Kylie Jenner’s private jet flights a huge climate problem

It started with a ill-advised photo Posted by the most followed woman on Instagram. Kylie Jenner, the model turned mogul, posted a photo with rapper and partner Travis Scott on a runway between two private planes with the caption, “Do you want to take mine or yours?” The post unleashed a torrent of criticism that has only intensified thanks to a flight-tracking Twitter account that has put the wasteful emissions of the wealthy in the spotlight.

Comments on the photo, which have since been closed, criticized Jenner, not only for her display of excessive wealth, but also for the climate damage of using private jets. The firestorm was reinforced by the findings of Twitter account @CelebJets, which automatically tracks the movements of celebrity planes. The account revealed that Jenner regularly uses his private jet for trips of less than 15 minutes. She is not alone either; the account too shown that celebrities like Floyd Mayweather, Kenny Chesney and Drake are members of the super short-haul club.

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

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

As long as your bills initially used information available from the FAA To track the departures, intended flight paths and landings of planes that Sweeney thought were interesting, in May he adapted the trackers to also include fuel use and carbon emissions. Estimates are based on the type of aircraft and the amount of fuel it burns per hour. He doesn’t have all the aircraft models yet, but he plans to add more.

There are already companies looking to take advantage of the opportunity @CelebJets has opened up. Sweeney said at least one carbon offset company has reached out to use the trackers to integrate offset payments into celebrity plane rides.

This is a happy development for Sweeney, who noted that Bill Gates is already compensating for his private jet travel, and if he can do it, so can others: “If… more and more people do it, then it should help.” he said.

Whether the pressure will pay dividends for the climate remains to be seen. Air travel is notoriously difficult to decarbonize, and the tradeoffs come with all kinds of problems both from a climate and land rights perspective.

The scrutiny carried out by Sweeney’s trackers has unsettled at least some private jet passengers, though they may be getting the wrong message. Musk approached Sweeney personally last fall asking him to take down the popular @ElonJet account, offering him $5,000 to do so. However, that’s not exactly a solution that would benefit the climate. While Jenner hasn’t gotten into Sweeney’s DMs yet, she said both billionaire businessman Mark Cuban and sales mogul Grant Cardone have in recent months.

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

The use of data and technology to reveal yacht and private jet travel does more than create a buzz on social media. It highlights one of the key injustices of climate change: the rich are responsible for a disproportionate amount of carbon pollution.

Research shows that a single flight across the US in a Gulfstream IV private jet, a particularly popular model, emits twice the amount of carbon dioxide than the average American makes in an entire year. A Bloomberg analysis published earlier this year also revealed that the top 1% of the world’s top earners emit 70 times more carbon dioxide than the bottom 50% combined. These dynamics often play out as background noise, but trackers like Sweeney’s are making sure they’re a bigger part of the conversation about how the world should reduce emissions.

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