Vice uses ‘experts‘ with conflict of interest to push own agenda

February 9, 2024

By Tim Worstall

Taylor Swift and her private jet(s) are an issue. Perhaps this should be headline news and perhaps it shouldn’t but the hunger for everything Taylor means it is. Sadly, with this, we also get the press quoting the “experts.” People who tend, rather than experts in a field, to be just the more vocal and political types shouting about their favorite things.

So it is at Vice:

We wanted to learn how environmentally bad all of this jetsetting is, and what good can come of her actually offsetting all that CO2. So we spoke to an expert in carbon footprint measurement, Austin Whitman, who is the CEO of The Change Climate Project, a non-profit that offers climate certification labeling and tools to help businesses in their reductions journey.

Whitman is not, given that job, going to be an impartial expert on this subject. He’s going to be arguing his own book, as that saying goes. Which he does go on to do:

But let’s stick with carbon credits for a minute. She should buy three tonnes of carbon credits, and she should buy high-quality carbon credits as opposed to carbon credits from 15 years ago that are listed on a registry that doesn’t actually do much to check the validity of those credits. She could theoretically buy carbon credits for $1.50 each, which would cost her $4.50 for each of those trips. That would not exactly be exemplary behavior,

Whitman’s project does not deal in those cheap carbon credits, only the more expensive ones.

The danger here is that these so called “experts” who are rolled out are people with their own interests which will be what they propose as the solution – their own interests. This ends up being hugely – and dangerously – misleading precisely because we are given this information, from the journalism we’re supposed to be able to trust, which isn’t, in fact, from one of those dispassionate and neutral experts.

There are more detailed issues here:

The most recent estimates were somewhere on the order of 8,000-10,000 tonnes (of CO2 per year), which is just an eye-popping number of emissions when you think about one person.

But that’s not her personal flying. That’s the flying done by her jets, something completely different. The standard default is that when the owner is not in fact traveling themselves, such jets are rented out to others. They become planes for hire. How much Taylor Swift’s plane flies is not the same as how much Taylor Swift flies.


One of her planes recently flew 37 minutes between New Jersey and Baltimore. That apparently produced roughly three tons of CO2. If we take that to be true, what might she need to do to offset that?

An unlikely level of emissions but we’ve been though this before. It was Drake who tirned out to be the expert on this:

After multiple outlets reported on Drake’s high-price jaunts between the two Canadian cities, he commented on an Instagram post by Real Toronto Newz, explaining, “This is just them moving planes to whatever airport they are being stored at for anyone who was interested in the logistics…nobody takes that flight.”

That Twitter tracking is of her planes, not of Swift’s travel after all.

But back to the danger here: It’s not about Taylor Swift, nor her jet planes. It’s about the media’s use of the self-interested as those impartial experts. Because they’re promoting their own interests they’re not giving that plain and straight information we deserve – we’re being mislead by the media promotion of them.


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