Climate Hawk Sean Casten Flew 6,000 Miles, Stayed in Luxury European Hotel to Fight Global Warming

Casten's flights emitted more than 313,000 pounds of carbon

Rep. Sean Casten (D., Ill.)
September 24, 2022

Illinois Democratic congressman Sean Casten, who has called the climate "crisis" a "code red emergency," flew roughly 6,000 miles and stayed in a luxury European hotel to fight global warming, House disclosures show.

Casten in late August and early September accompanied the Aspen Institute on the think tank's congressional trip to Reykjavík, Iceland, which aimed to provide members with guidance "on public policy issues as it relates to addressing energy and climate challenges," according to the Democrat's travel disclosures. The trip saw Casten fly business class from Chicago to Reykjavík, Iceland, and back—a trek that totals 5,888 miles and more than 313,000 pounds of carbon, given that planes on average produce 53.3 pounds of carbon dioxide per mile traveled. The Aspen Institute also provided Casten with lodging at the Grand Hotel Reykjavík—a four-star luxury hotel that includes a "beautiful spa" and "lovely candle lit lounge"—and private meals at a total cost of nearly $5,000.

Casten, who is known as Congress's "fiercest climate hawk," has said members of Congress "have a duty to do everything we can" to provide "our children and grandchildren" with a "livable planet." In the case of his Iceland trip, however, Casten almost certainly did not need to travel thousands of miles on a gas-guzzling flight to meet with many of the climate "leaders" the Aspen Institute assembled. According to the trip's schedule, a majority of the "scholars" Casten met with are based in America. A pair of "roundtable discussions" on day one of the trip, for example, slated to feature Polar Institute senior fellow Sherri Goodman, Harvard University's Meghan O'Sullivan, and Rockefeller Foundation president Rajiv Shah, all of whom are based in the United States.

Casten is far from the only prominent liberal climate activist on the Hill who has an admiration for overseas trips in the name of combating global warming. John Kerry has flown more than 180,000 miles in his role as President Joe Biden's climate czar—those flights emitted more than 9.5 million pounds of carbon, the Washington Free Beacon reported in September. Kerry, who has called climate change an "existential … crisis," also owns a private jet that is estimated to be worth $4.5 million and has made at least 48 trips since Biden took office. The Biden administration official has defended his private plane travel, saying "it's the only choice for somebody like me, who is traveling the world to win this battle."

Casten did not return a request for comment. Beyond his Icelandic excursion, the Democrat has successfully pushed for hundreds of billions of dollars in green energy spending while holding up to $500,000 in a green energy company that will likely benefit from the spending.

Casten, his most recent financial disclosure shows, earned up to $50,000 in "partnership income" in 2021 through his sizable stake in Greenleaf Power, a Sacramento-based green energy company that sells "carbon-neutral electricity" to utility companies. Democrats' so-called Inflation Reduction Act, which funnels nearly $400 billion toward green energy initiatives and is not expected to have "any measurable impact on inflation," allocates roughly $30 billion toward "grant and loan programs for state and electric utilities" that obtain "clean electricity" from companies such as Greenleaf. Casten called the bill a "historic win for families" in a statement that did not disclose his investment in Greenleaf.

Casten, who was born in Dublin, joined Congress in 2019 and has since voted with Biden 99 percent of the time. The Democrat will face Republican combat veteran and Orland Park mayor Keith Pekau in November after both candidates emerged from their June primaries by double digits. Casten has raised $3.4 million to Pekau's $437,000 as of June 30.