As the world quite literally burns and floods, it’s important to remember that individualism won’t really solve the climate crisis, especially compared to, say, the wholesale dismantling of the brutal grip the fossil fuel industry has on modern society. Still, there are some individuals who could probably stand to do a bit more to mitigate their carbon footprint — among them, the super-wealthy who make frequent use of carbon-spewing private jets. (And let’s not even get started on yachts.)
While private jets are used by rich folks of all kinds, their use among celebrities has come under scrutiny recently, with reports of the likes of Drake and Kylie Jenner taking flights that lasted less than 20 minutes. In response, the sustainability marketing firm Yard put together a new report using data to rank the celebrities whose private jets have flown the most so far this year — and subsequently dumped the most carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Drake and Jenner both appear on the list, but they’re actually nowhere near the top, which is occupied by none other than Taylor Swift. According to Yard, Swift’s jet flew 170 times between Jan. 1 and July 19 (the window for the Yard study), totaling 22,923 minutes, or 15.9 days, in the air. That output has created estimated total flight emissions of 8,293.54 tonnes of carbon, which Yard says is 1,184.8 times more than the average person’s total annual emissions. (At least one more flight can be added to that list, too: The flight-tracking Twitter account Celebrity Jets notes that Swift’s plane flew today, July 29.)
“Taylor’s jet is loaned out regularly to other individuals,” a spokesperson for Swift tells Rolling Stone. “To attribute most or all of these trips to her is blatantly incorrect.”
To create this report, Yard scraped data from Celebrity Jets, which in turn pulls its info from ADS-B Exchange (“the world’s largest public source of unfiltered flight data,” according to its website). Yard based its carbon emissions estimates on a U.K. Department for Transportation estimate that a plane traveling at about 850 km/hour gives off 134 kg of CO2 per hour; that 134 kg estimate was multiplied with both time-spent-in-air and a factor of 2.7 to account for “radiative forcing,” which includes other harmful emissions such as nitrous oxide (2.7 was taken from Mark Lynas’ book Carbon Counter). That number was then divided by 1000 to convert to tonnes.
(Since the Yard study went viral, some have cast doubts on the firm’s methodology and accuracy, especially when it comes to calculating carbon emissions.)
Coming in behind Swift’s plane on Yard’s list was an aircraft belonging to boxer Floyd Mayweather, which emitted an estimated 7076.8 tonnes of CO2 from 177 flights so far this year (one of those flights lasted just 10 minutes). Coming in at number three on the list was Jay-Z, though his placement does come with a caveat: The data pulled for Jay is tied to the Puma Jet, a Gulfstream GV that Jay — the creative director for Puma — reportedly convinced the sneaker giant to purchase as a perk for the athletes it endorses.
While Jay-Z is not the only person flying on the Puma Jet, a rep for Yard said, “We attributed the jet to Jay-Z on this occasion because he requested the Puma jet as part of his sign-up deal to become the creative director of Puma basketball. The Puma jet’s tail numbers are N444SC at Jay-Z’s request. N, the standard US private jet registration code, 444, referring to his album of the same name and SC for his birth name, Shawn Carter. Without Jay-Z, this jet would cease to exist.”
The rest of the celebrities in Yard’s top 10 do appear to own the jets that provided the flight data for the report. To that end, though, it’s impossible to say if the specific owners are the ones traveling on these planes for every specific flight. For instance, Swift actually has two planes that CelebJets tracks, and obviously, she can’t be using both at once.
So, beyond the Jay-Z/the Puma Jet, next on Yard’s list is former baseball star Alex Rodriguez’s plane, which racked up 106 flights and emitted 5,342.7 tonnes of CO2. And rounding out the top five is a jet belonging to country star Blake Shelton, which has so far taken 111 flights and emitted 4495 tonnes of CO2. The rest of the Top 10 includes jets belonging to director Steven Spielberg (61 flights, 4,465 tonnes), Kim Kardashian (57 flights, 4268.5 tonnes), Mark Wahlberg (101 flights, 3772.85 tones), Oprah Winfrey (68 flights, 3493.17 tonnes), and Travis Scott (54 flights, 3033.3 tonnes).
Reps for the other nine celebrities in the top 10 of Yard’s list did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.
As for the two celebs who helped inspire Yard’s study: Kylie Jenner’s jet landed all the way down at number 19 (64 flights, 1682.7 tonnes), sandwiched between Jim Carey and Tom Cruise. And Drake’s plane popped up at number 16 (37 flights, 1844.09 tonnes), in between golfer Jack Nicklaus and Kenny Chesney. While Jenner has yet to address her 17-minute flight, Drake did respond to some criticism on Instagram by noting that nobody was even on the seven-minute, 12-minute, and 14-minute flights his Boeing 767 took during a six-week span. The explanation, in all honesty, doesn’t do him any favors.
“This is just them moving planes to whatever airport they are being stored at for anyone who was interested in the logistics… nobody takes that flight,” Drake said. (A rep for Drake did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for further comment.)
This story was updated 8/5/22 at 2:49 p.m. ET to include reference to some doubts that have been cast on Yard’s study and methodology.