Kylie Jenner’s private jet flights, a huge climate problem

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It all started with an ill-advised photo posted by the most followed woman on Instagram. Model-turned-mogul Kylie Jenner posted a photo with rapper and partner Travis Scott on a tarmac between two private jets with the caption, “Do you want to take mine or yours?” The post sparked a torrent of criticism that only intensified thanks to a theft-tracking Twitter account that put the shameless shows of the rich in the spotlight.


Comments on the photo – which have since been taken down – called out Jenner, not only for her display of excessive wealth, but also for the climate damage of using a private jet. The firestorm was heightened by the findings of Twitter account @CelebJets, which automatically tracks the movements of celebrity planes. The account revealed that Jenner regularly uses her private jet for trips under 15 minutes. She’s not alone either; the account also showed that celebrities such as Floyd Mayweather, Kenny Chesney and Drake are members of the short super-stealing club.

Public outrage over the carbon emissions of the super rich served as a case study of how new technologies and publicly available data can be used for climate accountability. Jack Sweeney, the 19-year-old creator of @CelebJets and many other automated jet tracking accounts (including the now infamous @ElonJet), is thrilled his work has had an impact.

“Hopefully it will inspire people to be more careful with their flights or…to think more about traveling less or being more efficient,” Sweeney told Protocol.

While his accounts initially used information available from the FAA to track scheduled departures, flight paths and landings of planes that Sweeney found interesting, in May he adapted the trackers to also include fuel consumption and emissions. of carbon. Estimates are based on the type of aircraft and the amount of fuel per hour it burns. He doesn’t have all the plane models yet, but he plans to add more.

There are already companies looking to seize the opportunity presented by @CelebJets. Sweeney said at least one carbon offset company has offered to use the trackers to integrate offset payments into celebrity air travel.

It’s a happy development for Sweeney, who pointed out that Bill Gates is already compensating for his private jet travel, and if he can do it, others can too: “If…more and more people are doing, then that should help.” he said.

It remains to be seen whether the pressure will pay off for the climate. Air travel is notoriously difficult to decarbonise, and offsets come with all sorts of issues, both from a climate and land rights perspective.

The scrutiny brought by Sweeney’s trackers has rattled at least some private jet travelers, though they may be taking home the wrong message. Musk personally reached out to Sweeney last fall asking him to remove the popular @ElonJet account, offering him $5,000 to do so. It’s not exactly a climate-friendly solution, though. While Jenner has yet to slip into Sweeney’s DMs, he said billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban and sales mogul Grant Cardone have done so in recent months.

Sweeney’s father works in the airline industry and Sweeney has followed flights since childhood. But he may not stop to watch the rich take flight. Sweeney had access to data from MarineTraffic, a ship tracking intelligence firm, a few months ago. Although he hasn’t done anything with it yet, others are already using similar data to track the yachts of some billionaires, including one owned by Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder.

The use of data and technology to reveal private jet and yacht travel is doing more than creating a social media ruckus. It highlights one of the main injustices of climate change: the rich are responsible for a disproportionate amount of carbon pollution.

Research shows that a single flight across the United States in a Gulfstream IV private jet – a particularly popular model – emits twice as much carbon dioxide as the average American in an entire year. A Bloomberg analysis released earlier this year also found that the world’s top 1% emit 70 times more carbon dioxide than the bottom 50% combined. These dynamics often play as background noise, but trackers like Sweeney are ensuring they’re a bigger part of the conversation about how the world should cut emissions.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the Washington commanders’ names. This story was updated on July 22, 2022.

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