Taylor Swift catches a lot of heat over jet travel. Here’s her True impact

How did Taylor Swift become a lightning rod in the debate over carbon dioxide emissions, and just how much does her private jet contribute to global warming?

The Eras Tour superstar is known for boosting economies, being taught at universities like Harvard, rerecording her music and breaking records with new album releases including “The Tortured Poets Department.” She has also gained attention for flying her private jet (she sold her second one) around the world for concert stops, to do business and meet with friends in New York, rehearse in Los Angeles, see her family in Nashville and visit her boyfriend Travis Kelce in Kansas City, Missouri.

Conversation began in 2022

In the summer of 2022, Kylie Jenner posted a photo (that’s since been deleted) of her and Travis Scott’s private planes with the caption, “You wanna take mine or yours?” The backlash led the Yard, a content and public relations firm, to publish a study of which celebrities produced the most private jet emissions that year. The publication put Miss Americana as the top of the list.

The Yard has added a disclaimer to the top of the study that reads in part: “Following the release of our data, Rolling Stone contacted each of the celebrities’ representatives for comment. Taylor Swift’s representative said the following: ‘Taylor’s jet is loaned out regularly to other individuals. To attribute most or all of these trips to her is blatantly incorrect.'”

The jet tracking student

Amid the hype in 2022, a student studying information technology at University of Central Florida (UCF) started to track Swift’s two jets. Jack Sweeney set up an automated system that posted updates when the billionaire’s private planes departed and landed. His account took off during Swift’s trips to NFL games as fans checked to see if she would attend to root on the Kansas City Chiefs.

The increased attention outraged Swifties who said Sweeney invaded the tortured poet’s privacy and posed a security threat.

“It’s all public record, you have this information at your fingertips,” he says over Zoom. “There’s an interest by fans, but others are upset. They think I’m stalking (Swift) when I’m just sharing public information.”

His fascination with tracking planes began during the coronavirus pandemic in 2021. Sweeney looked into Elon Musk’s planes and posted information about his jets. At one point, he says, Musk offered him $5,000 to shut down the X/Twitter account. The UCF student talked to a journalist instead, and the deal was off the table.

Musk, the owner of X/Twitter, banned Sweeney’s accounts. With his Instagram account garnering close to 100,000 followers last winter, Meta also pulled the plug.

Swift’s team sent Sweeney two cease-and-desist letters saying the tracking was endangering the singer and a “life-or-death matter.” The student hired a lawyer and after releasing a public letter and doing some interviews, the back-and-forth grew cold.

When asked about security, the Sweeney says, “Other people have done a similar type of thing where they’re posting about her planes. When she flew to Brazil, the news was livestreaming at the airport. If my tracking goes away, there’s still going to be stuff like that, and she travels with a security team. The airport is one of the most secure places.”

Swift sold one of her two private jets at the beginning of the year. An animation shows the 2023 trips of Swift’s two jets that added up to 178,000 miles, emitting 1,200 tons of carbon dioxide. The majority of those flights were to Los Angles, New York, Nashville and concert stops for the 2023 Eras Tour.

If you search for lists of top carbon-emitting celebrities, there are conflicting reports. MyClimate ranked a list of celebrities in 2023 by their carbon emissions and didn’t put the Eras Tour singer in the top 20, giving Travis Scott, Kim Kardashian and Elon Musk the highest ratings.

Swift’s impact on the environment

Payless Power did a conservative prediction of Swift’s jet travel for 2024 including her 86 shows in 27 Asian, Australian, European and North American cities.

“The goal of the study was to look into renewable energy,” says Adi Sachdeva, a project manager with Payless Power. “Her tour is one of the biggest tours that have ever existed.”

Using data from the Myclimate Carbon Tracker, the Texas-based company created a report projecting the jet’s carbon emissions, not including any detours the singer may make between stops.

They noted Swift will fly an estimated 43,688 kilometers and emit 511,154 kilograms of CO2 for the Eras Tour. To put this into perspective, it’s the equivalent of driving 1,307,311 miles in a gasoline-powered passenger vehicle. It’s also equivalent to the emissions made from 67 households in an entire year.

Although this may seem like a lot for the singer conducting a record-breaking tour across the world, the report states her 2024 travel still doesn’t come close to the top celebrity emitters of 2023: Travis Scott (6.06 million kilograms of CO2), Kim Kardashian (5.86 million) and Elon Musk (4.56 million).

“We wanted to make comparisons to individuals, in general,” Sachdeva says. “A lot of times you’ll see these large numbers online of a private jet but without seeing what that means, people will go with the numbers that seem very large without knowing their own emissions.”

An environmentalist weighs in

Nick Loris, the vice president of public policy for C3 Solutions, a conservative climate coalition looking to improve energy abundance and energy affordability, helps to put Swift’s jet-setting impact into perspective.

“While aviation is important and private aviation is a pretty high contributor to the industry, it’s still a relatively small percentage of overall global greenhouse gas emissions,” he says. “Some of the top emissions are caused by the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation, so coal, oil and to a lesser extent natural gas. Buildings use a lot of energy, and we primarily use gasoline and diesel to get around. Industry and agriculture are other fairly big contributors.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, aircraft accounts for 9% of carbon-related emissions in the United States. Private jets produce at least 10 times more emissions than commercial flights per passenger.

Loris notes the reality is Swift can’t fly commercial. It would lead to a surfeit of issues with logistics and security; consider the circle of security guards that surround her on red carpets.

So what are the solutions?

Loris says Swift’s overall impact to emissions, in 2022, was about 0.000000225% after dividing her emissions, 8,300 metric tons, by global greenhouse gas emissions of 36.8 gigatons. Her percentage for 2023 and 2024 may be slightly higher with her tour travel.

Tree Paine, Swift’s publicist, told Bloomberg News in 2023 the singer-songwriter purchased more than double the credits needed to offset all her travel.

“There are a few challenges with carbon credits,” Loris says. “There are a lot of good activities that result from carbon offset projects, things like reforestation projects, different types of direct air capture technologies or investments in renewable power. The challenge is there are also a lot of junk carbon offsets where the project may have been built anyway and therefore there was no additional reduction in emissions. It’s also important that carbon offset projects are measurable and durable. Let’s say you purchased carbon offsets for a reforestation project in California, and then all of those burn up in a forest wildfire. That would release pollution and CO2 into the atmosphere and undo the carbon offset.”

Loris says with all the increased attention, the singer could become a vocal advocate for jet-setting solutions and an investor in new and innovative technology such as sustainable aviation fuels or direct air capture (essentially a carbon-sucking vacuum).

Swift is on the European leg of the Eras Tour. She has shows in 15 more cities across the continent before heading to North America in the fall.

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