Taylor Swift took a 12-hour, 5,000-mile flight this weekend from Tokyo, Japan, to Las Vegas, Nevada, to watch Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce win the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers. It was her latest private jet flight – a travel habit that has gained criticism due to the jet’s inevitable release of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. The pop star allegedly produced 138 tons of CO2 emissions in three months while commuting to visit Kelce, Newsweek reported. 

Why Taylor Swift’s travel habits are being criticised

“Swift’s carbon emissions are extreme and are polluting the atmosphere,” Leah Thomas, author of The Intersectional Environmentalist who studies the intersection between environmentalism and privilege, told BBC Travel. “Carbon emissions are one of the leading causes of the climate crisis, as carbon in the atmosphere warms the planet, which contributes to extreme weather events.”

The Grammy Award winner’s carbon footprint – the amount of carbon dioxide created via energy use and lifestyle – was originally exposed by Jack Sweeney, a student who tracks celebrities’ private jet usage. Sweeney has been (legally) tracking Swift’s carbon output as well as that of other celebrities, since flight patterns, even of celebrity-owned private jets, are public information. Sweeney posts this flight information to @SwiftJetNextDay the following day rather than in real time to further ensure legality.

Many of Swift’s private jet voyages, Sweeney’s tracking has shown, coincided with football games – including a flight to Buffalo, New York, where the musician attended the 21 January Chiefs v Buffalo Bills game, and a 28 January trip to Baltimore, Maryland for the Chiefs v Baltimore Ravens game.

Last week, it was revealed that Swift’s legal team sent Sweeney a cease and desist letter in December 2023 stating that his “wrongful and dangerous actions must stop” and threatening legal action against the University of Central Florida student. Swift’s team alleged that Sweeney’s actions were endangering Swift’s safety and that this is a “life-or-death matter”. In the letter, Sweeney is being accused of “stalking and harassing behaviour” by Swift’s attorney.

Swift has been criticised for her carbon footprint before: her frequent private jet flights caused a study from UK marketing agancy Yard to claim she was the #1 celebrity CO2 polluter in 2022, with emissions claimed to be 1,100 times the amount of the average person. That said, as the Washington Post has noted, the Yard analysis relied on flight data available on Twitter, was not peer-reviewed or verified, and while it tracked celebrity-owned jet flights there is no way of knowing when or whether the owners are on the jets.

Air travel in general is a major creator of CO2 emissions. Aviation accounts for 8% of carbon-related emissions in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That said, non-stop routes and flying in economy are considered lower-carbon choices compared to private jets. While all air travel creates carbon emissions, private jets produce significantly more per person – at least 10 times more carbon emissions compared to a commercial flight.

The good news for Swift is that “the wealthier you are, the easier it is to be sustainable”, Thomas explained. “It’s ok to hold celebrities to higher standards, because sustainability is much more accessible to them. Swift could course-correct by blatantly speaking about the climate crisis, promoting sustainable initiatives or donating proceeds of her concerts to environmental organisations.”

Swift’s publicist told BBC News that she does use carbon offsets to compensate her private jet travel. But how valuable are these in making frequent air travel more sustainable? BBC Travel has reached out to Swift’s team for further comment and will update this article if/when we receive a response.

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