National Geographic Says Climate Change Is 'Greatest Threat to Human Health.' It Also Flies Billionaires Around the World on Its Private Jet.

Media conglomerate offers six-figure 'private jet trips' to reach 'far-flung destinations' and encounter 'legendary wildlife'

WESTWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 26: Bill Nye attends National Geographic's Los Angeles Premiere Of "Cosmos: Possible Worlds" at Royce Hall, UCLA on February 26, 2020 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for National Geographic)
June 12, 2023

National Geographic says climate change is "the greatest threat to human health," but it's not so grave that it prevents them from jetting the elite to what the magazine describes as some of the world's "far-flung destinations" on a massive private jet.

National Geographic raises funds by flying deep-pocketed travelers around the world on its "specially outfitted" Boeing 757 jet, which features "comfortable VIP-style leather seating," "plush, sleek interior design," a private chef, and a "dedicated luggage handler." The trips, most of which cost roughly $100,000, allow millionaires and billionaires to "fly in exceptional comfort" as they visit "far-flung destinations" and encounter "legendary wildlife"—including the same coral reefs National Geographic says in its pages are dying.

Travelers on one of the 24-day "expeditions" fly nearly 30,000 miles. Planes, on average, produce 53.3 pounds of carbon dioxide per air mile, meaning the trip's flights would emit more than 1.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide. The average American's yearly carbon footprint is just 32,000 pounds, meaning the flights in just 24 days generate a carbon footprint equivalent to that of nearly 47 Americans in an entire year.

One of the trips, a $108,000 "Wildlife of the World by Private Jet" tour, takes wealthy attendees to see elephants in Malaysia, mountain gorillas in Rwanda, Bengal tigers in India, and "dazzling marine life" from an "overwater bungalow in the Maldives" before wrapping up in Rome.

National Geographic often laments the "climate change crisis," which, it says, is causing melting icebergs, coral reef extinction, deadly floods, forest fires, and a rise in mosquito-borne diseases. The media giant argued in September that climate change is "the greatest threat to human health in recorded history." National Geographic even identifies transportation as one of the largest sources of carbon emissions—which it says are warming the earth "as a byproduct of human activities"—and tells readers they should measure their carbon footprint and spend time "thinking about" how much they fly.

National Geographic is far from the only prominent organization or individual that sounds the alarm about the "climate crisis" while enjoying the luxuries of private air travel. Liberal billionaire Bill Gates, a top National Geographic Society donor, just months ago defended his private jet travel, saying he is not a "hypocrite" because he pays for carbon offsets, a controversial practice in which you spend money to counteract your own actions, such as by funding solar panels to replace fossil fuel use elsewhere. Doing so, of course, does not actually remove the original carbon from the air, and environmental groups have criticized the concept. National Geographic itself asked if "carbon offsetting really make[s] a difference" in a February piece.

Another National Geographic Society donor, world-famous actor Leonardo DiCaprio, has taken gas-guzzling private jets to accept environmental awards. Biden climate czar John Kerry, meanwhile, has addressed the fight against climate change at National Geographic events—Kerry until recently owned a private jet, saying in 2019 that private air travel is "the only choice for somebody like me."

National Geographic did not return a request for comment. Beyond its "Wildlife of the World by Private Jet" tour, the media giant offers similar "Around the World by Private Jet" tours that cost roughly $100,000 and allow attendees to "circumnavigate the Northern Hemisphere by private jet," "meet with Mongolia's nomads, Arctic farmers in Svalbard and villagers in the Faroe Islands," and explore "savanna wildlife on the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya." Other trips include "Central and South America by Private Jet," "Cultural Wonders of Africa: A Journey by Private Jet," and "The Future of Everything: Exploring Global Innovation by Private Jet." Seventy-three American billionaires reportedly joined a National Geographic private jet trip to Nepal, which cost $95,000 per person.

When attendees descend from National Geographic's private jet, they enjoy "some of the world's finest accommodations." The "Wildlife of the World by Private Jet" trip, for example, includes a stay at the Antara Palazzo Naiadi Rome Hotel, an "elegant palazzo near the Spanish Steps." The five-star luxury hotel and "historic palace" is one of Rome's "grandest," boasting five bars and restaurants and a wellness spa "built on the foundations of the Roman Empire's most luxurious baths."

National Geographic earns revenue in part through its joint venture with Disney, which helps operate National Geographic's magazine, TV channels, website, and other media endeavors. But the media giant also rakes in large donations through its nonprofit arm, the National Geographic Society, which aims to collect $100 million a year in contributions, often from climate-focused activists such as Gates and DiCaprio.

National Geographic openly touts its aim to "activate" global citizens as a "purpose-native" brand. In 2018, for example, it launched an initiative to drive people to reduce their single-use plastic consumption. National Geographic has also raised funds by touting its work studying "climate change's impact on" Mount Everest and "those living in its shadow."

Still, National Geographic's climate-centered "purpose" does not appear to threaten its private jet trips anytime soon. National Geographic has 16 expeditions scheduled to depart between now and the end of 2024.