Private Jet Climate Controversy Takes Off Online
The debate over the ethics of ultra-wealthy celebrities and their fuel-guzzling private jets has taken flight once again on the tails of a Kylie Jenner Instagram post flaunting hers and his matching planes with boyfriend Travis Scott. Now, many online are asking whether celebrities have a moral obligation to cool their jets, literally, as people worldwide suffer the clearest consequences of climate change yet: lethal heatwaves. In fact, Pearl Jam canceled its gig in Vienna last week due to health impacts felt by the band’s lead singer, Eddie Vedder, from the French wildfires. In the UK, the historic temperatures and heatwaves have been so extreme that air travel (of all things) was disrupted last week due to runways that literally melted at Luton Airport.
ET: Tour Kim Kardashian's Ultra Luxe Airplane, June 2, 2022.
Why This Matters
Climate change is demanding sacrifices from average Americans, particularly lower-income communities and communities of color. In California, officials have asked residents to cut water consumption in the face of the West’s historic drought, and residents in Texas were asked to voluntarily reduce electricity usage amid scorching temperatures. As more Americans are forced to adjust their lifestyles, many are beginning to take issue with celebrities who continue to flaunt their decadent habits, particularly when, in the case of private planes, those habits directly contribute to the planet’s warming.
“I could recycle everything, buy all my clothes second-hand, compost and grow my own food for the rest of my life, and it wouldn’t even begin to offset the footprint from one of [Jenner’s] flights,” wrote one Twitter user in frustration.
Others have begun organizing online projects to highlight the astonishing hypocrisy of the ultra-wealthy who brag about their choice to overconsume. Banprivatejets.org was started by Mario Huber to point out that, as he put it, “It’s unfair to ask the poorest people to give up activities first if the richest don’t have to give up anything.” And coder Jack Sweeney started the automated Twitter account @celebjets to show users the flying habits of private-jet owners in real-time.
CNN: Teen tracking Elon Musk's jet explains why he's doing it, February 12, 2022.
Let Them Fly Coach
Outrage over private planes is only the latest example of an emerging pattern worldwide: Those with the fewest resources have contributed the least to climate change yet bear the brunt of its consequences. In Africa, extreme heat has caused catastrophic crop failures, prompting the UN to tell wealthy and wasteful Western countries that it's their duty to pay “loss and damage” fees to those hardest-hit countries. As for the private sector, even the Pope has spoken up, telling moneyed business leaders that they have a “moral imperative” to halt investments in fossil fuels and slow climate change.
Robin Hood: "This is Loss and Damage | Who Pays" narrated by Mark Strong, September 23, 2021.
DW: This is just how unfair climate change is, May 21, 2021.
TED: His Holiness Pope Francis | Our moral imperative to act on climate change, October 20, 2020.
Democracy Now: Bill McKibben | Latest IPCC Climate Report Underscores "Fossil Fuel Is at the Root of Our Problems," April 7, 2022.