Taylor Swift has been criticized for her use of private planes but claims to have purchased double the amount of carbon credits needed to offset her flights for the Eras Tour.
Taylor Swift took a 12-hour, 5,000-mile flight from Tokyo, Japan, to Las Vegas, Nevada, this weekend to watch Kansas City Chiefs Travis Kelce win Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers. It was her last private jet flight – a travel habit that has attracted criticism due to the unavoidable release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by the aircraft. The pop star reportedly produced 138 tons of CO2 emissions in three months while commuting to visit Kelce, Newsweek reported.
Why Taylor Swift’s travel behavior is being criticized
“Swift’s CO2 emissions are extreme and pollute the atmosphere,” says Leah Thomas, author of The intersectional environmentalist, told BBC Travel. “Carbon emissions are one of the leading causes of the climate crisis because carbon in the atmosphere warms the planet, contributing to extreme weather events.”
The Grammy Award winner’s carbon footprint – the amount of carbon dioxide created by energy consumption and lifestyle – was originally exposed by Jack Sweeneya student who tracks celebrities’ private jet usage. Sweeney (legally) tracks Swift’s and other celebrities’ carbon emissions, since flight patterns, even of celebrity-owned private jets, are public information. Sweeney posts this flight information to @SwiftJetNextDay the next day instead of in real time to further ensure legality.
Many of Swift’s private jet trips, Sweeney’s tracking shows, coincided with football games — including a flight to Buffalo, New York, where the musician attended the Chiefs vs. Buffalo Bills game on Jan. 21, and a Jan. 28 trip to Baltimore, Maryland before the game. Chiefs vs. Baltimore Ravens game.
Last week it was revealed that Swift Sweeney’s legal team has a cease and desist letter in December 2023 stating that his “unlawful and dangerous actions must stop” and threatening legal action against the University of Central Florida student. Swift’s team claimed that Sweeney’s actions compromised Swift’s safety and that this is a “matter of life and death.” In the letter, Swift’s attorney accuses Sweeney of “stalking and intimidating behavior.”
Swift has been previously criticized for its ecological footprint: her frequent private jet flights caused A study from British marketing agency Yard to claim she was the biggest celebrity CO2 polluter in 2022, with emissions reportedly 1,100 times those of the average person. That being said, as the Washington Post has noted, The Yard analysis was based on flight data available on Twitter, was not peer-reviewed or verified, and while celebrity jet flights were tracked, there is no way of knowing when or if the owners are on the jets.
Air travel in general is a major cause of CO2 emissions. Aviation is responsible for this 8% of carbon-related emissions in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That said, non-stop routes and economical flying are considered lower carbon choices than private jets. And while all air travel produces CO2 emissions, private jets produce significantly more per person – at least ten times more CO2 emissions compared to a commercial flight.
The good news for Swift is that “the richer you are, the easier it is to be sustainable,” Thomas explains. “It’s okay to hold celebrities to higher standards because sustainability is much more accessible to them. Swift could correct course by speaking openly about the climate crisis, promoting sustainable initiatives, or donating proceeds from her concerts to environmental organizations.”
Swift’s publicist said The Associated Press (AP) that she uses carbon offsets to offset her private jet travel. But how valuable are these in making frequent air traffic more sustainable?
How carbon credits, also called carbon offsets, work
Carbon offsets – such as carbon capture such as tree planting initiatives, because trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air – are purchased to offset greenhouse gas emissions. They are typically purchased by companies to offset the total amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by their business. Swift’s publicist told BBC News that she purchased double the amount of carbon offsets needed to offset all her travel for the Eras Tour before it started in March – likely enough to also cover the extra miles she traveled to visit Kelce.
Another kind carbon offset is a fee that individuals pay to reduce the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere, rather than reducing carbon use. Carbon offsets calculate the estimated amount of carbon emissions released during an environmentally harmful activity such as a flight and then calculate a fee that ensures that an equal amount of carbon is not generated. Typically, carbon offsets invest in environmental projects that reduce carbon emissions elsewhere. That said, there is usually no clear calculation that can specify what exact compensation will offset an exact amount of carbon – offsets are rough estimates, and they often overestimate the amount for which the carbon sequestration system can compensate. Moreover, there is always room for failure: if for example forest conservation is used as carbon sequestrationthat forest can then be burned in a forest fire and ultimately produce no more emissions.
“Carbon offsets can combat otherwise difficult-to-eliminate emissions. Many carbon offset projects are very valuable – money to plant new forests or grow carbon-capturing algae – while others are virtually worthless,” explains Scott Keyes, air travel expert and founder of both Going and Scott’s Cheap Flights. A investigation by ProPublica found that many carbon-reducing projects overestimate the impact of their emissions reductions. However, there are several well-vetted third-party certifications with carbon offset programs, such as The Gold Standard, Verified carbon standard And Green-e.
“When Swift flies her private jet, she doesn’t intend to spew tons of carbon. Spewing carbon is an externality (an unintended consequence) of flying, driving, lighting a campfire, and millions of other daily activities. Carbon credits are important because they are an attempt to put a price on that externality,” Keyes said.
Thomas adds that Swift doesn’t have to stop at carbon offsets to make her travel and touring more sustainable: she mentions artists like Cold play And Billie Eilish who are making sustainability mandatory on their trips by minimizing single-use plastics and having compost bins on site.
Carbon offsets for emissions have been criticized by some climate scientists who argue that this is not actually the case reduce the amount of emissions enter the atmosphere. “Carbon offsets are the bare minimum as anyone can offset their flights,” Thomas said. “We can hold a higher standard for Taylor Swift, whose tour raised more than a billion dollars.”
In addition to carbon offsets, travelers can consciously minimize their carbon footprint by reducing their meat consumption, using public transportation and booking eco-friendly tourism experiences.
The BBC has contacted Ms Swift’s team for comment and will update if/when we receive a response.
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