Billionaire Lorenzo Fertitta cruised into town last week on his 285-foot mega-yacht the Lonian. The ship is reportedly outfitted with a swimming pool and an elevator to access all five decks. Apparently, this extravagance is not enough to serve Fertitta’s needs, as the ship is also traveling with a companion vessel, the 216-foot Hodor, which exists simply to carry his helicopter, extra boats, jet skis, cars, and probably other toys. These yachts are a slap in the face to everyone in the Santa Barbara community who has driven an electric car, everyone who has installed solar panels on their roof, and everyone who suffered at the hands of a raging wildfire.
While information about the fuel consumption of these ships is not publicly available, it is undoubtedly huge. According to the website EcoWatch, mega-yachts emit approximately 7,020 tons of CO2 per year. The average U.S. citizen has a CO2 footprint of 16 tons, and the global average is about 5 tons per person. Meanwhile, the average billionaire contributes 8,190 tons of CO2 to the atmosphere every year. For the highest-emitting billionaires, mega-yachts are responsible for the majority of their emissions. The fuel tank of the Lonian reportedly holds 160,000 liters of diesel fuel. Each ship likely consumes hundreds of liters of fuel every minute.
According to the most recent IPCC report, human emissions of CO2 have already warmed the planet by about 1.1°C, and warming will continue unless we quickly reduce emissions. In Santa Barbara, the changing climate will lead to more frequent droughts, higher vulnerability to catastrophic wildfires, and sea-level rise that will cause flooding and erosion along the coast. Many members of the Santa Barbara community and surrounding communities have already experienced the effects of the climate crisis first-hand, as fires have burned homes and taken lives. The urgency of this moment is palpable — we must take immediate steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Our local government and activist organizations should take a stand against these mega-yachts. While our ability to affect climate policy may be limited to the Santa Barbara region, we should encourage our elected officials to use the power at their disposal to discourage these obscene emitters from using our harbor. Our community has a history of leading on environmental issues, starting the tradition of Earth Day, and more recently saving the San Marcos Foothills from development. The City of Santa Barbara has already adopted a climate action plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2035. We can continue our efforts to protect our planet and our livelihood by taking action to keep these mega-yachts out of our local waters.
Taking a stand against mega-yachts will not only decrease emissions in our own local waters — it will also draw attention the larger issue of emissions by the super-rich. If we can work to ban excessive high-emission luxury yachts from our harbor, this can set an example for other cities around the world. Billionaires have a disproportionate contribution to climate change, but they also have disproportionate ability to contribute to solutions. We should use both government policy and activism to call out their shameless behavior, to push them to stop contributing to the problem of climate change. If they continue to emit recklessly, we should not welcome them in our harbor.
In many ways, the work of cutting CO2 emissions will require difficult decisions and sensitive policy. But there is nothing difficult or sensitive about mega-yachts. The emissions caused by these yachts are downright criminal. I am calling on our local leaders to craft policy to ban the activity of these mega-yachts in our local waters.