Does Taylor Swift Deserve Criticism Over Her Private Jet Habits?

  • 3 min read
  • Aug 02, 2022

Does Taylor Swift Deserve Criticism Over Her Private Jet Habits?

Criticism of Taylor Swift grew on social media last weekend after the pop singer topped a list of celebrities most guilty of polluting the planet with their private jets.

According to a report by Sustainable Yard Marketing, the Jet Swift was used 170 days out of the first 200 days of the year, emitting 8,293.54 tons of carbon dioxide, which is 1,184.8 times the annual emissions of the average person. Among the 21 celebrities ranked in the report, in 2022, the average celebrity jet emitted 3,376.64 tons of CO2e this year, or 482.37 times the average annual human emissions.

Social media users were quick to respond to the findings over the weekend, creating memes showing Swift using her private jet. To go to Starbucks or to Have a glass of water. Swift released a statement saying she regularly lends her private jet to others.

However, some users was questioned Given that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of carbon emissions, it would be helpful or fair to blame celebrities like Swift for climate change. Shifting the blame onto consumers is a tactic used by corporate America to avoid climate action. However, experts say that people and celebrities alike should make travel choices with the weather in mind.

Photo of two women, one on the left with dark hair and a red cardigan, the other on the right with gray hair and purple glasses.
Northeastern Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and International Affairs Laura Cole and Alexandra (Zander) Mays, Teaching Associate Professor in the Legal Skills in Social Context Program. Photos by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University and Matthew Modono/Northeastern University

Responding to Swift’s discussion, Laura Cole, assistant professor of public policy and urban affairs and international affairs at Northeastern, said, “I think it’s great that the ethical considerations of flying are being addressed. The effects of flying, even commercial flights, are really huge.

While 57 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from cars, flying accounts for 8 percent of U.S. emissions, and one transatlantic flight produces more greenhouse gases than most people in a year, he says. In total, transportation will account for 27 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Compared to commercial flights, the inefficiencies of private jets are “off the charts,” Kohl says. Most private jet flights are relatively short: Kylie Jenner was in the air for 13 minutes on Sunday, and Floyd Mayweather, the second-biggest offender on the list, took a 10-minute flight this year. Since most of the emissions are generated during takeoff and landing, this makes these flights particularly inefficient, in addition to the fact that they generally carry very few passengers.

Taking a commercial flight is much better than flying private, he says, although “there’s really no situation where flying is more efficient than driving.” Choosing alternative methods of transportation can make a big difference, and if you have to fly, it’s better to fly direct than to choose a connecting flight.

Kohl says that infrastructure changes, including investment in public transportation, will help encourage people to avoid flying. Currently, transportation is the most intensive sector of the U.S. economy, and following China and Europe by investing in high-speed rail makes a big difference. “Once the infrastructure is there, people will use it,” he says. Switching to electric vehicles would also be helpful.

However, the greatest impact will come from regulating the companies that contribute the most to climate change.

“It’s true that the majority of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by a small number of fossil fuel companies that drive the supply of fossil fuels,” Kohl says. “We absolutely must not ignore the need for regulation.”

According to Kohl, companies interested in preventing climate action have instead exhibited a pattern of shifting responsibility to the consumer. An example of this is the emergence of the term “carbon footprint” to describe how individual actions cause climate change. According to Kohl, the term was coined by British Petroleum, which also released a carbon footprint calculator in 2004.

“They wanted to push it to consumers and individual responsibility,” Kohl says.

The “carbon footprint” model of climate change distracts from much larger forces at play. The notion that people are contributing to climate change by using plastic straws “really skims the surface and doesn’t understand the systemic nature of many environmental problems and the need for more systemic solutions,” Kohl says.

However, individual decisions have an impact.

“I don’t think it’s either/or,” he says. We have to address it from all sides.”

“People may not be able to make the same contributions, but that doesn’t mean people can’t make a difference,” says Alexandra Mays, a teaching associate professor at Northeastern Law School.

Mays suggests travelers adjust their schedules to minimize flights and use high-speed rail, which is much more efficient.

Apart from the question of responsibility, choices to help fight climate change are a necessity, Meese says.

“If we’re going to meet the targets that experts say are needed to keep global temperature rise below the magical 1.5°C they need to avoid catastrophic consequences, then we need as much as we can get.”

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