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By Robert Rapier on Mar 8, 2016 with 14 responses

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Huge Carbon Footprint

Leonardo DiCaprio recently won the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in The Revenant. I saw the movie, and to my layman’s eye it certainly seemed like an Oscar-worthy performance. I was rooting for him to win, as was, it seems, most of America. His victory reportedly set a social-media record, with 440,000 posts in about a minute to become the single-most Tweeted minute during an Oscar telecast.

While I applauded his victory, I took exception to part of his acceptance speech. Here is an excerpt:

“Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this.”

The problem isn’t the message. I believe we are engaging in a dangerous experiment by dumping ever-increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. I don’t think there is an easy fix to the problem, but I agree with his characterization that it is an urgent threat.

The problem is that DiCaprio himself is one of those “big polluters,” which diminishes his moral authority to lecture on the risk of climate change. While DiCaprio has donated a lot of his time, money, and effort into raising awareness on the issue — as he did in his Oscar speech — he unnecessarily hands ammunition to his opponents with his own wasteful consumption. For years his critics have noted his extensive usage of private jets to travel around the globe for both business and pleasure. In 2014 he famously rented the world’s fifth largest yacht, owned by a UAE oil tycoon, to watch the World Cup in Brazil. In case you are wondering, neither the jets nor the yacht run on solar power.

But DiCaprio has claimed to be a “CarbonNeutral citizen.” What does that mean? A London-based company called Future Forests (which registered CarbonNeutral as a brand) worked with DiCaprio to estimate that his annual carbon dioxide emissions are 11 tons per year. With that information in hand, they planted thousands of trees, creating The Leonardo DiCaprio Forest in Mexico, to offset his carbon dioxide emissions.

Don’t get me wrong. I think planting forests is a great idea. But the notion that DiCaprio’s carbon emissions are 11 tons per year is nonsense. According to the World Bank, per capita carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. are about 19 tons per year. That’s of course an average, and rich people who take private jets and vacation on yachts have much higher carbon emissions than average.

In fact, a 2014 Daily Mail article noted, “DiCaprio took at least 20 trips across the nation and around the world this year alone – including numerous flights from New York to Los Angeles and back, a ski vacation to the French Alps, another vacation to the French Riviera, flights to London and Tokyo to promote his film Wolf of Wall Street, two trips to Miami and trip to Brazil to watch the World Cup.” The article further noted that if he had taken commercial airlines for all of those flights, the carbon dioxide emissions from those flights alone would amount to 44 tons. (Note: The article says “million tons”, but that’s clearly an error as a round-trip coast-to-coast commercial airliner generates about 2 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per person). But many of those flights were on private jets, which the article notes can have up to 37 times the personal carbon emissions of commercial flights.

Add to the fact that he owns several homes and vacations frequently on diesel-burning yachts, and the 11 ton per year number is clearly wishful thinking.

Now I don’t want to make this entirely one-sided, as DiCaprio is clearly passionate about the issue. He may be getting through to the masses, in which case he may be far more than offsetting his own carbon emissions. In the grand scheme, he is probably doing more good than harm.  He drives a Prius. He has been known to ride bikes around New York. He advocates for environmental charities and electric cars.

But that’s not the point. If you really believe that climate change is the “most urgent threat facing our entire species”, why undermine your message? I suspect he is torn between living the good life of a Hollywood movie star, and sacrificing in order to set a good example and leverage his message. I have encountered some of his defenders who attempt to justify his emissions by suggesting that it is simply too much to expect for someone like him to take commercial air transportation. But really, we can all make excuses for why we need to emit the carbon we emit. It all comes down to convenience. It’s just easier and more convenient to hop in a car and go somewhere than it is to walk or bike there. That’s why it’s important for people who advocate change to set an exemplary example.

Now I have seen an entirely different point of view on DiCaprio’s carbon footprint that argues that he isn’t a hypocrite, because he isn’t asking for individuals to sacrifice. David Roberts at Vox argued this point in Rich climate activist Leonardo DiCaprio lives a carbon-intensive lifestyle, and that’s (mostly) fine. I generally find Roberts’ arguments to be well-argued and convincing, but I am going to disagree with him on this one. This defense of DiCaprio (which is similar to how some environmental organizations have defended him) will be the topic of my next article.

Link to Original Article: Leonardo DiCaprio’s Huge Carbon Footprint

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  1. By Rod on March 8, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    Agreed, but the real point is not so much about DiCaprio himself.
    We are all hypocrites to varying degrees. I for example, rail against those who threaten our future by damaging our planet, but I live a comfortable western lifestyle, house, cars, other stuff. Two kids. At least I cycle work, and don’t have a private jet.

  2. By Forrest on March 9, 2016 at 6:59 am

    His performance was hyped per the physical demands he had to endure within the environment. I didn’t care for the movie and was bored with way to many close ups of his nasty face. Same with the gratuitous gore. Also, movies such as these that attempt to spin historical accuracy, really tick me off when they interject so much PC crap of modern era. The real story is more interesting and most that read the real story agree. Just it’s not Hollywood enough with Left value system. Every thing being equal, the movie or acting would have never received the Hollywood admiration awards upon more accurate historical rendition. Editorial reviews of modern film works do make such warning more often. It’s getting to popular to dispense with reality upon historical entertainment media at least within the attempt to always interject the Hollywood value system within the mix. The industry is inflicting a horrible bias upon society of which is more polluting to countries future than CO2 gas emissions. Wall street and House of Cards just the latest. Think of how Hollywood handles Indian folklore, rednecks, petrol companies, business, the poor, children workers, on and on. Think of our popular Public Ed reading list and state of education. No wonder the youth can’t ascertain why socialism is evil or why the pillars of strength upon nation’s founding so powerful.

  3. By Forrest on March 9, 2016 at 7:15 am

    Actors are not heavy weight thinkers that they present themselves. They should be rated very poor in the class of people to take advice from. This is an interesting discussion of their motivation and emotional makeup.

    So, this actor is just mindless spouting what he thinks Hollywood sycophants want to cheer about. When celebrities drift to irrelevance, they usually go hard Left with political rants. They would never suffer or attempt to make sacrifice with out making a public popularity stunt of it. They represent the shallowest of humanity and receive way to much attention. He is a hypocrite and he’s all right with that, if the public is unaware or chooses to forgive, he’s fine with hypocrite status. GW is just a popularity stunt opportunity.

  4. By Russ Finley on March 9, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    We used to discusss this all the time over at Grist except Al Gore was the center of attention. The general conclusion was that famous people can’t spread the word without air travel. He would be a hypocrit if he were asking people to use less fossil fuel but I don’t know that he does. The answer, if there is one, won’t be to ask people to take cold showers or bike to work.

    My biggest problem is with the fake carbon offsets. Trees will grow without anyone planting them. Why were there no trees where they planted new ones, and who is going to keep them from being cut down in the future? Protecting land so that nature can reclaim it is a carbon offset only if you can protect it into perpetuity. One day, someone will cut those trees down for lumber, a farm, or a parking lot.

    • By Forrest on March 14, 2016 at 8:22 am

      Well, cutting mature trees is a green activity as it makes room for younger fast growing trees. Sawing trees into lumber, locks carbon up for at least an additional 100 years vs decay of mature trees infested with termites. The younger forest have higher rate of CO2 sequestration. They grow more tonnage of wood per acre and emit less emissions. Good forestry practices maximize value of timber and if so desired, wildlife. This takes a lot of human activity to manage the forest to optimum results for man. I have a real life personal experience of such side by side comparison. My fathers 90 acres of prior farm field and woodland lay in rest per at least 80 year history. The neighbor had 300 acres actively managed per Michigan State graduate of forestry. I’ve walked the grounds for many a year and confirm the wildlife and tree growth of active forest management is not just better, but way better. Magnitudes better for the environment. The scruffy sparsely populated plant growth fields of my father’s farm have little benefit to wildlife or forestry. While these open spaces do support another diversity, they are not valued high and can be generated within forest biodiversity cuttings. Some areas benefit tremendously from clear cut practices. One would think the 90 acre farm resting for 80 years would have greatly improved soil. A contractor scraped some top soil off per such an idea. Looks like the soil did not improve and still of low fertility. The active managed farms in the area have much better soil.

      Leonardo DiCaprio would have been a better ambassador for GW concerns if he humbly listed his personal sacrifices, investments, and activities that mitigate his emissions. To just stand up and preach to us, within the style of Algore polished fanatic rhetoric may make one more popular within far left environmental clubs, but does little to solve the problem. It does motivate or bolster the opposition per the need for sensible and cost effective solutions. These fanatical speeches are dangerous, especially if done by popular politicians or celebrities that attempt to stampede public to dangerous quick solutions. I’ve seen way to many left activist utter such fanaticism of doom and watch them choose 4×4 trucks for their personal transportation. Many employ minimal or miss directed efforts. Examples: Recycling paper, cans, paper that offer in most cases a negative life cycle benefit to environment. They chose to mow lawns to minimal height as they love their garden tractor as compared to getting some much needed exercise with hand mowing and realizing the huge environment benefit of taller grass. They consider themselves environmentalist by not utilizing wood products. This is a horrible misguided choice. They should maximize the use of wood products as this is a vote for more forest land. Most wood products should be classified as waste use. I’ve seen way to many over paid union public ed teachers preach all the left value system to students and offer their Prius as proof of their validity. They don’t offer their tropical vacations or European vacations as similar proof. To many haughty hypocrites preaching environmental doom, with the ever present finger pointing at the rest of us. They offer little discussion of alternative thinking and over value their personal solutions. Hollywood and Washington D.C. has a lot of this class.

  5. By DavidLHagen on March 11, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    Obama has acknowledged the world’s highest “carbon footprint.” He appears the supreme master of “Do as I say, not as I do”.

  6. By takchess on March 18, 2016 at 3:05 pm
  7. By NRG4All on March 25, 2016 at 11:29 am

    Ed Begley Jr. should have given that speech.

  8. By Wendell on May 23, 2016 at 1:29 am

    Planting 65,268 trees successfully will cover him for 22 private plane trips a year. Coincidentally the trees will last for 65 years, 22 trips x 2 metric tons (2205 pounds} x 37 (private plane multiplier) /50 (pounds sequestered per tree} = 65,268 trees. The cost of one private plane trip should cover the cost of planting the trees in Haiti for example.

    • By Forrest on May 23, 2016 at 6:45 am

      At average planting of 500/acre that would be 144 acres. Not much of a chore with wheeled planters. This was common practice with unused farm fields in northern Wisconsin, decades ago. Now days, I think the farmer subsidies for land bank is delaying the conversion. Land bank land is neither farm land or forest, mainly sits growing weeds per tax payer subsidy. Environmentalist always claim it’s pristine and if the land is converted back to productive farm land, they utilize the stat for wild land conversion as black eye for biofuel. Some open spaces are good, of course for wild life diversity, but that can be easily incorporated. Marsh areas best to leave alone. The biofuel feed stock of miscanthus grass or popple trees are several magnitudes above the typical forest for CO2 conversion. This is mainly because the dense planting and tonnage of biomass/acre. Also, the biomass is harvested and not allowed to rot such as older forest. It’s genetic selected planting that exhibit max growth conversion of sunlight.

      One acre of trees offset 26,000 auto miles. Also, they do a tremendous job in reducing particulates and converting unhealthy emissions. I’m convinced that working within nature is more powerful as compared to man’s expensive solutions. Sure, it’s good to improve and decrease, but we need not break the bank as if we just worked within nature to maximize natures ability we can accomplish much more. Forestry practices will maximize tree growth, woodland value whether for wildlife and/or timber. Also, they can minimize forest fire danger. In areas of maximum risk the forest should be very young and I think they utilize a fire block gaps.

      • By Forrest on May 23, 2016 at 9:40 am

        Did read data on 30 yr old white pine. It’s rated 193#/tree. If you planted 50 of them it would be equivalent to carbon savings of typical roof top solar install. White pine is the giant in north woods and can live for 100s of years. Actually biologically speaking most trees have unlimited lifespan, but a typical height and age before decay. That is before the tree succumbs to typical insects and drought stress. Old trees if full grown will just add girth. Nothing more important to protecting the tree than adequate watering. I’ve experimented with my grey water discharge to rate increase in tree growth. Wow, a silver maple about 10x. An ash about 4x. My guess if one were to plant a one acre parcel lot with a half dozen white pine or so, you would be carbon neutral. Especially if plumbing the grey water for irrigation, giving up the lawn mowing, utilize some waste wood for heat, and fueling the vehicles on E85. I’m doing a lot of that already.

    • By Russ Finley on May 23, 2016 at 9:17 pm

      What happened to the trees in Haiti? What’s the plan to protect the new ones you plant? Mine fields, electric fences, a new fully functional government? Apologies is that sounded snarky.

      • By Forest on May 27, 2016 at 8:02 am

        Haiti is a good example of a poor nation eating its’ seed corn to live on. They had no future and no choice. Most could not afford expensive petrol imports. They destroyed forest for cheap fuel, which it is and to maximize farmland. Solar PV helps, but mainly adapted to LED low wattage lights and small rechargeable batteries. They have low tech hand farming practices with very small plots.

        Just grossly looking over their economy and agricultural practices, it sure looks like they would benefit from a cash crop of ethanol fuel. It would generate much needed bump in wealth and create a domestic product improvement to national wealth. I’ve read of one non profit is having great results with ethanol for indoor cooking needs and low tech production of the fuel. Haitians need to invest, improve, and adapt to best in class farming practices. This will maximize value of their small land mass and allow space for forests to regrow. Ethanol could provide the farmers with more wealth to invest in the endeavor to do just that. It’s not as depicted by the anti biofuel folks and EPA ILUC penalty that a direct trade off exist of farm vs forest. It’s really a trade off of wealth vs forest. Both can be highly valuable and productive if investing in technology and best practices. They have a lot in common and often managed together.

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