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Celebrities, including Taylor Swift, enjoy being in the spotlight, but not when it comes to their carbon footprint. Let’s explore the excess carbon emissions caused by celebrity travel, and the attempts to mitigate them.

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In their article, “Just Plane Wrong: Celebs with the Worst Private Jet Co2 Emissions”, YARD crowned Taylor Swift the celebrity with the largest carbon footprint, attributing 138 tons of emissions to her private jet. Jay-Z and Floyd Mayweather were close on her heels. No pun intended.

Until recently, you might not have thought it was possible for Taylor Swift to receive more attention, but as she has started regularly attending Kansas City Chiefs football games to watch her partner, Travis Kelce, she has been under even more scrutiny. Celebrities getting attention and taking a lot of flights is certainly not a new phenomenon, and to completely single out Taylor would be unfair. This discussion has been going on since way before Taylor sang, “I knew you were trouble.” Let’s explore this topic further using the GreenFILE database available in eLibrary Minnesota

Carbon emissions are inevitable for celebrities (or anybody, really). In her article, “Rich Enough to Offset,” Laura Kiesel explores the ever-increasing carbon emissions of celebrities including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Leonardo DiCaprio, and how they have tried to account for them. Carbon offsetting was popularized by public figures as a way for them to maintain carbon neutrality. This consists of supporting environmental efforts ranging from planting trees to paying for renewable energy projects. But while these initiatives may be a genuine attempt at accountability, they are usually not enough to truly neutralize emissions. The article sites Jon Erickson, an associate professor of ecological economics at the University of Vermont. Professor Erickson points to concerns about the effect of some offset projects on communities in developing countries, such as "low-energy solar projects set up to offset luxury emissions [that limit] the development of health clinics, schools and other needed services." Furthermore, these efforts do little to address the root causes of excess carbon emissions. Erickson advocates for "strong legislation," including a mandated cap on carbon emissions that would address the main issue without displacing harm from the climate to specific communities.

Celebrity air travel has always been under the microscope, regardless of the public perception of the celebrity. But although voluntary initiatives such as carbon offsets help celebrities regain public favor, they also serve to justify continued excess. In their article, “Don’t Bet on Offsets,” A.C. Thompson and Duane Moles explore the feasibility of carbon offsets counteracting carbon emissions. They explore carbon-offset retailers, such as Terra-Pass, who sell affluent individuals the opportunity to achieve carbon neutrality by calculating how much investment is needed to balance out their carbon footprint, and investing in projects on their behalf. These businesses sell directly to consumers in unregulated markets with no universal standards. This is fertile ground for unjustified claims promising carbon neutrality with no guarantee of achieving the desired impact. 

While carbon offsetting offers opportunities for mitigation, we must recognize its limitations. Advocating for systemic change that reduces overall emissions lays the foundation towards addressing the root cause of the issue. You can learn more by exploring this topic further in eLibrary Minnesota's GreenFILE database.

Written by

Jesus Maldonado Sanchez
Marketing & Communications Generalist
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