Eras Forests Could Offset Taylor Swift’s Carbon Footprint – Forbes

US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift (C) and Ashley Avignone (R) attend Super Bowl LVIII between the … [+] Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada, February 11, 2024. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)
Taylor Swift is among the top entertainers of our time. She is the Time magazine 2023 Person of the Year. Recently, Swift won the Grammy Album Of The Year award, her record-making fourth win in this category. Swift is famous onstage but also when she is in the audience. About 123 million TV viewers watched the recent Super Bowl, the biggest TV audience since the moon landing. An important reason was that Taylor Swift was in the audience, cheering her boyfriend Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs’ tight end.
Swift is a major influencer with 281 million Instagram followers. In 2023, upon her encouragement, 35,252 new voters registered on National Voter Registration Day, an increase of 23% over last year.
How might Swift leverage her fame to popularize the norm of climate responsibility? Ironically, her carbon footprint controversy might give her this opportunity.
Given the nature of her business, Swift travels frequently across the world. Because flying commercial is often inconvenient and could create security issues, Swift flies in her private jet.
In 2022, the Daily Mail named her the top celebrity CO2 polluter (for Swift’s rebuttal, see here). For the Super Bowl in February 2024, Swift traveled from Japan to Las Vegas in her private jet. By some estimates, this single flight on a Dassault Falcon 900LX, probably created 41 tons of CO2. For context, the annual global per capita emissions are 6.5 tons. That is, Swift’s single flight created more emissions than 6 people together create in one whole year.
Swift offsets her carbon emissions by buying carbon credits. However, offsets face criticism on moral and practical grounds. The moral objection is that offsets are like “letters of indulgence,” which give the rich a right to pollute while continuing with their existing carbon-intensive lifestyles. The practical objection is that many offsets do not work as promised. For example, it is often not clear where trees (which sequester carbon) will be planted, which species, how long they might survive, and how much carbon they will capture over their lifetime.
Offsetting has a legitimacy problem and a verification problem. Here is a suggestion on how Swift might partially address these criticisms.
Swift’s Eras tours are an important part of her career trajectory. Suppose instead of buying offsets from external vendors, Swift got into the offsetting business herself by creating “Eras forests.”
This initiative would have two components: a self-imposed carbon tax and a credible way to use the tax monies to offset emissions.
What if Swift considered the social cost of carbon to determine the tax level? The Biden administration put the social cost at $51 per ton but seeks to revise it to $190 per ton. For self-taxation, Swift could consider using the higher number.
But could she do more? Currently Swift purchases carbon credits which offset twice the amount of her emissions. Our sense is that given the controversy over offsets, the factor of 2 is insufficient. Why not work with a factor of 10? There is nothing magical about the number 10, but it could signal her strong commitment to climate responsibility and equity. And in any case, even this would not cost much. Consider the Tokyo to Vegas trip, which generated 41 tons of carbon dioxide. If Swift worked with a social cost of carbon at $190/ton and sought to offset 10 times the carbon footprint, she would need to put aside $77, 900 (41 tons X 10 X $190), pocket change for an artist who recently joined the billion club.
But how to use this money? Swift could plant trees in a creative way. Suppose Swift created an Eras forest in every city she visits and located them in the poorest neighborhoods. While there are some objections to trees as offsets, in addition to sequestering carbon, urban forests create additional benefits, such as improving air quality and reducing heat-island effect. These benefits are especially important in low-income communities with lower canopy cover than high-income communities
Her organization could collaborate with local NGOs and governments and hire the best ecologists/botanists to select local species. All the money would probably not be spent on planting trees. A significant sum would be spent on irrigation and maintenance as well.
More importantly, to address concerns about greenwashing, her organization could allow the public to monitor these forests 24/7 through a direct feed to her website. This would address the verification problem and inspire confidence that Swift is serious about addressing the carbon footprint issue. Every year, she could put out a status report (akin to corporate social responsibility reports) on how much carbon her forests have sequestered.
Further, involving local communities could make Eras forests more than a climate intervention: they could become a community engagement strategy. She could even encourage her fans to sponsor trees (instead of buying friendship bracelets) in her forests. Perhaps, local groups could use these spaces for community events such as music festivals. The possibilities are endless.
In sum, Eras forests could emerge as a template for actors with unavoidable large carbon footprint to address climate issues and the associated inequalities. They would strengthen the Swift brand by infusing it with a climate and social agenda. Instead of trying to shake off carbon footprint criticism, Swift would emerge as a global climate influencer.

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