The NY Times Climate Forward is trying something new. Every so often, they intend to focus our attention on individuals working on solutions; “people from all walks of life doing something inspiring, effective, fun or otherwise noteworthy about climate change.”
This month they are introducing Akash Shendure, a 17-year-old high school senior from Seattle who, a couple of months ago, got a question stuck in his head that many may ponder when the noise in the sky draws our gaze up: What is the climate impact of the wealthiest people flying in private jets? Instead of letting the thought leave his mind, Akash delved into a month-long project connecting research and data programming into a tool unveiling the impact of private jets.
“His interactive Climate Jets project ranks more than 150 ultrarich people and families according to the estimated carbon dioxide emissions they generate by flying privately. Each person or family has a profile page listing key statistics inspired by Spotify Wrapped, a popular year-in-review summary the music app provides for individual listeners.“
Read the full article below.
Meet the Teenage Private Jet Detective
Akash Shendure, a high school senior from Seattle, wanted to know about the flight emissions of the super rich. So he tracked them.
Akash came up with the project when Twitter blocked the account that followed the private flights taken by Elon Musk, the social media company’s new owner, along with those of many journalists who had reported on the tracker.
He decided to look to see what data was out there.
He drew on a few publicly available sources. Aircraft location came from a compilation by a network of volunteers. Government data showed the carbon dioxide emissions by type of fuel. Identification number for jets came from a database built by Jack Sweeney, who tracks Musk’s jet on Twitter.
The difficulty was figuring out how much fuel each jet consumes. Akash found a company that sold this type of data and reached out to them saying he needed it for an educational project. “They sent it to me, which was really nice of them,” he said.
Akash processed the information with programming languages Python and R, and built the website from scratch.
His calculations suggest that many people who own private jets are emitting dozens or hundreds of times what the average American does in a year just by flying. (And Americans have some of the highest per capita emissions in the world.)