A stunning article from the Guardian some weeks back: ‘I cannot stress too much about it’: Monaco yacht buyers shrug off climate concerns. In this story, journalist Ajit Niranjan visited the Monaco Yacht Show. As the piece lays out, private yachts are a huge use of carbon:
A superyacht, or even a medium-sized motor yacht, is the most polluting single object a person can own. There are no reliable estimates of how much carbon the world’s 6,000 superyachts pump into the atmosphere but one study of billionaires’ footprints found yachts were the single biggest contributor, ahead of private jets.
Some of the buyers aren’t thinking about the carbon costs of their yacht, which is as expected. What’s most interesting is that some people are aware, but it has not changed their behaviour:
“You know that it’s something to worry about, but then again there are so many problems that we cannot fix,” said Giorgia Covolio, whose husband owns a yacht. “If I cannot solve it myself then I cannot stress too much about it.”
Jennifer Rodriguez, a friend, agreed. “If Bill Gates doesn’t stress about it, or Leonardo DiCaprio, then we won’t stress about it.”
Several attenders used identical arguments to those from regular rich people defending habits such as flying on holiday or driving an SUV. Some said their carbon footprints were not as big as those of even richer people. Others pointed to sources of pollution that were bigger in absolute terms, such as cargo ships, factories and multinational corporations.
The article interviews Frederik, “a sustainability student from a yacht-owning family” whose family had actually reduced their fleet to only two. Jonathan, a friend, draws a distinction between people who use the yachts to show off and those who need them for private times with their family, saying “The most valuable moments I’ve had were on the boat.” One charter operator notes that the guests sometimes check to make sure the water served is not from plastic bottles.
It’s now 35 years since Margaret Thatcher spoke at the UN about the dangers of climate change. Since then we’ve made no progress. Relying on people to choose to reduce carbon use as a personal choice – something promoted by carbon fuel companies – is just not working. Everyone has the same excuses, the same needs. Very few people are willing to reduce their carbon use by themselves.
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The true cost of such luxury is paid for, in part, by the rest of society. The top 10% of earners in the EU emit 24.5 times as much planet-heating CO2 through their transport as the bottom 10% do