Let’s Fact Check That Taylor Swift Private Jet Usage Story

Yard’s “study” got a lot of things wrong. Fight your confirmation bias.

Zulie Rane


Image created by author in Canva using images from Wikimedia Commons under the CC license.

For the next ten years, people will be citing a shoddy study that they just read the headline of:

“You know, Taylor Swift is the worst celebrity for using private jets.”

Recently, Yard Marketing agency published a story listing the 10 celebs who were the “worst” offenders for private jet usage. It went viral. Congratulations to the author at Yard, that’s a marketing agency’s dream.

I put “worst” in scare quotes because I found their article bad. It was outright inaccurate in several places and drew its data from a biased source, @celebjets. @CelebJets only tracks 21 celebs, so Swift is “worst” out of those 21. Yard did not look at @CorporateJets and @ElonJet, other automated Twitter accounts run by the same person.

Now, I do not excuse private jet usage. Private jets emit more than 33 million tons of greenhouse gases according to this 2020 study. That’s more than Denmark, which is a country of 5.8 million. Celebrities shouldn’t use private jets to fly 30 miles up the road when a car would work just as well.

But I have a few bones to pick with this study and the framing of it.

  • The “carbon footprint” is a concept made up by the fossil fuel industry to shift blame away from themselves and onto individuals. I agree with the article’s premise but it did not mention the role of the government to better regulate, or that industries like the fossil fuel industry should. It’s much, much easier to blame individuals than call for systemic change.
  • The article was cited as “research” from a “sustainability-driven marketing agency” in publications like Buzzfeed, The Tab, and others. But it’s not research; it’s a compilation of someone else’s data. Plus, nowhere on their site does Yard call themselves a sustainability-driven marketing agency. They literally scraped the data from a Twitter user called Celebrity Jets. (Celebrity Jets does get it from a reputable and fact-checkable if occasionally inaccurate source, @ADSBExchange.)
  • There was no methodology. Maybe it’s the scientist in me, but for anything to be called a…