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Eco-hypocrites: five celebrities who don't lead by example

They are accused of leading a highly polluting lifestyle.

(Daniel Oberhaus,Greg Rubenstein,Christopher Camp,Eva Rinaldi/Flickr)

A new type of behavior is becoming increasingly common: billionaires and celebrities boast about investing their fortunes in the fight against climate change. But many are increasingly criticized for the great contradictions between what they say and what they do.

Many of the eco-friendly celebrities are under public scrutiny for a practice gaining fame on social networks: air-tracking. On Twitter we can find accounts such as Celebrity Jets, created by programmer Jack Sweeney, with alerts associated with the takeoff and landing of private jets. This profile disseminates information such as the location and model of the aircraft, the duration of the trip, fuel consumption and the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted during the flight.

These accounts publish daily private flights of celebrities who claim to support environmental conservation and who actually belong to the world's richest 1% who produce twice as much carbon emissions as the poorest individuals. According to the United Nations (UN), the richest 5% of the planet, the so-called "polluting elite", were responsible for 37% of the growth in emissions between 1990 and 2015.

Elon Musk

Tesla's CEO promotes projects such as XPrize Carbon Removal, which will donate $100 million to the most effective technologies for removing one ton per day of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and oceans. The competition will run until 2025 and aims to find solutions that can store carbon for at least 100 years.

A Twitter account called @ElonJet is dedicated only to disseminating the tons of CO2 emitted by the tycoon every time he travels in his jet. Tesla's CEO offered $5,000 to the account creator, Jack Sweeney, to close the account. But the 20-year-old teenager responded with a counteroffer of 50,000. The tycoon reacted by blocking it. The account already has more than 480,000 followers and constantly criticizes Musk's eccentric and polluting lifestyle.

Jeff Bezos

Amazon's founder launched the Earth Fund, a $10 billion fund focused on creating, expanding, managing and monitoring protected areas, in 2020. Amazon also created a climate fund, called The Climate Pledge, valued at $2 billion to invest in new technologies to develop a zero-carbon economy by 2040.

Bezos' private jets cost $150 million; one of them he used to fly to Glasgow, Scotland, for a United Nations summit aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions . The Amazon founder posted on his Twitter account the moment he shared with Prince Charles of Wales, who "has been involved in fighting climate change and protecting our beautiful world far longer than most," as he praised him.

Bill Gates

The founder of Microsoft directs his investment fund towards organizations that promote zero-emission policies, allocating more than 1 billion dollars for this purpose. The company set targets to obtain 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and to reduce the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions by 30%.

Well, in 2017 alone Gates made 59 flights in his jet, covering a distance of more than eight times around the world. A report by Lund University estimated that a trip on Gates' private plane emitted about 1,600 tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the average annual emissions of 105 people. The businessman also has the distinction of having a dedicated Twitter account, @GatesJets, also created by Sweeney, where his private trips are posted daily, with the tons of carbon dioxide they emit.

Leonardo DiCaprio

The Oscar-winning actor founded an organization dedicated to raising awareness about climate change called Earth Alliance, and he is also a Messenger of Peace with climate change focus area, a distinction awarded to him by the UN Secretary General in 2014.

But DiCaprio has also received constant criticism for his use of a private jet to attend events. His most high profile incident took place in 2016, when he was labeled as a

eco-hypocrite for flying round-trip from France to New York (13,000 kms) to receive an award on climate change. Following an appearance at Global Citizen in New York in 2019, DiCaprio was mocked for his use of yachts and private jets.

Taylor Swift

The singer was in the spotlight alongside designer Stella McCartney for creating a series of sustainable garments inspired by her album Lover.

However, according to Yard research, Swift is the biggest jet polluter of all. Swift has flown 170 times this year, averaging 80 minutes and a total time of about 16 days in the air. Their emissions from these trips are estimated at 8,293 tons, or 1,000 times more than the average American's annual total .