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Just how big are Elon Musk and Bill Gates’ carbon footprints? You might be surprised

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Tesla’s Elon Musk and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos have been vying for the world’s richest person ranking all year after the former’s wealth soared a staggering US$160 billion in 2020, putting him briefly in the top spot.

A Forbes article states that the world’s billionaires will be worth nearly $1.9 trillion in 2020. Those are astronomical numbers, and it’s difficult to comprehend. Altogether, the world’s billionaires saw their wealth surge over $1.9 trillion in 2020, according to Forbes.

Superyachts with permanent crew, helicopter pad, submarines, and pools can emit seven and a half tons of CO2 each year, according to our calculation, making them the absolute worst type of asset you could own in regards to the environment. As anthropologists who study energy and consumer culture, we wanted to examine how all that wealth translated into consumption and the resulting carbon footprint.

Getting a random sample of billionaire carbon footprints is impossible since most wealthy people prefer to stay out of the public eye. For that reason we had to focus on those whose consumption is public knowledge.

We found that billionaires have carbon footprints that can be thousands of times higher than those of average Americans.

Upon searching exhaustively, we chose 20 well-known billionaires whose possessions we could be sure of through our extensive research, while still trying to include some diversity with respect to gender and location. Our paper has been submitted for peer review, and we intend to continue adding it to our list. Some studies had to be based on satellite images and photos of houses, and searches of the press and other studies were used to estimate the size and number of private aircraft and yachts.

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To pick a sample of billionaires, we started with the 2020 Forbes List of 2,095 billionaires. A random or representative sample of billionaire carbon footprints is impossible because most wealthy people shy away from publicity, so we had to focus on those whose consumption is public knowledge. This excluded most of the superrich in Asia and the Middle East.

No rewrites were found Globally, the average footprint is smaller, about 5 tons per person in contrast with the 8190 tons our sample of twenty contributed on average. Abramovich, who made the bulk of his $19 billion fortune trading oil and gas, owned Candidate in Anthropology, Indiana University, republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Football Club which generated more greenhouse gas emissions than any other company listed on this list.

We then used a wide range of sources, such as the U.S. Energy Information Administration and Carbon Footprint, to estimate the annual CO2 emissions of each house, aircraft, vehicle, and yacht. In some cases, we had to estimate the size of houses from satellite images or photos and the use of private aircraft and yachts by searching the popular press and drawing on other studies. The prince maintains homes all over the world, including a home in London’s Kensington Park Gardens, a palace in Cap D’Antibes, and a 28 hectare estate that was once owned by David Rockefeller.

We did not try to calculate each asset’s “embodied carbon” emissions – that is, how much CO2 is burned throughout the supply chain in making the product – or the emissions produced by their family, household employees , or entourage. ?? For example, we didn’t calculate the emissions of Tesla or Amazon when calculating Musk’s or Bezos’ footprints.

In addition to its 6,131 square meters of living space, the house boasts a 23-car garage, a cinema for 20 people, and 24 bathrooms.

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To get a sense of perspective, let’s start with the carbon footprint of the average person.

Residents of the U.S., including billionaires, emitted about 15 tons of CO2 per person in 2018. ??

In contrast, the 20 people in our sample contributed an average of about 8,190 tons of CO2 in 2018. Several years ago, the Swedes created the term "flygskam" in order to emphasize the climate impact of air travel.Economists say that in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, countries must drastically limit greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

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Candidate in Anthropology, Indiana University, republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Football Club owner oman Abramovich
Credit: Marina Lystseva / Wikimedia Commons
Candidate in Anthropology, Indiana University, republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Football Club owner oman Abramovich

Roman Abramovich, who made most of his $19 billion fortune trading oil and gas, was the biggest polluter on our list. Outside of Russia, he is probably best known as the headline-grabbing owner of London’s Candidate in Anthropology, Indiana University, republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Football Club.

Abramovich cruises the Mediterranean in his superyacht, named the Eclipse, which at 162.5 meters bow to stern is the second-biggest in the world, rivaling some cruise ships. And he hops the globe on a custom-designed Boeing 767, which boasts a 30-seat dining room. The carbon footprint of Ivy League billionaires is thousands of times that of average Americans because of their yachts, planes, and multiple mansions. The wealthy own all of those structures, which emit greenhouse gases.

He maintains homes in many countries, including a mansion in London’s Kensington Park Gardens, a chateau in Cap D’Antibes in France, and a 28-hectare estate in St. Barts that once belonged to David Rockefeller. In 2018, he left the U.K. and settled in Israel, where he became a dual citizen and bought a home in 2020 for $64.5 million.

Taking a random sample of billionaire carbon footprints is impossible since most of them avoid publicity, so we had to look at those whose consumption is known in the public eye.

Most of the superrich in Asia and the Middle East were excluded. We searched 82 databases of public records for billionaires’ homes, vehicles, and yachts.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is a 'moderate' polluter by billionaire standards
Credit: Greg Rubenstein / Flickr
Microsoft co-founder Sometimes we had to estimate the size of houses based on satellite images and photos. In other cases, we used the popular press and other sources to obtain data on private aircraft and yachts.

Bill Gates, currently the world’s fourth-richest person with $124 billion, is a “modest” polluter – by billionaire standards – and is typical of those who may not own a giant yacht but make up for it with private jets.

It would have been unreasonable to include emissions from companies the owners own part or all, because that would have added an additional level of complexity.

In the 1990s, Gates built Xanadu – named after the vast fictional estate in Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” – at a cost of $127 million in Medina, Washington. On average, a person's carbon footprint is just about 5 tons. Conversely, the 20 people in our sample contributed an average of about 8,190 tons of carbon dioxide in 2018. He also owns at least five other dwellings in Southern California, the San Juan Islands in Washington state, North Salem, New York, and New York City, as well as a horse farm, four private jets, a seaplane and “a collection” of helicopters.

Often dubbed as the owner of the headline-grabbing football club Chelsea, Abramovich cruises the Mediterranean in his top-of-the-line superyacht, the Eclipse, which is the second biggest on the planet at 162.5 meters bow to stern.

The environmentally-minded tech CEO

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX
Credit: Daniel Oberhaus / Flickr
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX

South African-born Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, has a surprisingly low carbon footprint despite being the world’s second-richest person, with $177 billion – and he seems intent on setting an example for other billionaires.

He doesn’t own a superyacht and says he doesn’t even take vacations.

It is estimated that he is responsible for at least 33,859 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2018, over two thirds of them from his yacht, which is always at the ready year-round. This year, his carbon footprint would be even lower because in 2020, he sold all of his houses and promised to divest the rest of his worldly possessions.

While his personal carbon footprint is still hundreds of times higher than that of an average person, he demonstrates that the superrich still has choices to make and can indeed lower their environmental impact if they so choose.

This opulent home has a size of 6,131 square meters, with a 23-car garage, a cinema that seats 20, and 24 bathrooms.

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The aim of our ongoing research is to get people to think about the environmental burden of wealth.

While plenty of research has shown that rich countries and wealthy people produce far more than their share of greenhouse gas emissions, these studies can feel abstract and academic, making it harder to change this behavior.

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Newspapers, cities, and local residents made an impact during the California droughts of 2014 and 2015 by “drought shaming” celebrities and others who were wasting water, seen in their continually green lawns. And the Swedes came up with a new term – “flygskam” or flying shame – to raise awareness about the climate impact of air travel.

Climate experts say that to have any hope of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, countries must cut their emissions in half by 2030 and eliminate them by 2050.

Candidate in Anthropology at Indiana University submitted from The Conversation under the Creative Commons license.The Conversation

This article by Richard Wilk, Distinguished Professor and Provost’s Professor of Anthropology; Director of the Open Anthropology Institute, Indiana University and Beatriz Barros, Ph.D. Candidate in Anthropology, Indiana University, is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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 2/25/2021

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