A bevy of hotshot activists, celebrity environmentalists, and high-profile political leaders descended on San Francisco last week for the first annual Global Climate Action Summit. But, it seems, not all of them were committed enough to the cause of preventing global warming to use a carbon-friendly means of travel.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that private jet traffic was up significantly at San Francisco's airports last week, largely because of environmentalist bigwigs jetting into town to meet about how to discuss curbing carbon emissions.
Airport officials claim traffic was up 30% on the private runways at San Francisco International Airport, and that corporate jets "filled the landing area's parking slots" and choked up air traffic.
The Chronicle wasn't specific about who was using the private jets to pop in for the Climate Change conference, but the now-annual event featured a number of environmental A-listers, from Al Gore, to Harrison Ford, to Alec Baldwin and Dave Matthews, all of whom can afford to and choose to fly by themselves rather than find a more eco-friendly way to attend an event dedicated to saving the planet.
Make no mistake: private jets are major carbon emitters. According to The Guardian — far from a "climate denial" publication — "an hour's flight on a private jet will emit more carbon dioxide than most Africans do in a whole year." Given how few passengers ride in a jet at one time, the carbon cost per passenger is extremely high, too. A passenger jet fully loaded puts "between 200-300kg of carbon dioxide ... into the atmosphere per passenger per hour." A half full Lear Jet gives off "emissions per passenger-hour of 400-600kg of carbon dioxide."
If Al Gore flew in a half-full Lear Jet, he's responsible for the same amount of carbon dioxide as an average American family home creates in about two weeks.
There are "carbon offset" programs for people who like to "fly green," but they're more like buying environmental indulgences rather than really scrubbing out carbon emissions.
The attendees weren't any more carbon conscious on the ground. Once in San Francisco, The New York Times reports, few high-profile attendees took advantage of freely available carbon-neutral ground transportation. An expensive electric shuttle, provided to move attendees between event landmarks, was "nearly empty" all the time.