Taylor Swift’s excessive private jet usage: can celebrities ever be stopped?

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It is not shocking when Taylor Swift hits the top of yet another chart, but who expected her to take the lead in celebrity CO2 emissions? According to a recent report by UK digital marketing firm, Yard, Taylor Swift’s private jet usage in 2022 so far has emitted approximately 8,300 tonnes of CO2, closely followed by celebrities such as Drake, Kim Kardashian, and Floyd Mayweather. 

Some celebrities in question, namely Swift, have disputed the claims and denied full responsibility for such emissions. Her team responded that Taylor’s jet is ‘loaned out regularly to other people’ as an attempt to offset attribution of all the emissions to her personal flights. Yet, does that really justify the environmental harm irrevocably caused? Regardless of whether it may or not be all due to Taylor’s extravagant jet trips, her jet has flown a grand total of 170 flights in only 200 days.

Adding to the unnecessarily excessive use of private jets, what came as a greater shock is the unashamedly short flight times recorded in the report. Mayweather’s shortest flight was 10 minutes to reach Las Vegas and Steven Spielberg’s was an 18-minute flight from Amsterdam to Rotterdam. From this data, it has become clear that several celebrities opt for the easier luxury alternative of flying as opposed to even considering environmentally conscious alternatives. It is not a lack of education, or a lack of awareness, and certainly not a lack of financial means that is causing these skyrocketing emissions — it is sheer indifference. 

These report numbers mock the empty promises made by celebrities in the public eye

Of course, celebrities are not the biggest climate culprits in comparison to conglomerate leaders and government officials. However, there is something particularly hypocritical about celebrities using every chance to take their private jet and yet still insisting on decorating their award show speeches with themes of climate change awareness. These report numbers mock the empty promises made by celebrities in the public eye in order to maintain their greenwashed image. 

The celebrity ranking angle employed by Yard definitely fulfilled their aim of highlighting the “damaging impact of private jet usage” when considering the public reaction. More so than private jet usage and the need for more stringent policies regarding air travel, people are understandably more sickened by the striking difference between the average person’s annual emissions of seven tonnes of CO2 and Swift’s 8,300 tonnes. News outlets have exploited this difference with headlines like Condé Nast’s “Taylor Swift’s emissions are 1000 times worse than yours”.  

Such media coverage that purposely highlights the glaring difference between the individual emissions of a wealthy and average person causes two major public reactions. The first is one of hostility: ‘So Taylor can fly off on her jet, but I’m forced to use paper straws?’. The second is one of helplessness: ‘Are the environmentally conscious actions I am taking ever going to make a difference when celebrities have blatantly high emissions?’. Both these reactions to comparing individual emissions ultimately lead to a relapse into inaction. 

We should resist allowing their individual dismissive actions to develop into a widespread indifference

I personally stick by the climate activist’s, Gernot Wagner’s, opinion that the “rich need to lead” by setting an example and maximise their efforts in decarbonisation. It is undeniable that celebrities can have power and influence over the public through their actions; however, we should resist allowing their individual dismissive actions to develop into a widespread indifference to climate change. We must shift away from the narrative that only focuses on how much worse Taylor Swift’s or Drake’s CO2 emissions are compared to ours. Rather, this report is the perfect opportunity to put the spotlight on possible solutions and generate public pressure for celebrities to comply with these solutions.

One of those solutions is carbon offsetting. Although it was criticized by George Monbiot as the equivalent to the ancient Catholic Church practice of ‘selling indulgences’ as individual sins were lessened by financial donations, celebrity investment in carbon offsetting schemes is nevertheless a practical method of neutralizing CO2 flight emissions. As celebrities have the means to do so, offsetting ensures they pay to have a quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere removed, whether it is by installing green technology in developing countries, contributing to wind turbine farms or mass tree planting. Offsetting is not a direct replacement for lowering individual emissions and is not a licence to continue high private jet usage; however, it is a short-term solution that brings about real change. I, for one, would like to see the list of celebrities who have taken the steps to counter their preposterous flight habits. 

Image: Kim_R_Hunter via Pixabay

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