As Biden's Climate Czar, John Kerry Has Flown More Than 180,000 Miles, Emitting 9.5 Million Pounds of Carbon

Other prominent climate activists have given up flying to combat climate change, which Kerry has called an 'existential crisis'

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September 8, 2022

In his role as President Joe Biden's climate czar, John Kerry has flown more than 180,000 miles—flights that emitted more than 9.5 million pounds of carbon, a Washington Free Beacon analysis found.

The Free Beacon reviewed 75 of Kerry's official travel announcements from March 2021 to July 2022, which show Kerry has flown roughly 180,100 miles—the equivalent of traveling around the world more than seven times—to discuss climate change with various world leaders. Planes on average produce 53.3 pounds of carbon dioxide per mile traveled, according to carbon emissions modeling website BlueSkyModel, meaning Kerry's flights have produced 9.54 million pounds, or 4,772 tons, of carbon—roughly 300 times the average American's carbon footprint for an entire year. From May 13, 2021, to May 19, 2021, for example, Kerry traveled to Rome, London, and Berlin before returning stateside. Those flights total roughly 10,100 miles and 538,000 pounds of carbon.

It's unclear how many miles Kerry will have to fly to solve climate change, an issue he's called an "existential ... crisis." It's also unclear exactly how Kerry flies to each location to perform his official duties as climate czar. His office told Fox News that he flies "commercially or via military air in his role as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate," but Kerry's press releases do not reveal which option is utilized for each individual trip. The top Biden official's government Twitter account has posted photos of Kerry using electric buses and scooters but has not shared snapshots of his plane travel.

Kerry's office did not return a request for comment on additional travel details and whether Kerry could conduct any of his international meetings virtually.

Kerry's gas-guzzling trips have been sworn off by other prominent climate activists. Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, for example, refuses to fly because of carbon emissions. In 2019, Thunberg traveled from Europe to a climate summit in New York City via sailboat to achieve carbon neutrality. Kerry, meanwhile, has argued that people won't have to "give up a quality of life" to defeat climate change because carbon reductions "are going to come from technologies that we don't have yet." Thunberg ridiculed the comment, tweeting, "Great news! I spoke to Harry Potter and he said he will team up with Gandalf, Sherlock Holmes & The Avengers and get started right away!"

Kerry has long been considered a frequent flier—and frequent emitter. His family owns a Gulfstream GIV-SP private jet, which is estimated to be worth $4.5 million. Since Biden took office, that jet has made at least 48 trips, emitting more than 715,000 pounds of carbon in the process. 

Still, Kerry has defended his private plane travel, saying, "If you offset your carbon, it's the only choice for somebody like me, who is traveling the world to win this battle." Offsetting carbon refers to a practice in which an individual or organization pays someone else to "remove" greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as funding solar panels to replace fossil fuel in a certain area. Doing so, of course, does not actually remove the original carbon from the air, and environmental groups have criticized the concept.

Despite Kerry's status as a mega-emitter, the former secretary of state has argued that the United States must "transition to electric vehicles about 20 times faster than we are now." He has also called to ban non-electric cars by 2035, a policy California announced in late August. The average sticker price for an electric vehicle last year was $66,000.

In addition to his European trip last spring, Kerry has flown to Mexico, Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Qatar to fight climate change. In November 2021, both Kerry and Biden attended the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, which most world leaders and delegates traveled to via private plane. As a result, the carbon emissions associated with the summit more than doubled from the previous time the conference was held.

Published under: Climate , John Kerry