The richest 1 per cent are responsible for half of the carbon emissions caused by flying
Members of the Kardashian family and Drake are reportedly among the top offenders when it comes to taking disproportionately-polluting short flights on private jets, according to new analysis.
Kim Kardashian’s private plane made four flights of under 20 minutes in the past two months, according to data from celebrity flight-tracker @CelebJets. The private plane belonging to her half-sister, Kylie Jenner, did twice as many, the tracker found.
One flight, on 24 July, saw Ms Kardashian’s plane make a 40-mile, 10-minute journey between Van Nuys and Camarillo, California. The trip required 81 gallons of fuel and emitted 1 tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) – about the same as a gas-powered car emits being driven for six months.
Overall, the reality TV family dominated the CelebJets dataset for short flights this summer. Ms Kardashian and Ms Jenner’s planes accounted for 12 of 36 total flights under 20 minutes recorded between 30 May and 24 July, 2022.
But they weren’t the only ones using private jets for short hops.
A customized Boeing 767 airliner owned by hiphop star Drake – named “Air Drake” – made five short flights in the same period. While other celebrity jets made greater numbers of flights, Drake’s plane reportedly spewed the most planet-heating emissions of all in the dataset due to its size.
The Boeing 767, normally used by airlines to fly a couple of hundred people on intercontinental flights, emitted 21 tonnes of CO2 on the five trips, the analysis found. This is the equivalent emissions to four US homes’ electricity use for a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Drake attempted to defend the short flights in a recent social media post by saying that one flight flagged by CelebJets – an 18-minute trip between Hamilton, Ontario, and Toronto – was, in fact, empty.
“This is just them moving planes to whatever airport they are being stored at for anyone who was interested in the logistics … nobody takes that flight,” he wrote on Instagram.
Private planes which reportedly belong to other celebrities including Steven Spielberg, Mark Wahlberg, and the boxer Floyd Mayweather also took flights over similarly short distances.
On 17 July, Mr Mayweather’s plane reportedly took two flights back and forth between Las Vegas-area airports, each 10 minutes or less. The route used 124 gallons of fuel for a round trip of just over 20 miles, CelebJets reported.
Separate analyses identified A-listers who are even worse emitters with their private jets overall.
According to separate analysis of CelebJets data by sustainability-focused data and tech agency Yard Group, when factoring in all flight lengths, pop star Taylor Swift was the biggest emitter this year.
She spent nearly 16 full days worth of time in the air this year, emitting 8,293.54 tonnes of Co2 and travelling an average of about 140 miles per flight, the research found.
“It’s easy to get lost in the dazzling lives of the rich and famous, but unfortunately, they’re a massive part of the CO2e problem we have with the aviation industry,” Yard’s sustainability director Chris Butterworth wrote.
“Aviation is responsible for 2.4% of human-produced CO2e every year, and research shows a vast divide between the super-rich and the rest of us regarding flights, travel, and even general emissions.”
Representatives for Taylor Swift said the data isn’t entirely reflective of her travel.
“Taylor’s jet is loaned out regularly to other individuals. To attribute most or all of these trips to her is blatantly incorrect,” a spokesperson told The Independent.
The Independent has contacted representatives of Ms Jenner, Ms Kardashian, Drake, Mr Spielberg, Mr Wahlberg, and Mr Mayweather for comment.
The CelebJets account is run by Jack Sweeney, a University of Central Florida student coder. He has become renowned for his skills in using publicly-available aviation data to track movements of Russian oligarchs and Elon Musk, who reportedly offered the 19-year-old $5,000 to stop posting his whereabouts.
The data is far from comprehensive of all private jet flights of high net-worth individuals. Additionally, private planes are sometimes flown without their owners for storage, repair, or logistical reasons.
“Though most people want to solve the ecological crisis caused by carbon, they are also dazzled by carbon-intensive behavior. That’s partly a symptom of a warped ‘American Dream’ ideal, one that tells us that lavish wealth, not well-being, is the ultimate marker of success.”
There has been increasing focus on the private jet habits of the uber-rich since earlier this month when Kylie Jenner’s $72m Bombardier DB 700 plane logged a 17-minute flight between the Van Nuys and Camarillo Airports outside of Los Angeles. That flight emitted about a tonne of CO2.
Ms Jenner had also taken to social media to brag about her and partner, the rapper Travis Scott, both having private jets. Some social media users reacted with disgust, labelling the reality star a “full time climate criminal”.
The so-called “carbon elite” are responsible for massive, disproportionate carbon footprints, amid a backdrop of ever-worsening climate impacts.
Private jet flights create five to 14 times more emissions per passenger than a mostly-full commercial airplane, according to analysis of European flights over a distance of 310miles (500km). Private flights also create 50 times more than a train, according to a report from the NGO Transport & Environment.
“There is good reason to view air travel in a new light,” Stefan Gössling, a researcher at Sweden’s Lund University who studies transport, has written.
“It is actually an elitist activity, rather than what the aviation industry would like us to believe – that everyone flies.”
The Biden administration has called on the aviation industry to cut 20 per cent of its emissions by 2030, though it remains a voluntary target.