Using data from a popular twitter account Following the flights of celebrity jets, the marketing agency found that celebrity planes have emitted an average of more than 3,376 tons of CO2 so far this year – about 480 times the annual emissions of an average person. Swift’s jet has been identified as the “biggest prominent CO2e polluter so far this year,” according to the non-peer-reviewed analysis, having completed 170 flights totaling emissions of more than 8,293 tons since January. A plane owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather took second place, emitting about 7,076 tons of CO2, with a logged trip taking just 10 minutes. Jay-Z’s jet took third place with 136 flights and a total of about 6,981 tons of emissions.
In a statement to The Washington Post, a Swift spokesperson said, “Taylor’s jet is regularly loaned to other people. Attributing most or all of these trips to her is flagrantly wrong.” Representatives for Mayweather and Jay-Z did not respond to requests for comment.
While the analysis notes that their list is “non-exhaustive” and there is “no way to determine whether these celebrities were on all recorded flights,” the authors emphasized that the report’s purpose is to “explain the harmful effects of the private jet.” to highlight usage” — a reality that is critical to frequent flyers and the public, according to several experts not involved in examining the flight data. Many other people also often rely on private jets, including politicians, government officials, athletes, business people and wealthy individuals.
“A short jump in a private jet involves lifting a 10 to 20 ton jet into the air and then moving it from point A to point B,” he said Peter DeCarlo, an associate professor of environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins University who studies atmospheric air pollution. “I know nobody likes being stuck in traffic, but you don’t blow up your car. … The act of taking a huge piece of metal and lifting it up into the sky is going to leave a huge carbon footprint that really isn’t necessary, especially for these sorts of short distances.”
And while DeCarlo and other experts conceded that a blanket ban on private jet travel, which can meet essential transportation needs in certain situations, isn’t the solution, they encouraged people — particularly celebrities with significant social influence — to consider the environmental impact of their travel decisions and the message they could send.
“There’s valid evidence that grounding private jets probably won’t do what we need to move in the right direction on climate change, but it’s just really bad optics,” DeCarlo said. When people look up to celebrities as role models, “they want to emulate that behavior. Then a private jet becomes a status symbol and something people aspire to, and we don’t need that in the climate context right now.”
What are the environmental costs of 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 two tonnes of CO2 in just one hour. To put this into perspective, the average person in the EU emits around 8.2 tonnes over the course of a whole year, according to the report.
But while these jets are often widely scrutinized for their environmental impact, it’s important to think about their emissions compared to other modes of transportation, he said Chris FeldDirector of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University.
Compared to fuel-efficient commercial aircraft and climate-friendly cars like hybrid or electric vehicles, emissions per passenger-mile are significantly higher for private jets, which typically carry fewer passengers and fly shorter distances, Field said. But he noted that the fuel economy of a private jet with a reasonable number of passengers could be comparable to that of a single person driving a Ford F-150.
“There is a certain level of environmental irresponsibility in a person who drives an F-150, and the same could certainly be said of business jet travel,” he added.
The environmental concerns about private jets stem largely from how common they have become and how they are used, for example to make short trips or fly empty planes to more convenient runways, he said Colin Murphy, associate director of the Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy at the University of California at Davis. Private jet users not only travel extensively, “but also generally do so less efficiently than if they were in a bus seat on a 777 or any of the traditional airliners.”
A short trip in a private jet emphasizes “the least efficient parts of the airplane’s work cycle,” Murphy said, noting that a huge amount of fuel is burned during takeoff and makes an airplane high. “You have all the emissions from taxiing, warming up the engines and starting and climbing and not as much from cruising where you’re actually going distance.”
In response to criticism of flights lasting less than 20 minutes, rapper Drake said commented on Instagramwrites, “It’s just them getting planes to the airport where they’re stored, for anyone interested in the logistics… nobody’s taking that flight.”
But moving planes without passengers is another “really troublesome use” of private jets, Murphy said.
“What you’re doing is you’re burning many hundreds or thousands of gallons of jet fuel to save a truckload of people or a few truckloads of people a few hours,” he said. “Is that really the compromise we want to say is acceptable in a world where climate change is no longer a future crisis but a current crisis?”
How do private jets differ from commercial flights?
According to experts, smaller planes generally have worse fuel economy than larger planes. “A fully loaded 737 has about the same emissions per person-mile as an efficient car like a Prius,” Murphy said.
While larger airliners use more fuel, they often carry many more people, and all passengers on the flight share the total fuel burn for the trip, DeCarlo said. But remember, Field said, a first or business class seat can often have a higher carbon footprint compared to an economy seat.
However, a major advantage of private flying is convenience.
“We live in a society where, among the very wealthy, convenience trumps everything else,” Field said, “and we would all benefit if we kept the emphasis on convenience in balance.”
Should private jets be banned?
Getting rid of private jets is not the answer to our climate problems, experts said. Although per-person emissions from private travel are high, they’re still not as significant as those produced by the much larger commercial airline industry, DeCarlo said.
There are also situations in which such air travel is necessary, for example in the case of medical emergencies or the transport of organ donations, says Field. “Sometimes having the right team in the right place at the right time is really crucial, and that’s exactly what business jets can do.”
Instead of banning private jets, experts say it might be more effective to examine regulations or policies aimed at reducing the number of unnecessary trips.
“You can think of political levers that force you to avoid it, you can think of economic levers that would just make it so expensive it’s not worth it, or regulatory things that make it so troublesome,” he said . “I’m for anything effective to reduce the really frivolous trips without eliminating the trips that really make a difference.”
There’s probably no merit in “demonizing business jets,” Field said. Rather, people should take responsibility for their actions and include the ecological footprint of their actions in their decision-making.
How can private flights become more sustainable?
While electric aircraft prototypes are still being developed, private and commercial aviation should benefit from high-quality carbon offsets and more sustainable kerosene alternatives made from biomass, algae or plants, Field said. Currently, most of these fuels are generally better than petroleum, but Murphy noted, “They are not zero-emissions.”
In addition to reducing travel, private jet users should also consider changing the way they fly, Field said. Longer flights with more passengers can contribute to overall efficiency, he said, and flying direct rather than stopping for connecting flights can make a difference.
Although finding a long-term sustainable solution for private and commercial air travel is only one piece of the puzzle, experts encouraged aviators to do their part.
“It’s going to be really hard to imagine a world where we’re largely managing to limit climate change to not that many degrees above historical averages if people are still flying around in private jets fueled by oil at current speeds be,” Murphy said.