all the emissions from the taxis, the heating of the engines and the take-off and climbing and not a lot of cruises where you really go the distance.”

Responding to criticism about flights that lasted less than 20 minutes, rapper Drake commented on Instagram, “These are just taking planes to whatever airport they’re stowed in for anyone interested in logistics… Nobody takes that flight.”

But Murphy said transporting planes without passengers is “another really problematic use” of private jets.

“What you do is you burn hundreds or thousands of gallons of jet fuel to save a car load of people or a few cars loaded with people for a few hours,” he said. “Is this really the trade-off we want to say is acceptable in a world where climate change is no longer a future crisis, but a crisis now?”

How do private jets compare to commercial flights?

In general, smaller aircraft have less fuel than larger aircraft, according to experts. “A fully loaded 737 has roughly the same emissions per passenger mile as an efficient vehicle like the Prius,” Murphy said.

DiCarlo said that while larger commercial aircraft require more fuel, they often carry more people, and all passengers on the flight share the overall fuel consumption of the flight. But keep in mind, Field said, that sitting in first or business class can have a higher carbon footprint compared to an economy seat.

Despite this, one of the main advantages of private flying is comfort.

“We live in a society where the comfort type among the very wealthy trumps everything else, and we would all benefit from keeping the focus on fit in perspective,” Field said.

Should private jets be banned?

Experts have said getting rid of private jets is not the answer to our climate problem. DiCarlo said that while everyone’s emissions from private travel are significant, they are still not as important as what the much larger commercial airline industry produces.

Furthermore, there are situations where this type of air travel is necessary, such as for medical emergencies or the transportation of organ donations, Field says. “Sometimes it’s really important to get the right team to the right place at the right time, and that’s what business jets can do.”

Rather than banning private jets, experts said it might be more effective to explore regulations or policies geared toward reducing the amount of nonessential travel.

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“You can imagine the policy tools that would force them to avoid, and you could imagine the economic levers that would make them too expensive to be worth it or the kind of regulatory stuff that would make them such a hassle,” Field said. “I support everything that is effective to really reduce frivolous travel without eliminating travel that really makes a difference.”

Field said there may be no point in “demonizing business jets”. Instead, he said, people should take responsibility for their actions and factor the environmental impact of what they do into decision-making.

How can private flights be more sustainable?

While electric aircraft prototypes are still being developed, private and commercial aviation should benefit from higher-quality carbon offsets and more sustainable alternatives to jet fuel made from biomass, algae or plants, Field said. At present, most of these fuels are generally better than petroleum, but Murphy noted, “They are not zero emissions.”

Field said that in addition to reducing flights, private jet users should consider changing the way they fly. He said long-haul flights carrying more passengers could help with overall efficiency, and flying direct rather than laying down for connections could make a difference.

Although finding a sustainable long-term solution to private and commercial air travel is just one piece of the puzzle, experts have encouraged publications to do their part.

“It would be really hard to imagine a world in which we are largely successful in limiting climate change to not much more than historical averages, while people are still flying in private jets fueled by petroleum at the current rate,” Murphy said.


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