This may be a morale killer or a morale boost.
Ignoring the fact Taylor Swift's personal carbon emissions is one of the most wildly searched things on the internet right now, the fact of the matter is there is a lot of carbon emissions generated from the singular act of traveling.
Before we dig into it, it is indeed paradoxical that in the quest to tour the world, most travelers are single handedly contributing to its demise, a quandary most of us frequent fliers have been grappling with the last few years.
Traveling, from the sheer beauty of remote regions of China to a very terrifying scene of deforestation in Guatemala, has made me more environmentally prescient in a way that's more effective than any news article could ever impart.
It's so real that even the Swedes have a word for it: flygskam, pronounced “fleeg-skahm, which is about the shame of flying.
So... exactly how bad is traveling for the environment, again?
Before we dig into Taylor Swift's carbon emissions, this is a topic worth revisiting. Flying is almost the worst thing that you can do for climate change.
Reputedly, travel accounts for more than 8% of the world’s total carbon emissions. That includes the entire and singular category of transportation, and of course out of that, flying is on top of every transport method as the worst offender.
Vox goes on exactly how bad air travel actually is for the environment:
A one-way flight across the Atlantic from New York City to London emits one ton of carbon dioxide per passenger. There are upward of 2,500 flights over the North Atlantic every day.
And that’s just one air corridor. Around the world, aviation emits about 860 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, or about 2 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Those numbers are poised to soar. The International Civil Aviation Organization projects that emissions from air travel will grow between 300 and 700 percent by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.
Here’s a quick infographic from Our World In Data detailing the various offenses of different types of transport by kilometer (just over half a mile).
Then to break it down, how you travel also matters.
The Points Guy spells it out quite succinctly:
Passengers seated in business class are responsible for 2.6 to 4.3 times more emissions than if they fly in coach, according to Rutherford. The results are based on the floor space taken up by each passenger, along with weight considerations and other factors.
First-class passengers are also worse, emitting up to seven times the carbon footprint of an economy class passenger.
How much carbon emissions do you emit as a traveler? More importantly, how do you stack up?
It seems if flying was a crime, I'd personally be a top offender, though undoubtedly there are people who have flown more than me. The last few years have been great for atoning, and saying "no" to trips when they don't make sense.
For those that use TripIt as a travel management tool, the app does compile a nice handy compilation of flight statistics, even if it doesn't compare you against the average traveler.
(This is not a race you want to win, OK?)
Since 2020, the app has included a feature for travelers to see their total Carbon Footprint, whether that's sorted out by year or for all-time. It calculates the total amount of CO₂ a traveler has emitted in metric tons, using the Greenhouse Gas protocol, a standard used by most American and European governmental reporting agencies.
(It also takes into account for flight class, such as first- and business class, which has a bigger carbon footprint than economy class. I prefer back of the bus.)
So for the 2,285,595 miles and 12 years I've been on the road to date, I've averaged 190,466 miles per year, that means I've emitted, tons of CO₂/year.
(The Nature Conservancy's carbon emissions calculator is the easiest tool we've been able to find, short of spending an entire day auditing all of your personal activities. It will also include other carbon-emitting activities to find a more accurate footprint, but we do not have time for this.)
In TripIt's estimation, I've generated 121 metric tons, which would be enough to power 14 homes with energy for one year. By comparison, the U.S. EPA's Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator reports this at 15 homes, so not too far off.
How does this stack up against Taylor Swift's carbon emissions?
The New Daily, an Australian paper based in Melbourne, reports Swift's carbon emissions flying to see Travis Kelce was 138 tons in 3 months. If that's even somewhat close to accurate, it means Taylor Swift has generated more carbon emissions in 3 months than I have in 12 years.
First of all, there is the private jet thing. If you think business and first class is bad, private jet is on a whole another level, so her carbon emissions is especially atrocious.