Island owner Richard Branson: Hurricanes 'start of things to come'

Senior Editor
Yahoo News
Branson in Puerto Rico on Sept. 11, 2017. (Photo: Richard Branson via Twitter)
Branson in Puerto Rico on Sept. 11, 2017. (Photo: Richard Branson via Twitter)

Billionaire Virgin founder Richard Branson blasted President Trump on Tuesday for refusing to address climate change amid a string of powerful hurricanes that have lashed the United States, Caribbean and Virgin Islands in recent weeks.

“Climate change is real,” Branson said on CNN’s “New Day” Tuesday. “Ninety-nine percent of scientists know it’s real. The whole world knows it’s real except for maybe one person in the White House.”

Branson, who rode out Hurricane Irma in a concrete bunker on his private Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, said it was an “indescribable” experience.

“For five hours it just felt like the bunker was — was going to crack,” Branson said. “And then, when we got into the eye of the storm suddenly this deathly hush and we tentatively opened the door and saw the utter devastation. I mean, everything laid bare.”

The Virgin Islands are now bracing for Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph.

Slideshow: Hurricane Maria barrels into the Caribbean >>>

When Irma crossed Necker Island, it was a Category 5 storm. But Branson said it was “effectively” a Category 7, with wind gusts topping over 200 mph.

Slideshow: Hurricane Irma pounds Florida >>>

“You know, categories stop at Category 5 because they never thought it would go up to Category 7,” he said.

Branson said he would’ve ridden out this storm, too, but he had already agreed to speak at a climate change conference in New York City. He said he wanted to use the platform to address the Trump administration’s plan to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, which was adopted by 195 member states and the European Union at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change convention in Paris.

Slideshow:  Hurricane Irma thrashes the Caribbean >>>

“I was at the Paris talks,” Branson said. “It felt like so much hope that the world was going to rally around to deal with this problem. And then, of course, what happened in America when people denied climate change and said that they wouldn’t rally around and help the rest of the world get on top of this problem. So I just wanted to get here to talk about it.”

“Scientists have said the storms are going to get more, and more, and more intense and more and more often,” he added. “I mean, we’ve had four storms within a month, all far greater than have ever, ever, ever happened in history. And I think that sadly this is the start of things to come.”

On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump was reconsidering his decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. But White House officials pushed back on that report Monday, saying that Trump intends to follow through with the withdrawal unless the U.S. can renegotiate “more favorable” terms.

The Trump administration has been criticized for its reluctance to accept that climate change is real. After touring the destruction left by Irma in Florida last week, Trump was asked by reporters whether Irma and Harvey had made him rethink his views on climate change.

Slideshow: Aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Florida >>>

“Well, we’ve had bigger storms than this,” Trump replied. “And if you go back into the 1930s and the 1940s, and you take a look, we’ve had storms over the years that have been bigger than this. If you go back into the teens, you’ll see storms that were as big or bigger. So we did have two horrific storms, epic storms. But if you go back into the ’30s and ’40s, and you go back into the teens, you’ll see storms that were very similar and even bigger, OK?”

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