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  • Charvi Jain

Do Taylor Swift's economy boosts offset her carbon emission?

Updated: Mar 19


As the first artist to become a billionaire only through their musical earnings and break various records, Taylor Swift’s popularity seems to have no limits with her ongoing tour titled ‘The Eras Tour’ taking it to heights that were not thought possible. Her popularity is widely attributed to her relatability, which helps her build strong bonds with her followers. Swift's journey exhibits her dedication to facing misunderstandings and disregard in a profession where she faced deceit from colleagues and alleged supporters.


The Eras tour and the movie that has come out from it have grossed nearly $1.5 billion by themselves and have achieved a sort of cult status. The tour has been identified as a key boost to local economies and small businesses (especially in the tourism and hospitality sectors) wherever it goes, especially after the pandemic slump, and has even had cities change their name temporarily.


But despite this enormous success, there has been criticism over her environmental effect. The ecological and environmental impact of her concerts notwithstanding, there are several claims that Swift is greatly increasing her carbon footprint by choosing quick, convenient flights between states or continents. This brings up an important query: Should she not use extra caution? Is her behaviour acceptable? While some maintain that her actions contradict the principles she upholds, others assert that she has the same right to make personal decisions as everyone else.


This conundrum also makes one consider the elevated status that Swift has attained thanks to her committed fans, the Swifties. Have they held her in too high a regard, protecting her from justified criticism? Does her economic affluence and impact cancel out her environmental harm? It's a complicated problem that highlights the relationship between celebrity, accountability, and the expectations put on cultural icons.


Am I the problem, it's me.

The most recent estimates of carbon dioxide emissions are around 8,000-10,000 tonnes per year, with individu,als in wealthy countries emitting 20-30 tonnes and those in less developed countries under one tonne. Her single travel from Tokyo to Las Vegas to attend the Super Bowl (which the world was excited for) has generated an estimate of 90,000 kgs of carbon dioxide emissions which is 14 times more than an average US household uses in a year. This becomes even starker when we realize that the average households in the US generate nearly 8 times more than their Indian counterparts. The trend has been the same even when she is not on tour. 


Now, Taylor Swift has all the power to offset these emissions through various means, such

as lobbying, building peer networks, and using their social media platforms. Her team has already mentioned that she has bought nearly double the carbon credits required to offset these emissions. While we don’t know the exact number, this process of doing alternative work to help cover the ecological damage done is called ‘carbon offsetting’, of which, buying carbon credits is one of the strategies.


The technique known as carbon offsetting is mostly employed by companies to increase their emissions of greenhouse gases while maintaining that they are not harming the environment. Although purchasing carbon credits does not completely reverse environmental harm, your funds are allocated to other emission reduction initiatives in a proportion that is supposed to ‘balance out’. Reforestation initiatives are frequently used to achieve this, although investments in efficient or renewable energy projects may also be made. Yes, this does sound dodgy. The majority of climate specialists have dismissed the entire idea as redundant, and a study released last year discovered that in some circumstances, these initiatives may even exacerbate global warming. Also, even under the existing situation, it is important to invest in sustainable aviation fuel credits instead of buying carbon credits. Swift could retire the credits and say she offsets the emissions from those trips, but it is better to support projects worth supporting.


In the Echoes of Our Choices, Can We Find a Green Symphony?

Now, if Taylor Swift was a big company, the carbon credits would have been already considered as checking off the damage and in fact given the history of the US government, she would have even qualified for specific tax breaks because of the significantly high economic output she generates. However, that doesn’t mean that Taylor Swift can get off scot-free, especially when the companies shouldn’t have been either.


Well, why can’t we let her off if companies are doing the same thing? Because there is so much more she could do and she is not the only one being criticised. While many celebrities have come under fire for their private jet usage, that was mostly temporary while Swift’s has been longstanding. The important caveat to consider here however is that most of them are men aged more than 50 and none of them are as famous as she is.


The good news for Swift is that "it is easier to be sustainable the wealthier you are." Celebrities have far easier access to sustainability, thus it's OK to hold them to higher standards. Swift might reverse her direction by openly discussing the climate catastrophe, endorsing eco-friendly projects, or donating the earnings from her live performances to environmental charities. Swift could also use her influence as an influencer to change behaviour and outweigh her carbon emissions. She could send one Instagram post (to her 282 million followers) and change enough behaviour to well outweigh 8,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. This opportunity had not existed 10 years ago and can help raise awareness by responding to the attention and writing stories about it. However, she predicts that she will continue to follow the anti-hero path.


To dream of a (green) paradise

Taylor Swift also has the liberty to take inspiration from other musicians, who are trying to make the world a greener place. For instance, British rock band Coldplay band, currently performing their ‘Music of the Spheres’ World Tour, has made their LED wristbands 100% compostable, reducing production by 80%. They have also installed pedal bikes and kinetic flooring at venues to encourage charging they pledged to plant one tree per ticket sold and donate to environmental charities. Despite some criticisms of 'greenwashing' due to logistics-related carbon emissions, Coldplay remains a trailblazer for sustainability in the touring industry. Such methodologies on similar lines can be adopted by Swift.


Conclusion

Is everything ‘all too well’? Does she get a free out-of-jail pass, just because she is reviving economies? Is her economic contribution of any significance if the by-product is the deterioration of the planet slowly? Swift’s economic contribution and the carbon offsetting are two completely different regimes, people wouldn’t care if she can single-handedly get countries out of recession if the planet is suffering, to say the least. Maybe the pop icon has some things to reconsider and not let the earth ‘slip away in a moment’ as August did.


About the Author

Charvi Jain is a final year BA Economics student at the Jindal School of Government and Public Policy. She loves to read about complexity around economic development issues and inequality among the genders.




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