Taylor Swift made headlines this week when she was named the ‘biggest celebrity carbon polluter of the year’.
Swift’s private jet operated 170 of the first 200 days of the year and emitted 8,293.54 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) — 1,184.8 times what a normal human emits in a year, according to a report by sustainable marketing firm Yard .
A rep for the Grammy winner said Swift’s jet is “regularly loaned out to other people” and “attributing most or all of those trips to her is patently wrong.”
However, many people have taken to Twitter to criticize them, with one claiming 170 flights is an “abhorrent amount in a short span of time”.
But does Swift really deserve this criticism?
In a new report, Northeastern University scientists argue that focusing on the carbon footprint of individual celebrities deflects responsibility from fossil fuel companies.
However, they said celebrities should still make climate-conscious travel choices to set an example for their followers.
Swift’s private jet operated 170 of the first 200 days of the year and emitted 8,293.54 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) — 1,184.8 times what a normal human emits in a year, according to a report by sustainable marketing firm Yard
|Surname||Number of flights in 2022||tons of CO2|
|Travis Scott||N / A||3,033|
In their new report, the researchers acknowledge that the Swift carbon emissions controversy was a great opportunity to draw attention to the ethics of flying.
dr Laura Kuhl, assistant professor of public policy and urban affairs and international affairs at Northeastern, said: “I think it’s great that attention is being paid to the issue of the ethical aspects of flying.
“The impact of flying, even if it’s commercial flights, is really, really high.”
While the majority (57 percent) of US traffic emissions come from cars, flights account for eight percent of emissions, according to the researchers.
Compared to commercial flights, private jets are very inefficient – both due to the length of the flights they typically operate and the number of passengers.
A rep for the Grammy winner said that Swift’s “jet is regularly loaned out to other people” and “attributing most or all of those trips to her is patently wrong.” Here she is pictured with her mother on their private jet
Companies with the highest emissions
Owned by Investors:
- Exxon Mobile
- In total
- BHP billion
- Saudi Arabia
- National Iranian Oil
- Coal India
- CNPC (PetroChina)
Source: Carbon Majors Report
dr Kuhl points out that many private jet flights are relatively short, with some, like Kylie Jenner’s flight on Sunday, lasting just a few minutes.
Most of the emissions come from take-off and landing, making these short flights particularly inefficient.
“There’s really no circumstance where flying is more efficient than driving,” said Dr. Cool.
But the researchers say that focusing on the carbon footprint of individual celebrities diverts responsibility from the main driver of carbon emissions – fossil fuel companies.
“It’s true that the majority of emissions are generated by a small number of fossil fuel companies driving the fossil fuel supply,” said Dr. Cool.
“In any case, we should not lose sight of the need to introduce regulations.”
A 2017 report titled Carbon Majors Report revealed that just 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global carbon emissions.
According to the report, companies like ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron have been the top emitting companies since 1988.
But instead of taking responsibility for those emissions, many of these companies are blaming consumers, according to Dr. Cool.
She highlights the fact that the term ‘carbon footprint’ was coined by British Petroleum in 2004 to describe how individual actions drive climate change.
“They wanted to push the issue on consumers with individual responsibility,” said Dr. Cool.
Overall, says Dr. Kuhl that she doesn’t see taking responsibility for CO2 emissions as an either/or situation.
“We have to approach it from all directions,” she said.
Alexandra Meise, Associate Teaching Professor at the Northeastern School of Law, added: “Individuals may not be able to make the same contribution, but that doesn’t mean that individuals can’t make a difference.
“If we are to meet the goals that experts say are necessary to keep global temperature rise below the magic 1.5 degrees Celsius they are calling for to avoid catastrophic consequences, then we really need everything we can get.”
WHAT PLANS DOES THE UK HAVE FOR NET ZERO CARBON EMISSIONS?
On June 12, 2019, Theresa May’s government unveiled plans to make the UK carbon neutral by 2050.
However, experts are concerned about how the proposals will work.
The report pledges to ensure that the UK’s emissions are offset by removing the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere.
This can be accomplished in two main ways – by planting more trees and by installing “carbon capture” technology at the source of the pollution.
Some critics fear that this first option will be used by the government to export its carbon offsets to other countries.
International carbon credits allow nations to continue emitting carbon while paying to have trees planted elsewhere to offset their emissions.
Some argue that the system is a way for developed countries to evade their environmental obligations by passing them on to poor and developing countries.