Taylor Swift has been in the spotlight more than she would have liked lately. The singer did become the first person to ever win 4 Album of the Year Grammy Awards, but climate watchers are not letting her off the hook for her private jet’s emissions.
1. Swift’s emissions
Swift recently threatened to sue the University of Central Florida student, Jack Sweeney, who tracks her private jet on social media, claiming his account poses security risks, despite the information already being public. A 2022 study revealed that Swift had the most emissions among celebrities due to her private jet travels, taking 170 flights just from January to July 2022 and putting 8,293.54 tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere.
At the time, the singer’s representatives said the jet is frequently loaned to other people, thus most of the emissions are not Swift’s. However, in the middle of her insanely popular Eras Tour, award season and her boyfriend’s Super Bowl game, she has had to fly back and forth between continents and this time she can’t attribute the jet usage to someone else.
According to the Associated Press, between the Grammys in Los Angeles, the tour concerts in Tokyo and the Super Bowl in Las Vegas, Swift travelled around 19,400 miles (30,500 kilometres). Gregory Keoleian, co-director of the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, estimates this is equivalent to 200,000 pounds (91 tonnes) of carbon emissions. And, after the Super Bowl, she is headed to Melbourne, Australia, crossing the Earth again to return to her tour.
2. Carbon credits
Before Eras even began, “Taylor purchased more than double the carbon credits needed to offset all tour travel”, the singer’s publicist told the Associated Press, without giving any details on the types of offsets the singer invested in.
Offsets are still the Wild West of climate change and have been riddled with fraud, failed projects, and dubious effectiveness.Jonathan Foley, executive director of Project Drawdown
Carbon credits or carbon offsets are schemes through which individuals and businesses, especially airlines, try to compensate for their emissions by investing in projects such as reforestation or renewable energy in developing countries. It might seem like they show consideration for the environment, but offsets have been denounced as greenwashing and “a political creation” that allows companies to claim they are reducing their footprint without actually burning less fossil fuel.
Airlines have been condemned for misleading customers with claims of climate neutrality based on offsets instead of actually reducing their emissions. The aviation industry is one of the hardest to decarbonise, however, claiming neutrality is not helping airlines or the passengers. Even United Airlines CEO denounced carbon credits as fraud.
While Swift is the currently taking the heat on the issue, the problem is much larger. “It’s striking that Ms. Swift gets so much of the outrage when private jet customers are overwhelmingly men over 50”, said Jeff Colgan, a professor of political science at Brown University. “The focus really should be on a broader class of people.”
However, similarly to any other issue, the attention has to be focused somewhere. No problem can be tackled at large all at once, so maybe, until sustainable fuels and hydrogen can truly lower aviation’s emissions, the pressure on Swift could be the starting point to better monitoring and regulation of private jets.