Billionaires in comparison: Tesla and SpaceX boss Musk with a relatively small carbon footprint

The richest person in the world is Elon Musk as CEO and main owner of the two billion-dollar companies Tesla and SpaceX as well as some small companies currently no longer, but Bloomberg still estimates his fortune at 190 billion dollars – and that should at least just behind second place Jeff Bezos from Amazon will suffice. In another ranking of billionaires worldwide, however, Musk is to be found far back: Two anthropologists have examined how many CO2 emissions 20 of the richest people in the world cause privately. And as they found, the Tesla boss’s footprint is quite small, at least compared to the others

Musk at 2100 tons of CO2 per year

Every resident in the USA emits an average of around 15 tons of carbon dioxide a year, write Professor Richard Wilk and PhD student Beatriz Barros from Indiana University in a recent article for The Conversation magazine. The worldwide value per person is even significantly lower at 5 tons, calculated with data from 2018. For the 20 billionaires in their study, however, the average annual emissions would be 8,190 tons, several hundred times as many.

With almost 2100 tons of carbon dioxide annually, Tesla and SpaceX boss Musk is not an environmental angel in this calculation. Its emissions are said to be slightly below those of Amazon founder Bezos, for whom the anthropologists have calculated 2230 tons. But among the over-rich in this world, according to the study, only Michael Bloomberg, the founder of the financial service of the same name and former mayor of New York, lives less climate-intensive. With 1780 tons of CO2 per year, it undercuts Musk and Bezos quite significantly, but still emits around 120 times as much as US citizens and around 350 times as much as the world average.

According to the researchers, both the CO2 values ​​themselves and the selection are not perfect. They started with Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires worldwide, which last consisted of 2,095 people. However, as Wilk and Barroz write, most of these people avoid publicity and thus dropped out of the investigation. After intensive database research, 20 people remained for whom at least partial information could be found. In addition, a certain diversity in terms of origin and gender should be guaranteed.

Often on the road for SpaceX or Tesla

The billionaires’ personal emissions (i.e. their company’s contribution is not taken into account) are roughly broken down into accommodations, yachts and other modes of transport. Russian-born Roman Abramovich shows how to get to the top in this regard. Compared to Tesla boss Musk (stated at $ 177 billion), he is downright poor with $ 14 billion known assets. According to the anthropologists, he is not only indulging in the world’s second largest superyacht, including a submarine: there is also a Boeing jet, a smaller Gulfstream and two helicopters, as well as properties in several countries. All of this should add up to 31,200 tons of CO2 per year.

Like most other billionaires, the biggest thing for him is the yacht. At Tesla boss Musk, on the other hand, the aircraft in particular worsens the climate balance – like only four other billionaires on the list, he does not own a yacht. With more recent data, Musk’s emissions would be even lower, the researchers write, because he is said to have sold his eight houses by now. That being said, it is questionable whether the Gulfstream jet he uses can even be personally attributed to him. Because it officially belongs to SpaceX, and according to a report in the Washington Post, the costs for it are split between that company, Tesla and Musk themselves depending on the occasion of each flight.


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