PRIVATE JETS AS POLLUTER (Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Env and Eco)

News-CRUX-10     10th February 2024        
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Context: American Pop star’s legal team has threatened legal action against Jack Sweeney, 21-year-old University of Central Florida student who runs social media accounts sharing publicly available information about private jet landings and take-offs.


The problem with private jets

  • Major Polluters: Private jets, when assessed per capita, rank among the leading contributors to pollution globally.
  • Alarming Discrepancy: According to a 2023 report by Transport and Environment, a European climate NGO, private jets prove to be 5 to 14 times more polluting per passenger than commercial planes, and a staggering 50 times more polluting than trains.
  • Significant Carbon Footprint: The same report highlighted that private jets have the potential to emit approximately 2 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per hour, equivalent to about a quarter of the yearly carbon emissions of an average European.
  • Celebrities and Billionaires' Impact: An estimate from a report by British media outlet Yard suggested that, in 2022, celebrities and billionaires contributed roughly 3376.64 tons of CO2 emissions each through their private jets alone.
  • Soaring Private Jet Usage: Despite environmental concerns, private jet usage has consistently risen over the years. A Reuters report in May 2023, citing a Greenpeace study, revealed a 64% increase in private flights in Europe during 2022, resulting in the emission of over 5.3 million tonnes of CO2.


Representative of a much larger problem

  • Disproportionate Environmental Impact: Private jet travel exemplifies how the affluent significantly contribute to CO2 emissions and climate change, reflecting an unequal environmental impact.
  • Focus on Responsibility Amid Global Warming: The escalating consequences of global warming prompt heightened scrutiny on culpability, with attention directed towards the actions of the rich and powerful.
  • UN Acknowledgment of Wealth Disparity: The United Nations emphasizes the profound influence of lifestyles on the planet, noting that the top 1% of the global population is accountable for more greenhouse gas emissions than the bottom 50%.
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