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Should Private Jets Be Banned?

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True, private jets are mostly the rarified ride of rock stars and pro athletes, but they are also a growing share of air travel. How can such small planes be damaging the environment? Myles explores the data on how carbon dioxide (CO 2) emissions from private jets affect climate change. It’s more than you think, especially if you look at it per trip or per passenger. Some European countries want to ban private jets completely. Others advocate for heavily taxing private jet setters. What do you think? Watch and join the discussion: Should private jets be banned?

TEACHERS: Get your students in the discussion on KQED Learn, a safe place for middle and high school students to investigate controversial topics and share their voices. Click to see this video and lesson plan on KQED Learn.

What causes climate change?

Since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve been burning more and more fossil fuels like gas for cars, or natural gas and coal for electricity. And all this releases tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, which is a problem because CO2 is a “greenhouse gas.” Greenhouse gases are molecules that trap heat in the atmosphere, which leads to an overall warming effect on the planet. CO2 isn’t the ONLY greenhouse gas, there’s methane, nitrous oxide, and some others in the mix. AND burning fossil fuels isn’t the only way greenhouse gasses are released into the atmosphere. But CO2 currently accounts for the greatest warming. And since the late 1800s when global average temperatures have increased by about 1 degree Celsius. Overall, this warming has a huge impact on the climate causing things like more severe droughts, water scarcity, wildfires, floods, melting of polar ice, and sea level rise. If we want to keep climate change from getting worse, we need to reduce our CO2 emissions.

How much carbon dioxide do private jets emit?


A private jet can emit two metric tons of CO2 in just one hour. For comparison, the average car emits about 4.6 metric tons in an ENTIRE year! And private jet use is gaining in popularity. In 2021, there were over 3.3 million private flights. One report estimates that in 2016, private jets emitted about 33.7 million tons of CO2. For comparison, Denmark, a country with 5.5 million people emitted 27 million tons of CO2 in 2020. And private jets are five to 14 times MORE POLLUTING than commercial airlines on a per-passenger basis. When it comes to private jets there’s a disproportionate amount of CO2 coming from a very small group of people who can afford this luxury.

What to do about private jet pollution?

Some people are calling for a straight-up ban on private jets, which is getting some traction in places in Europe. Since trains have a much lower carbon footprint, France has already banned commercial short-distance flights when there are train routes available. Others think we should heavily tax private aviation and use those taxes to invest in greener private jet technologies–which could help reduce the environmental impact of private jets.


  • Private Jets: Can the Super Rich Super Charge Zero-Emission Private Aviation? 

This article from Transport & Environment, a nonprofit organization in Europe that studies sustainable transportation solutions, talks about the impact of very rich people on making private jets more environmentally friendly. 

  • Climate Activists in at least 13 Countries Protest Private Jets 

This article from NBC News talks about the protest against private jets happening globally. 

  • The Global Scale, Distribution and Growth of Aviation: Implications for Climate Change  

This scientific article from the journal Global Environmental Change outlines research on the impact of air travel on climate change. 

  • Climate Change And Flying  

This report from Our World in Data includes information, charts, and graphs about how air travel of all kinds affects climate change. 

  • Climate Change in US Will Hurt Poor People The Most 

This article from CNBC shows that poor countries and communities will be hit hardest by climate change. 

  • Many of the World’s Poorest Countries Are the Least Polluting but the Most Climate-Vulnerable. Here’s what they want at COP27  

This report from the PBS NewsHour outlines why poor countries are the least likely to cause carbon emissions, but the most likely to be affected by them. It also features how these communities are advocating for themselves on the world stage. 

  • Carbon Emissions of Richest 1% Set to be 30 Times the 1.5°C Limit in 2030  

This report from Oxfam, a group of nonprofit organizations in the United Kingdom committed to ending poverty, shows that the very rich will have an outsized impact on carbon emissions by 2030. 

  • Private Jet Use is More Popular Than Ever 

This article from CNBC is about how popular private jets are becoming. 


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