Last June, @CelebJets - a twitter account that tracked the flights of well-known figures using public data then calculated their carbon emissions for all to see - revealed that that the influencer Kylie Jenner took a 17-minute flight between two regional airports in California.

'' Kylie Jenner is out here taking 3-minutes flights with her private jet, but I'm the one who has to use paper straws,'' one Twitter user wrote.

Private jets make up a much higher overall contribution to climate change. Private aviation added 37 million tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2016, which rivals the annual emissions of Hong Kong or Ireland. [ Private plane use has surged since then, so today's number is likely higher.]

You're probably thinking : But isn't that a drop in the bucket compared to the thousands of coal plants around the world spewing carbon? 

It's a common sentiment; last year, Christophe Bechu, France's minister of the environment, dismissed calls to regulate yachts and chartered flights as ''lee buzz'' - flashy, populist solutions that get people amped up ultimately only fiddle at the margins of climate change.

But this misses a much more important point.  Research in economics and psychology suggests humans are willing to behave altruistically - but only when they believe that everyone is being asked to contribute.

People ''stop cooperating when they see some are not doing their part,'' as the cognitive scientists Nicolas Baumard and Coralie Chevallier wrote last year in Le Monde.

In that sense superpolluting yachts and jets don't just worsen climate change, they lessen the chance that we will work together to fix it. Why bother when the luxury goods mogul Bernard Arnault is cruising around on the Symphony, a $150 million, 333-foot superyacht?

'' If some people are allowed to emit 10 times as much carbon for their comfort,'' Mr. Baumard and Ms. Chevallier asked, '' then why restrict your meat consumption, turn down your thermostat or limit your purchases of new products?''

Whether we're talking about voluntary changes [ insulating our attics and taking public transit] or mandated ones [ tolerating a wind farm on the horizon or saying goodbye to lush lawn], the climate fight hinges to some extent on our willingness to participate. 

When the ultrarich are given a free pass, we lose faith in the value of that sacrifice.

Taxes aimed at superyachts and private jets would take some of the sting out of these conversations, helping to improve everybody's climate morale,'' a term coined by Georgetown Law Professor Brian Galle.

But making these overgrown toys a bit more costly isn't likely to change the behaviour of the billionaires who buy them. Instead, we can impose our new social costs through good, old-fashioned shaming.

As media outlets around the world covered the backlash, other celebrities like Drake and Taylor Swift scrambled to defend their heavy reliances on private plane travel.

There's a lesson here : Massively disproportionate per capita emissions get people angry. And they should.

When billionaires squander our shared supply of resources on ridiculous boats or cushy chartered flights, it shortens the span of time available for the rest of us before the effects of warming become truly devastating.

In this light, superyacths and private planes start to look less like extravagance and more like theft.

Change can happen - and quickly. French officials are exploring curbing private plane travel. And just last week - after sustained pressure from activists -Schipol Airport in Amsterdam announced it would ban private jets as a climate-saving measure.

Even in the United States, carbon shaming can have outsized impact. Richard Aboulafia, who's been an aviation industry consultant and analyst for 35 years, says that cleaner, greener aviation, from all-electric city happens to a new class of sustainable fuels, is already on the horizon for short flights.

Private aviation's high-net-worth customers just need more incentive to adopt these new technologies. Ultimately, he says, it's only our vigilance and pressure that will speed changes along.

There's a similar opportunity with superyachts. Just look at Koru, Jeff Bezos's newly built 416-foot megaship, a three-masted schooner that can reportedly cross the Atlantic on wind power alone. It's a start.

Even small victories challenge the standard narrative around climate change. We can say no to the idea of limitless plunder, of unjustifiable over consumption. We can say no to the billionaires' toys.

The World Students Society thanks author Joe Fassler, a journalist covering food and environmental issues. He is the author of ''Light the Dark'' and the forthcoming novel '' The Sky Was Ours.''


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