He drew on a few publicly available sources. Aircraft location came from a compilation by a network of volunteers. Government data showed the carbon dioxide emissions by type of fuel. Identification number for jets came from a database built by Jack Sweeney, who tracks Musk’s jet on Twitter. The difficulty was figuring out how much fuel each jet consumes. Akash found a company that sold this type of data and reached out to them saying he needed it for an educational project “They sent it to me, which was really nice of them,” he said.
Akash processed the information with programming languages Python and R, and built the website from scratch.
His calculations suggest that many people who own private jets are emitting dozens or hundreds of times what the average American does in a year just by flying. (And Americans have some of the highest per capita emissions in the world.)
“It was surprising to me that this wasn’t being talked about more,” he told me. Climate Jets is only one thing that Akash has going on, by the way. He also runs a website with math activities for students and teachers. “I spend much of my free time working on independent projects,” he said.
Some caveats about Climate Jets: The findings have not been independently verified. And, it’s possible some of the jets were using sustainable aviation fuel. When I contacted representatives of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos for comment, they said both used sustainable fuel and that both offset all the emissions from their flights. Akash ranks Gates and Bezos near the top of the list, below Pitbull but well above Dr. Phil and Taylor Swift.
At Akash’s home, climate change is one of the things his family talks about over dinner, which he sometimes cooks. His signature dish is chana masala, a spicy chickpea creation that works as a starter or as a main course. His father is a clean energy entrepreneur; his mother is a doctor in an emergency room and his younger sister wants to be a marine biologist. Akash says he wants to go into physics research.
Global warming is also something that people his age think a lot about, he told me. They try to lower their own emissions by doing small things like turning off the lights. “But then, those have such minute impacts relative to just taking a flight in a commercial airline relative to a private jet,” he said.
He said his main hope for the website was to raise awareness.
“The message that is often given to consumers is that it’s each of our responsibilities to basically inconvenience ourselves in favor of the climate,” Akash said. “And I completely support that.” “But then these, well, very wealthy individuals are not doing that” he added.