Jeff Bezos, the self-made billionaire and luxury space-travel entrepreneur, says he was struck by just how thin Earth’s atmosphere was when he was barreling through it in his private rocket this summer.
In an address Tuesday to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, the newly minted astronaut said he remains amazed by the gifts of nature, which he rightly said “provides all the food we eat, the water we drink, and the oxygen we breathe. It gives us life.” He then told the audience that while it is beautiful, it is fragile as well.
“I was reminded of this in July when I went into space with Blue Origin,” the Amazon founder said, namedropping his private space-travel company. “Looking back at Earth from up there, the atmosphere seems so thin. The world so finite and so fragile.”
The world’s second wealthiest man—who it must be noted has pledged $10 billion to his Earth Fund to help address climate change–traveled to Glasgow on a private jet, drawing scorn from environmentalists like Greta Thunberg, who arrived by train.
“Change is not going to come from inside there—that is not leadership. This is leadership,” Thunberg told her supporters outside the main venue. “We say no more blah blah blah, no more exploitation of people and nature and the planet. No more exploitation. No more blah blah blah. No more whatever the fuck they are doing inside there.”
Bezos was not the only person to draw scorn from outside the conference. More than 400 private jets were parked in regional airports and the so-called climate-caring set were then whisked away to luxury hotels in private limos. John Kerry, the U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, who has won awards for his efforts to mitigate climate change, was among them. Biden’s Air Force One landed in Edinburgh, where he will be staying, but he will be commuting the 30 miles or so to Glasgow daily in a gas-guzzling motorcade.
Bezos’ atmosphere comment set tongues wagging on social media, even though Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket is not as detrimental to Earth’s atmosphere as Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic rockets, which burn hydrocarbon fuel and generate soot, according to a recent op-ed in Space.com about the perils of private space tourism to Earth’s atmospheric layer.
Bezos joined the Glasgow conference after partying with fellow climate-change advocate Bill Gates, who was also at COP26 on Tuesday, and who turned 66 aboard a $2.7 million a week superyacht moored off Turkey last week. Bezos was whisked off the boat by private helicopter, which flew him 120 miles to his private jet. The helicopter ride alone generated 215 pounds of carbon dioxide, or CO2, emissions, according to Thunberg’s group, which is nothing compared to the 19 tons of CO2 emissions Gates’ party boat generated every single day.