Greenhouse gas emissions are one of the worst problems facing the planet in terms of global warming. Emissions have numerous sources, including automobile traffic, manufacturing, and factory farming. However, pound for pound, the worst offenders in damaging the environment are privately owned jets.
A private jet is often the crowning jewel for an extremely wealthy person. For many, their own personal aircraft is the very definition of turning fiat cash into true freedom. Want to spend a weekend in Italy before hopping back to London in time for a media appearance? Your private jet can handle that. Want to visit a Caribbean Island for a few days and then hit New York for some nightlife? Private jets let you make your own schedule.
And, new research finds, private jets are also unbelievably bad for the environment. According to a report from Transport & Environment, private jets entering or leaving the UK account for nearly a fifth of the emissions increase in Europe seen between 2005 and 2019. Research shows that private jets are as much as ten times more “carbon-intensive” than commercial airliners since they only carry a handful of people and make more frequent trips.
When one considers the size of a private jet, it could be easy to think that these smaller aircraft pollute less than commercial airliners. And while that is strictly true, it doesn’t take into account the much smaller number of passengers carried by a private aircraft. Wealthy jet owners are typically only carrying themselves and a handful of employees, maybe a few friends and family members, when they travel in their private craft.
Airliners, on the other hand, carry dozens or even hundreds of people at a time. As such, it works like carpooling: while one car is putting out emissions, if four people are in it instead of in four different cars, it’s less “carbon-intensive”.
The majority of these flights are taking place within Europe, the report finds. This is particularly shocking for some activists, who have long called for less air traffic and more travel by train or bus among tourists. Some journeys, like those that cross continents or oceans, make sense to be taken by plane. But, activists argue, using a private jet to hop from London to Berlin is incredibly wasteful and damaging to the environment.
As the EU considers a “frequent flyer” tax, the influence and power of the average private jet owner can’t be underestimated. Time will tell if the EU has the drive to implement transformative policies regarding aircraft emissions.