How Bad Are Taylor Swift's Private Jet Emissions? An Expert Explains. – VICE

The normie queen of pop’s been in the news a lot of late, and loads of that’s been to do with her bloody private jets. She’s got two, or at least she did before she reportedly sold one of them in January (presumably to take the heat off the fact that she is killing off the planet at a new and exciting clip!). On Tuesday, she made the headline for allegedly suing Jack Sweeney, the college student famed for tracking Elon Musk’s jet locations as well as Swift’s. 
Swift’s attorney whacked Sweeney with a cease-and-desist letter in December, according to the Washington Post. Sweeney told the Post that he figured it was a scare tactic. I know she’s got an army of fans that can tremble the actual Earth, and ruin anyone’s life, but obviously these are the kind of morally deficient legal last resorts of an evil corporation, not America’s sweetheart – but what do I know!
This weekend Swift will be travelling from Tokyo, where she’s performing her Eras tour, to Las Vegas, to watch her boyfriend Travis Kelce in the Superbowl on Sunday. We wanted to learn how environmentally bad all of this jetsetting is, and what good can come of her actually offsetting all that CO2. So we spoke to an expert in carbon footprint measurement, Austin Whitman, who is the CEO of The Change Climate Project, a non-profit that offers climate certification labeling and tools to help businesses in their reductions journey.
VICE: Hi Austin! So, what’s the extent to which Taylor Swift could even offset her PJ flying miles if she even wanted to? Surely her carbon footprint is astronomical.
Austin Whitman:
The most recent estimates were somewhere on the order of 8,000-10,000 tonnes (of CO2 per year), which is just an eye-popping number of emissions when you think about one person. Those of us in extremely wealthy countries are on the order of 20-30 tonnes. Folks who are in much less developed countries are well under one tonne of emissions per year. So, order of magnitude, you’re talking about companies, not individuals, when you get into the 8,000-10,000 tonne range. You’re talking about a company with $25 million of revenues or something. 
I mean, is she even trying to offset it? 
She buys carbon offsets. But we always think of carbon credits as the very first thing you should do, but not the last thing you do. You should do it and say, “Oh, yes, by the way, I bought carbon credits. But here’s the remainder of the value that I’m bringing to the climate movement by…” If you’re a company: lobbying; if you’re an individual: building your peer network; if you’re Taylor Swift: using the massive power of your social media platform and followers. She’s like the butterfly that flaps its wings and then the entire forest falls down, right? She has so much power over the way people think.
One of her planes recently flew 37 minutes between New Jersey and Baltimore. That apparently produced roughly three tonnes of CO2. If we take that to be true, what might she need to do to offset that?
The simplest answer is she would go to the voluntary carbon market and find a provider of carbon credits and buy and retire three carbon credits. How much those carbon credits cost and what they’re doing for the world is sort of a different story. If you ask me what all companies should be doing around air travel, it’s actually not buying carbon credits, it’s investing in sustainable aviation fuel credits because that’s the only way to decarbonize the airline sector. 
But let’s stick with carbon credits for a minute. She should buy three tonnes of carbon credits, and she should buy high-quality carbon credits as opposed to carbon credits from 15 years ago that are listed on a registry that doesn’t actually do much to check the validity of those credits. She could theoretically buy carbon credits for $1.50 each, which would cost her $4.50 for each of those trips. That would not exactly be exemplary behaviour, but she could do that, retire those credits and then say, ”I offset the emissions from those trips.” A far better way to do it would be to go out and see what projects are worth supporting.
Just how destructive exactly is her private jet usage? 
I think colossally bad. Let’s do some quick math – and this is just emissions from her flying, like people have other footprints, other sources of emissions – but if it’s 8,000 tonnes per year, there’s almost 9 billion people in the world. So if everybody in the world had emissions at that level, global carbon emissions would be 2,057 times higher than they are today. So, it’s colossally bad. 
What do you make of celebrities making the argument that it’s not safe for to fly on commercial airlines with civilians?
I’m not a personal security expert, but knowing how people treat flight attendants on airplanes, I’m guessing that statement is not at all untrue. Right now, the entire MAGA faction in the US thinks that Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce are a fictitious relationship created by the Democratic Party. If people believe that and if she stepped on an airplane with somebody who’s likely to assault a flight attendant, you can only imagine what that person’s going to do to her.
That’s fair! But! Coldplay planned their entire world tour to minimise air travel and optimise the shipping of their stage equipment to decrease emissions. So she could try a bit harder, maybe?
She could. I don’t know how many people would recognise Chris Martin in a crowd versus Taylor Swift.
True.
He can probably blend into a crowd more easily. But I think you’re raising an interesting question, which is: Do celebrities have a moral obligation to minimise emissions from events like this? If I were Taylor Swift, what would I do? Yes, I’d buy carbon credits; I’d buy the highest quality carbon credits I could find, I’m a billionaire. Would I travel private? Probably, because I think it would be a nuisance to have to worry about my security on regular airplanes. Would I influence my millions of fans and followers by talking about climate change? Absolutely. A couple years ago, she said something about the importance of voting and I think got 3-5 million young people to register just from one Instagram post. That just shows the power of her influence. 
What are the other, better ways that Swift might better offset her emissions?
People are familiar with carbon footprint. But your “climate shadow” is a nice concept that people have been talking more and more about, which is to say, what are the ways in which I’m influencing the world around me when it comes to climate? The precedent that you set when you just fly unabashedly on a private jet, it’s a negative influence. It’s a terrible climate shadow. Conversely, what she could do as an influencer is way more powerful than the negative impact of her carbon emissions. Literally, she could send one Instagram post and change enough behaviour to well outweigh 8,000 tonnes of carbon emissions – that’s the real power that she has.
This is the opportunity that’s being served up to her. This opportunity wouldn’t have existed 10 years ago – celebrity flight shaming. The opportunity that she has is to respond to this issue, because all the attention’s out there, everybody’s writing stories about it. Into that noise can come all sorts of positive action, positive impact. But my prediction is that she doesn’t do that. My prediction is that she continues to follow the anti-hero path. 
@niche_t_

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