Here’s the Climate Impact of the Rich and Famous

Americans suffer from the heatwaves, multi-year droughts, and catastrophic floods. Celebrities have been criticised for their extravagant lifestyles and disregard for the climate crisis.

It Los Angeles Times reported on Monday that entertainers including Kim Kardashian and Sylvester Stallone were among the more than 2,000 people the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District issued “notices of exceedance” to, alerting homeowners that they used more than 150% of their monthly water budget at least four times since a drought emergency was declared just last year.

Yard, an agency based in the UK, recently analysed flight data from the top celebrities that emit the most private plane emissions. Taylor Swift topped the list at more than 170 flights since January, totalling up to 15.9 days in the air, and 8,293.54 metric tons of CO2 emissions—that’s equivalent to all the emissions from the energy used by over 1,000 homes in the U.S. for a year.

Swift’s representatives, and that of other celebrities, have since denied the claims, saying their jets have been loaned out to others, or that the individuals in question do not own them. And Stallone’s attorney said that the water situation was being “mischaracterized,” as Stallone was trying to ensure that he could keep the more than 500 mature trees on the property alive.

In light of this, environmentalists have been calling for stronger restrictions on such wasteful habits as private air and sea journeys—which thanks in part to pandemic travel restrictions have become increasingly popular. Canada announced recently that it will implement a 10% tax for luxury yachts and aircrafts beginning Sep. 1st. This, in part, aims at reducing the negative climate effects of such activities.

Here’s what to know about the climate impact of the uber-rich’s favorite forms of luxury travel.

What’s the climate impact of a private jet?

Just under one billion tons of carbon dioxide are released annually by aviation, which accounts for 2.5% worldwide CO2 pollution.

While aviation is still a major contributor to climate change, only a few people account for the majority of its impact. Surveys in the U.K. found that only 15% of adult flight attendants were responsible for 75% of all flights. And according to the clean transport campaign group Transport & Environment, 10% of all flights that departed France in 2019 were private aircrafts.

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This contrasts with a Gallup Poll from January which revealed that Americans took an average of 1.4 trips by air in the previous 12 months. Only 62% made any.

An average individual produces 7 metric tons of CO2 each year. Yard reports that celebrity pilots have emitted an average 3,300 tons of CO2 each year from private planes.

According to @CelebrityJets a Twitter account that uses data to track celebrities’ private jets, former boxer Floyd Mayweather and celebrity Kylie Jenner have used their planes to take flights under 20 minutes long, for trips that would only take a few hours by car. For comparison, one of Mayweather’s 10-minute flights produced one ton of CO2According to the EPA report, the average vehicle will produce 4.6 tons annually.

Washington heard from experts such as Colin Murphy, the vice director of the Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy at the University of California at Davis. Post it’s important to look at the frequency of these short trips, and how often these planes carry little to no people.

“They’re doing it in a generally less efficient way than if they were sitting in a coach seat in a 777 or any one of the conventional commercial airliners,” said Murphy. “What you’re doing is you’re burning many hundreds or thousands of gallons of jet fuel to save a carload of people or a couple of carloads of people a few hours.”

What’s the climate impact of a superyacht?

Superyachts can bear a similar burden on the planet, as professors from Indiana University called it “by far the worst asset to own from an environmental standpoint,” in an interview with DW.

The top 20 billionaires around the globe emitted on average 8,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2018. Two thirds of that was caused by superyachts. The yacht owned by Roman Abramovich, the billionaire who built a fortune off of trading gas and oil, for example, was responsible for 22,440 metric tons of carbon emissions that year—the same as the emissions released by over 4,800 gasoline cars driving for a year in the U.S.

Continue reading: To Survive Severe Drought This Summer, California Should Learn From Cape Town’s Water Crisis

Many experts point out the adverse effects these boats have on climate change, but advocates argue that there is not enough being done. In January, Transport & Environment released a report looking at the exemptions in the European Commission’s Green Deal. Ships over 5,000 gross tons and yachts are not included in any measures to lower the marine sector’s carbon footprint.

These activities have been affected by the pandemic.

While the pandemic caused a wave of remote work that isolated and devastated many, wealth inequality rose as the world’s 500 richest people collectively saw their wealth increase by more than $800 billion from January to October 2020—the height of the pandemic.

As an alternative to commercial flying, many ultra-wealthy wanted to buy luxury amenities such as private jets and yachts.

Boat International’s Global Order Book 2022 edition found a 25% increase in the number of new yachts ordered to be built, marking a third year of consistent growth with more than 1,000 boats.

“Everybody just wants freedom, and ultra-high-net-worth individuals can afford it,” Will Christie, a superyacht broker, told the Guardian. “The ability to escape anywhere is very attractive in the current climate. They think: I don’t need to be stuck in the office, and if you’re worth billions, why should you be?”

This trend is not expected to slow down in the coming months. Experts indicate that there’s been an increase in the number of first-time buyers and small businesses seeking to purchase private jets, Reuters reports.

“I think the people we’re seeing convert from commercial are not going back to commercial,” Jamie Walker, chief executive of Jet Linx, a company that manages planes and operates private flights, told Reuters. Because they couldn’t keep up with demand, his company has had to cap sales.

Airlines’ staffing shortages and cancellations, much of which stems from the push for early retirement pilots faced during the commencement of the pandemic, are sure to entice customers to seek alternatives that can be devastating to the environment.

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