Taylor Swift’s private jet isn’t the climate’s greatest enemy

Harassing celebrities won’t solve the climate crisis

Excess is the problem with private jet usage.
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It’s not all that often that celebrity and climate news intersect, but thanks to an investigation by sustainable marketing company Yard that has recently circulated, the impact of individual A-listers on the environment has been exposed in detail. 

The optics are bad—your favourite celebrity flies overhead in luxury while you endure record heat on the ground. However, the idea that celebrities pollute more than the average person should only be surprising if you’re in denial about how capitalism works. 

Taylor Swift was among the worst offenders: her private jet has reportedly already taken over 170 flights in 2022. This is a bit strange considering Swift, who has cultivated an activist image, is often held to a higher moral standard than the Kardashians, for example. 

However, regardless of who they are, celebrities don’t deserve to be harassed for their high emissions. Criticism is certainly due here, but only to the extent that it encourages those in question to change their behaviour. 

Commercial travel is no one’s favourite pastime—and it might be impossible for celebrities. 

Harassment and personal security are legitimate concerns, especially for female stars like Swift who have experienced stalking. From the perspective of airport and airline personnel, celebrity presence could cause delays and security problems.

It’s understandable why people as famous as Taylor Swift choose to avoid the chaos of commercial travel and opt instead for the security of a private aircraft. 

However, what’s not as justifiable is extremely short flights—looking at you, Kylie Jenner —and unnecessary or excessive use of private jets. Swift and her fellow private jet-owning celebrities should focus on eliminating unnecessary travel from their schedules. 

At the very least, celebrities should make informed travel and lifestyle choices that take the climate crisis into consideration. Fame and fortune don’t exempt you from taking responsibility for your own unsustainable behaviour. 

Celebrities have the money, leverage, and influence to promote sustainability.

Not only that, but wealth and celebrity elevate people like Swift into social circles and situations where they’re unlikely to be affected by climate change. Criticism is, therefore, still important to ground celebrities who have become out of touch with reality. 

If click-baiting people with celebrity indiscretion helps climate journalism reach a wider audience, the advantages may outweigh the negatives. However, one-dimensional takes that scapegoat celebrities without contextualizing their impact are unproductive.

In reporting on the Yard investigation, news outlets have failed to take advantage of society’s celebrity addiction to contextualize emission numbers within the scope of the climate crisis. 

Celebrity emissions may be interesting and worth criticizing, but they are not a primary issue and not where we should focus our attention. 

As a society, we can’t let ourselves be manipulated into scapegoating celebrities while fossil fuel CEOs quietly get richer polluting for profit. 

Wasting time chastising Swift and other celebrities detracts from the most important climate conversations. Instead, we should use the momentum from Yard’s report to push for accountability from the biggest climate criminals.

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