Eclipse Tourism Supercharges the Climate Emergency

The national fervor for traveling by car and plane to party during the 4-minute total eclipse adds fuel to an already dire climate emergency.


There’s just no excuse good enough. The April 8th total eclipse is burning through whatever positive progress we may be making on CO2 pollution for 2024. It’s likely to overshadow (in a negative way) every other major event of the year  (including Taylor Swift concerts and the Super Bowl, as other writers have noted) in terms of its energy intensity. 

Here are the estimated carbon emissions from eclipse tourism in 2024, considering both air and car travel for 4 million people:

  • Air travel emissions: Approximately 345,000 tons of CO2
  • Car travel emissions: Approximately 242,400 tons of CO2
  • Total emissions from eclipse tourism: Approximately 587,400 tons of CO2

To contextualize this figure, let's compare it to other significant sources of carbon emissions:

  1. Holiday Travel: The total CO2 emissions from eclipse tourism are on par with significant national or major holidays such as Christmas, Hannukah, Ramadan and so on in the U.S. 
  2. Eating Meat: Good news! Eclipse frolickers won’t do as much harm as the cattle industry. The production of meat, particularly beef, is a high source of carbon emissions. For example, producing one kilogram of beef emits approximately 27 kg of CO2. Therefore, the CO2 emissions from eclipse tourism are equivalent to the emissions from producing approximately 21,755,556 kilograms (or 21,755.56 metric tons) of beef.
  3. Heating Homes: The average annual CO2 emissions from heating a single-family home in the U.S. are about 5.5 tons. Thus, the emissions from eclipse tourism equate to the annual heating emissions of approximately 106,800 homes.

Some of you of a certain vintage may remember musician Carly Simon’s famous line from “You’re So Vain,” where she chided the protagonist for flying his Lear jet to see the total eclipse of the sun. Back then, that was considered a rebuke, aimed at some narcissistic, ultra-wealthy, jerk. The rest of us thought it normal to wait for the eclipse to come to our local heavens.

Not any more. The jerk label has apparently been scrubbed clean, and you’re now one of the cool kids if you spend lavish amounts of money taking your kids to see the sky get dark in the daytime for a few minutes.

Do I sound bitter? Yeah, I’m feeling it a little this morning. Many of us have devoted our careers to telling the Climate story, cajoling, informing, and nudging people to do a little better, to take their impact a little more seriously.

It’s hard to stay optimistic about the prospects for large-scale change when millions of seemingly well-educated and affluent people dart toward the nearest shiny object, the next novelty item, oblivious to the fact that they’re accelerating our worldwide slide into Climate chaos and suffering.

Maybe trying to save us from ourselves is just a waste of energy, like trying to convince an alcoholic to sober up, when he simply likes being drunk. Whatever. Let these thrill seekers chase the darkness. The rest of us will be here when the four minutes is up, trying to buy them a few more years of undeserved normalcy before civilization goes up in Climate-driven flames.