Author: Joanna Xu
Editors: Kyra Wang, Sophia Chen
Artist: Astrid Chen
Considering the detrimental effects of climate change on our planet, how will the public react when some of their favorite celebrities come under fire for the magnitude of their carbon footprint? Recently, media outlets compiled a list of the ten celebrities who have racked up the most CO2 emissions from their private jets alone. Unsurprisingly, at the top of this list is Taylor Swift, the trending artist who has just recently set out on her Eras tour, a global tour with over 130 shows across five continents. Only three months into the tour, Taylor Swift’s total flight emissions for the year have already amounted to 8293.54 tons. Other notable celebrities on the list include Floyd Mayweather, with 7,076.8 tons of CO2, Jay-Z, with 6,982 tons of CO2, and Kim Kardashian, with 4,268.5 tons of CO2. To put this into perspective, in 2020, the U.S. per capita carbon emission was 13 tons, and the global per capita carbon emission was 4.3 tons. In response to such allegations, a spokesperson for Taylor Swift told the media that “she has purchased more than double the carbon credits necessary to offset all her tour travel.” Similarly, many manufacturing companies and fellow celebrities have invested in various carbon markets. This raises some questions: What exactly are carbon credits? How do they work? Are they effective?
Carbon credits were first introduced in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Also referred to as carbon offsets, these permits can be bought or sold in carbon markets, allowing individuals and companies to trade their rights to emit specific amounts of greenhouse gases. Within compliance markets, credit holders, usually companies, buy and sell and sell carbon credit within bounds set by the local government. Out of a total number of carbon credits, each company will hold a certain amount, and depending on how many they hold, they are allowed to create x tons of carbon emissions. They would have to buy the credits from other shareholders if they ever needed more. By operating in this way, the net carbon emissions can be controlled and companies are given the incentive to produce less carbon to gain money from the market which fosters a market-driven approach to environmental responsibility.
As individuals rather than corporations, celebrities buy credits from the voluntary carbon market, which entails paying for projects that reduce CO2 in our atmosphere, such as renewable energy development or tree planting. These projects, however, are only sometimes reliable as they may not capture as much CO2 as they are supposed to or take too long to do so. Furthermore, the concept of carbon offsets—paying others to help climate change while you contribute to the issue—is inherently ironic. Instead of allowing individuals to pay to mitigate their carbon footprints, the solution to climate change lies in avoiding emissions in the first place. The inherent challenges and uncertainties associated with these credits should prompt individuals, including celebrities, to reconsider using excessive carbon. This emphasizes a shift toward sustainable and eco-friendly practices over compensatory measures.
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