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Understanding our private jet problem

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

private jet

In a video from the Independent, a smiling woman holds a banner in front of a private jet. As it flutters in the wind, you can tell that it reads “Warning: private jets burn our future.” And she certainly isn’t the only one. Many others, all from various climate activism groups, hold banners like these up, sitting underneath and standing in front of private jets being sold at the European Business Aviation Convention in Geneva. According to the Independent, others yell through loudspeakers, and still others stick health warning labels on the planes. This is Europe's largest private jet sale, and these activists are making a statement. As disruptive as it is, do they have a point worth listening to? Absolutely.

“Geneva is home to one of the airports with the most private jet traffic in Europe. This is where change must begin: We need to drastically reduce aviation to halt climate catastrophe and the destruction of life,” says Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Joel Perret in an article from AP News regarding the protest.

According to a 2021 study, European private jet CO2 emissions have seen a 31% increase from 2005 to 2019. Additionally, these private jets are actually untaxed in most European nations, which clearly exacerbates the problem (Murphy et al. 2021). But what exactly makes these private jets so much worse than other forms of transportation like trains or even commercial planes?

Not only do these private jets have worse fuel mileage than commercial flights, individuals who fly private (often celebrities, CEOs, other rich people) tend to use these private jets unnecessarily to fly short distances. “The act of taking a huge piece of metal and putting it up into the sky is going to be an enormous carbon footprint that’s really not necessary, especially for these kinds of short distances,” says Johns Hopkins associate professor of environmental health and engineering Peter DeCarlo in an article for the Washington Post.

And yes, this isn’t the first time private jets have made the news for being detrimental to the environment; celebrities have gone under fire for their frequent use of this form of transportation.

Taylor Swift, Travis Scott, and Jay-Z were among a list of numerous celebrities under fire for their excessive use of private jets. In 2022, they were reported to have emitted an average 3376.64 tonnes of CO2 per celebrity (Yard 2022). That's about 480 times more than the average person! “You wanna take mine or yours?” captioned Kylie Jenner on an instagram post of her and Travis Scott’s private jets. Clearly, these celebrities don’t realize the environmental impacts of their actions, or simply just don’t care.

A lot of us reading this article may have never been on a private jet ourselves, yet are still forced to feel the effects of the one-percenters overusing this form of transportation. So it’s understandable that people are protesting so loudly - there’s not much else we can do.

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