NECKER ISLAND, British Virgin Islands: Richard Branson was lounging under the starry midnight sky on this palm-dappled speck of an island recently when he popped a sobering question.

Okay, I didn’t write the above vivid opening dripping with tropical ambiance. It’s from the introduction to an article entitled “At island retreat, Branson and friends seek to save a world ‘on fire,'” which appeared in the International Herald Tribune.

That would be the world renowned Richard Branson, by the way, who created Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Holidays, Virgin Classics, Virgin Broadcasting, Virgin Hotels and a veritable slew of other Virginal businesses which helped make him the 236th richest man in the world (net worth nearly $8 billion). Hey, if a theme works, why not milk it for all it’s worth?

Anyway, here’s the “sobering question” he popped to his gaggle of fabulous friends (which included Google mogul Larry Page, PayPal co-founder Elon Musk, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair): “So, do we really think the world is on fire?” (Translation: Are we all in agreement that global warming is real, that it’s caused by man and that it poses a grave threat to the planet?)

Here, here! Of course we agree! How could we not? The science is settled. Debate is over. Denying it is like denying the Holocaust. More Dom Perignon all around! Oh, and Jeeves, see to it that the jet is ready. We’re breakfasting in Tortola in the morning.

Or something like that. The Caribbean getaway was the idea of Richard Stromback, a former professional hockey player, of all things, who later became a successful clean-technology entrepreneur. The purpose of the gathering was to try and figure out what to do about the scourge of global warming and, in true entrepreneurial fashion, get even richer in the process.

Don’t you just love it when a gaggle of rich liberal entrepreneurs gather together on a fabulous Caribbean estate, having arrived by yacht and private jet, to plot how they’re going to save the world and make a ton of money doing it? You have to admit it’s better than those old-fashioned robber barons who once ravished the earth and worked people like draft animals until they were spent. These guys are thoroughly modern and oh so politically correct with their environmental and social consciousness.

Which is all very marvelous, but what if the planet doesn’t actually need saving from global warming and their noble mission is just a self-delusional crock? What if . . .

What if the earth was actually now in the process of cooling? Well, the more fundamentalist believers in climate change among you may say that extremes of cold, along with every other weather extreme one can think of, all falls within the hypothesized parameters of anthropogenic global warming.

That’s right. Take it from Amir Delju, for instance, the senior scientific coordinator of the World Meteorological Organization’s climate program. He wants us to know that “the more frequent occurrence of extreme events all over the world — floods in Australia, heavy snowfall in the Middle East — can also be signs of warming.”

In other words, he’s stacking the deck such that no matter what happens meteorologically in the short term, he and his climate change pals are going to sit back and say, yep, just like we told you, global warming.

But even Delju has at least allowed for the possibility, however miniscule, of a reversal of global warming when he said that temperatures would have to be flat for several years before a lack of new record warm years would become significant. Well, guess what? They’re becoming significant.

The warmest year thus far recorded was back in 1998 and temperatures had basically plateaued so far this century. But the real kicker is that according to all four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA’s GISS, UAH, RSS), global temperatures have dropped precipitously during the past year. In fact — and if you’ve always been skeptical about worst case global warming predictions you’ll want to savor this — it’s been the single fastest one-year temperature change ever recorded, either up or down.

What that means is that an entire century’s worth of global warming allegedly caused by the activities of man has been wiped out in a single year. No one knows why, of course, since the workings of the earth’s atmosphere are so unfathomably complex. It might be solar, it might be who knows what else. But at the very least, reasonable people have to acknowledge the possibility that maybe the world’s coastal cities aren’t going to be under 20 feet of water by century’s end after all.

This one-year temperature drop seems like more than an inconsequential factoid, but apparently none of this managed to filter its way down to Richard Branson’s lushly sumptuous Caribbean island. Oblivious to the many serious doubts about global warming orthodoxy that continue to crop up, the green-minded masters of the universe spent their time “hashing over ideas in Branson’s new open-air yoga pavilion. Talk ranged from the practicality of electric-powered cars to how much money would have to be invested in biofuels to reduce the price of crude to $35 a barrel, a prospect Khosla said was possible within the next 15 years.”

If you believe biofuels are ever going to drive the price of crude to $35 a barrel, I’ve got a Cape Cod wind farm I’d like to sell you, cheap. In fact, the latest line on biofuels is that they might do more harm than good to the planet and its people because of increases in food prices and increased gas emissions due to the deforestation required to grow the crops.

Okay, you might say, so let Branson and his mega-wealthy pals have their lavish brainstorming session anyway. Even if global warming doesn’t present the threat they think it does, what harm can it do if they come up with new green technologies or find a way to make alternative energy sources economically viable? At least they’re not spending their time like capitalist pigs of yore looking for pristine locations to strip mine or dumping toxic waste in our rivers and streams.

Well, yes, but on the other hand there’s that old saying, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. So, for instance, while replacing crude with biofuels sounds warm and fuzzy and planet-friendly, as already mentioned, it’s coming under more and more scrutiny and criticism as something that might do more harm than good. Therefore, if Branson and the boys were to use their influence to help mainstream biofuels . . . Well, you see the potential problem.

What about electric cars, then? The problem is, where’s the non-polluting, non-emissive electricity going to come from? The only viable source for such electricity on a large scale is nuclear and you can forget about that, the environmentalists won’t have it. Otherwise, the generation of most electricity still pollutes and creates emissions.

Well, then, solar power? Maybe next century. Hydrogen? Ditto. Wind? Don’t make me laugh.

Maybe nothing at all will come out of the high-class Caribbean confab beyond a few days of extravagant frolicking amongst the filthy rich. That wouldn’t be a particularly bad outcome. And perhaps Tony Blair said it best when asked if the nations of the world could ever work together to do something about greenhouse gases: “We have an agreement that there should be an agreement. But there’s no agreement on what that agreement should be.”

Here, here!

Greg Strange provides conservative commentary with plenty of acerbic wit on the people, politics, events and absurdities of our time. See more at his website: http://www.greg-strange.com/.

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