Singer Taylor Swift Photo: AFP
From a 14-minute flight on Drake’s private plane to Taylor Swift’s carbon footprint, celebrities are struggling to shrug off a firestorm over their jet emissions amid the climate crisis.
The anger erupted in July when reality star Kylie Jenner shared a picture of her and her partner, rapper Travis Scott, in front of two jets with her 364million Instagram users with the caption, “Want to take mine or yours?”
Critics on social media were quick to attack Jenner, calling her a “climate criminal.”
Then last week, British sustainability marketing firm Yard named and shamed the “worst private jet carbon polluters” among celebrities.
US pop star Taylor Swift, who is usually used to topping the music charts, topped the unenviable list, sparking a spate of outrage, memes and jokes on social media that she was using her jet to fetch food .
Their jet has flown 170 times since January, with total flight emissions for the year reaching 8,293.54 tons, or 1,184.8 times more than the average person, Yard said.
Boxer Floyd Mayweather came in second, followed by rapper Jay-Z.
Jenner’s half-sister, reality TV star Kim Kardashian, took seventh place after recently flaunting her jet’s cashmere-clad interior. Rapper Scott was 10th, while Jenner herself was 19th.
Yard warned that his list is “inconclusive for top offenders” because it’s based on the Celebrity Jets Twitter account, which uses public data to track the flights. It was also impossible to determine if the stars were on all recorded flights.
“Taylor’s jet is regularly loaned to other people,” Swift’s publicist told the media.
“Ascribing most or all of these voyages to her is obviously wrong.”
While Drake escaped the top 10 list, the Canadian rapper faced heat on a 14-minute flight between Toronto and Hamilton in July, particularly after he said the “Air Drake” plane was empty.
“It’s just them taking planes to the airport where they’re stored, for anyone interested in the logistics… nobody’s taking that flight,” he said on Instagram.
“It’s even worse when it’s flying empty,” said Beatrice Jarrige, long-haul mobility project manager at Shift Project, a nonprofit focused on climate change.
Aviation is responsible for 2-3 percent of carbon emissions.
But a report by Transport & Environment, a European non-governmental organization, showed in May that the carbon footprint of private jets is five to 14 times higher per passenger than commercial flights and 50 times higher than that of train drivers.
“We’re allowing people to fly with climate bombs,” said William Todts, executive director of the Clean Transport Campaign Group.
Private jet use has risen sharply since the coronavirus pandemic, with wealthier customers trying to avoid cancellations.
Private jet flights increased 7 percent in 2021 compared to 2019, according to aeronautics data research firm WingX.
In Europe, celebrities using private jets could instead use the continent’s vast train network for most of their trips, Todts said.
Airplanes “like taxis”
The Celebrity Jets account was created in 2020 by 19-year-old student Jack Sweeney after he began following Elon Musk’s private jet.
He now has 30 accounts tracking sports stars, meta boss Mark Zuckerberg.
Sweeney has inspired copycat accounts.
Sebastien, a 35-year-old aerospace engineer who refused to give his real name, created the “I Fly Bernard” account in April, which tracks flights by French billionaires, including Bernard Arnault, head of luxury giant LVMH.
“What I want to condemn is their use of private jets like taxis,” he said, noting their numerous domestic and European flights.
Arnault has not yet responded to the online criticism.
Jarrige hopes the anger on social media will translate into political action.
“It’s not about banning such flights completely, but the richest have to make an effort to be more cautious,” she said, calling for more investment in the railways.
Todts said celebrities could and should do more to encourage the development of biofuels instead of kerosene.
“If they actually use their energy to buy clean fuels, that would encourage industry to develop them,” he said.
The commercial aviation sector said in 2021 that sustainable fuels are “key” to the carbon neutrality goals it has set for 2050.