Please help keep this Site Going

Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet

Meet the Teenage Private Jet Detective

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.

Today, we are trying something new. This is the first installment of Someone to Know, an occasional series about people from all walks of life doing something inspiring, effective, fun or otherwise noteworthy about climate change.

We’re doing it because you asked to hear about solutions. So, roughly every month, we’ll introduce you to someone new. In this newsletter, I want to tell you about Akash Shendure, a 17-year-old high school senior from Seattle who, a couple of months ago, got a question stuck in his head: What is the climate impact of the wealthiest people flying in private jets?

You may have wondered about that, too. But Akash, who is very into math, physics and pet projects, spent a month working to turn the question into something we can all use to think about 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.

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.)

“It was surprising to me that this wasn’t being talked about more,” he told me.

Climate Jets is only one thing that Akash has going on, by the way. He also runs a website with math activities for students and teachers.

“I spend much of my free time working on independent projects,” he said.

Some caveats about Climate Jets: The findings have not been independently verified. And, it’s possible some of the jets were using sustainable aviation fuel. When I contacted representatives of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos for comment, they said both used sustainable fuel and that both offset all the emissions from their flights.

Akash ranks Gates and Bezos near the top of the list, below Pitbull but well above Dr. Phil and Taylor Swift.

At Akash’s home, climate change is one of the things his family talks about over dinner, which he sometimes cooks. His signature dish is chana masala, a spicy chickpea creation that works as a starter or as a main course. His father is a clean energy entrepreneur; his mother is a doctor in an emergency room and his younger sister wants to be a marine biologist. Akash says he wants to go into physics research.

Global warming is also something that people his age think a lot about, he told me. They try to lower their own emissions by doing small things like turning off the lights. “But then, those have such minute impacts relative to just taking a flight in a commercial airline relative to a private jet,” he said.

He said his main hope for the website was to raise awareness.

“The message that is often given to consumers is that it’s each of our responsibilities to basically inconvenience ourselves in favor of the climate,” Akash said. “And I completely support that.”

“But then these, well, very wealthy individuals are not doing that,” he added.

New electric vehicles like the Ford F-150 Lightning have increased demand for batteries.Sylvia Jarrus for The New York Times

Batteries made in America: Ford is investing $3.5 billion in a electric-car battery factory in Michigan. It will use technology from a leading Chinese company.

More affordable E.V.s: Competition, government incentives and cheaper raw materials are making electric cars more affordable. They could match gasoline cars on price as early as this year.

A “renaissance” for labor: Federal money pouring into the renewable energy industry rewards companies that pay union wages. Democrats hope to reap political benefits.

Tribal land rights: Native leaders in Wisconsin are blocking roads that cross their land in a dispute over payment, leaving some locals unable to easily reach their homes.

No spring break: Communities in Florida that were devastated by Hurricane Ian are struggling to rebuild the hotels and restaurants that powered the local economy.

Ohio train derailment: Residents near the site of the accident this month are fearful for their health and the environment. Here is what we know.

How to lose a gas stove: The Times’s real estate section has tips for apartment owners who want to get an electric range. Spoiler: Not all buildings are equipped for the switch.

An economic experiment in the U.S.: If the energy transition fails or misfires, writes Robinson Meyer, it will greatly limit the number of tools to fight climate change or recession.

  • For years, Exxon has widely advertised its efforts to make biofuels from algae. Now, Bloomberg reports, after posting record profits, the company is abandoning the project.

  • The Associated Press reported on how corruption in coastal developing countries has become a major impediment to the protection of shrinking fisheries.

  • The Volts podcast described tactics that utilities are using to slow the renewable energy transition. One of them is funding lobbying efforts with fees paid by customers.

  • From The Guardian: New Zealand declared a state of emergency after Cyclone Gabrielle, thought to be the most damaging to hit the country in a generation, displaced thousands.

  • The Verge explained how Vestas, a wind industry giant, is trying to develop ways to keep decommissioned wind turbines out of landfills.

A presentation for 320-square-foot home, the equivalent of about 30 square meters, at a builders’ show this year in Las Vegas.Mikayla Whitmore for The New York Times

There’s a tug of war over the size of the American home. On one side, there’s the dream of the sprawling single-family house. On the other, the reality of smaller families, rising energy costs and higher home prices. So more builders are working on creative ways to deliver smaller, but livable, homes. Here’s what some of the designs look like.

Thanks for being a subscriber. We’ll be back on Friday.

Claire O’Neill and Douglas Alteen contributed to Climate Forward. Read past editions of the newsletter here.

If you’re enjoying what you’re reading, please consider recommending it to others. They can sign up here. Browse all of our subscriber-only newsletters here.

Reach us at We read every message, and reply to many!

Please help keep this Site Going