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Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming [Kindle Edition]

McKenzie Funk
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)

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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC


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Book Description

A fascinating investigation into how people around the globe are cashing in on a warming world

McKenzie Funk has spent the last six years reporting around the world on how we are preparing for a warmer planet. Funk shows us that the best way to understand the catastrophe of global warming is to see it through the eyes of those who see it most clearly—as a market opportunity.

Global warming’s physical impacts can be separated into three broad categories: melt, drought, and deluge. Funk travels to two dozen countries to profile entrepreneurial people who see in each of these forces a potential windfall.

The melt is a boon for newly arable, mineral-rich regions of the Arctic, such as Greenland—and for the surprising kings of the manmade snow trade, the Israelis. The process of desalination, vital to Israel’s survival, can produce a snowlike by-product that alpine countries use to prolong their ski season.

Drought creates opportunities for private firefighters working for insurance companies in California as well as for fund managers backing south Sudanese warlords who control local farmland. As droughts raise food prices globally, there is no more precious asset.

The deluge—the rising seas, surging rivers, and superstorms that will threaten island nations and coastal cities—has been our most distant concern, but after Hurricane Sandy and failure after failure to cut global carbon emissions, it is not so distant. For Dutch architects designing floating cities and American scientists patenting hurricane defenses, the race is on. For low-lying countries like Bangladesh, the coming deluge presents an existential threat.

Funk visits the front lines of the melt, the drought, and the deluge to make a human accounting of the booming business of global warming. By letting climate change continue unchecked, we are choosing to adapt to a warming world. Containing the resulting surge will be big business; some will benefit, but much of the planet will suffer. McKenzie Funk has investigated both sides, and what he has found will shock us all.

To understand how the world is preparing to warm, Windfall follows the money.

Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, January 2014: In addition to having one of the cooler author names, Funk has written one of the more fascinating accounts of the coming economic impact of climate change. Rather than exploring the science or politics of an alarmingly warming world (a la An Inconvenient Truth), the author has focused exclusively on the economics and opportunism developing around climate change. The result is part eco-thriller, part adventure story, part investigative exposé. There’s a wildly speculative and entrepreneurial game being played out there by some forward-thinking risk takers. Not a hand-wringer among them, these are the gamblers who see profit where others see doom. Impressively researched over six years, Windfall takes us to the front lines: to the deck of a Canadian battleship, where the author blasts a machine gun into the ice cap; to formerly frozen Siberian lands, which investors envision as future mega-farms; to the Sudan, Greenland, Wall Street, and beyond. Like a mashup of Michael Lewis and Mark Twain, Funk is an intrepid investigator and a lively, smart writer. From eco hedge funds to dam building to desalination plants, he shows how climate change is creating new opportunities and a potential boon for cowboy entrepreneurs. This is the rare book that’s both important and highly readable. --Neal Thompson


The Wall Street Journal:
“In Windfall McKenzie Funk, an intrepid American journalist, reports on the lesser-known victims and profiteers of climate change brings a dizzyingly abstruse phenomenon down to a more human scale. Mr. Funk leads us away from the rarefied air of Al Gore and his lethal PowerPoint slides, to mingle with the militiamen, inventors, politicians and activists trying to find their way through an era of turmoil.”

The Associated Press:
“Funk has written a fun book humanizing the problems of climate change, focused on the colorful entrepreneurs who see in an increasingly inhospitable world golden opportunities.”

"This exposé of the powers and people that view global warming as an investment opportunity is darkly humorous and brilliantly researched. Journalist McKenzie Funk looks at the impacts deemed a windfall for 'climate capitalists': melting ice, drought, sea-level rise and superstorms. He reports far and wide, on the oil-rich far north, where nations jostle as the ice retreats; blaze-prone California and its burgeoning band of firebreak specialists; water-rich South Sudan, where large tracts of foreign-owned farmland could become a gold mine as other regions dry up; and beyond."

Men’s Journal:
"The idea that, when it comes to climate change, the meaningful divide isn't between believers and doubters but winners and losers is at the heart of McKenzie Funk's immersive and startling Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming."

Mother Jones:
"Most writings on climate change are tedious or polemical. This fabulous book is neither. Journalist McKenzie Funk travels the globe, mingling with the characters who are cashing in (or preparing to) on global warming: Wall Street land and water speculators, Greenland secessionists, Israeli snowmakers, Dutch seawall developers, geoengineering patent trolls, private firefighters, mosquito-abating scientists, Big Oil scenario planners, and African officials overseeing the first phase of a quixotic 4,7000-mile-long foliage barrier against the encroaching Sahara. Rather than waste our time on a settled question (duh, it's real!), Funk offers an up-close-and-personal glimpse of climate change's likely winners—and inevitable losers."

“Some Like it Hot: Forget bitcoin—savvy investors bet on water....In his new book, Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming, McKenzie Funk investigates the profiteers cashing in on the planet's woes."

“In Windfall, McKenzie Funk introduces us to people betting money on our dear planet's decimation. Spoiler: They're rich.”

Outside Magazine:
“There have been plenty of books documenting the myriad ways that climate change will take us all down. McKenzie Funk takes a contrarian approach, reporting on the people—and, in the case of Greenland and Canada, countries—that are poised to profit handsomely from the coming chaos.”

Scientific American:
"Funk's reporting brings him face-to-face with individuals who are investing in planetary crisis. Far from vilifying these opportunists, he attempts to see the warming world through their eyes. "

Canadian Business
"The business of climate change is growing, in other words, at least somewhat because political action on climate change has so overwhelmingly failed."

Barnes & Noble: 
"The bad news is that we're not cutting our carbon emissions. The 'good' news, according to McKenzie Funk's Windfall is that greedy banks and ambitious entrepreneurs are making billions of dollars on global warming. Much of these new frontiers of money-making derive from calculated bets on continued failure and warming, not on corrective measures. Funk's modern day muckraking lends new perspective and detail to mainstream media coverage and the ongoing debates about climate change. Definitely a conversation starter."

The New Yorker’s Page-Turner:
"Funk's take on global-warming profiteering is as entertaining as it is disturbing." 

Kirkus Reviews (STARRED): 
“A shocking account of how governments and corporations are confronting the crises caused by global warming… A well-written, useful global profile emphasizing concrete solutions rather than ideological abstractions.”

Publishers Weekly:
"For most of the planet, the specter of global warming is ominous, but as journalist Funk reveals in this startling book, there are those who view the Earth's dangerous meltdown as a golden opportunity...Funk's original, forthright take on this little-discussed profit-taking trend in the climate change sweepstakes is very unsettling."

Eliza Griswold, author of The Tenth Parallel:
"Funk's talent shimmers from the pages of Windfall. Here is a brilliant young stylist at work, pushing the boundaries of investigative journalism and literary non-fiction. With grace, humor and hard-nosed reporting on the startling business of climate profiteering, he takes us along on a searing ride into the maw of the apocalypse."

Charles Graeberauthor of The Good Nurse:
“Funk is a first-rate storyteller who packs adventure and humor in his journalist's bag, and delights in the absurd details of business as unusual. The result is a meticulously researched romp through the backrooms of the climate change industry, by turns thrilling and appalling, and ultimately rather important. There's money under the melting ice, and Funk follows it. Perhaps the only fun book on global climate change you'll ever read.”

Product Details

  • File Size: 7642 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1594204012
  • Publisher: The Penguin Press (January 23, 2014)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DMCV4A8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,908 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
First off, this book is just fun to read. The author has found some great people and places, and built unforgettable sketches around them, and embedded the disparate material in a coherent narrative. He takes a technical, unsexy and complex topic and makes it as entertaining as escapist fluff. It's journalism at its best. It will remind you of writers like Michael Lewis and Jim McManus. I wish McKenzie Funk a long career.

The book consists of investigations into a variety of people hoping to make money from climate change. A major distinction, which the author curiously does not recognize, is between the pay-me-now and the pay-me-later folks. The first group claims to be able to predict climate change (or its consequences or the consequences of specific policies) and wants money today whether they are right or wrong: investment management fees, research funding, salaries to legislate or agitate, subsidies. The pay-me-later group is spending its own money today in projects that will pay off later only if they are right.

As you would expect, the differences between these types of people are dramatic. Among pay-me-now people, "the assumption is that climate change now suffers mainly from a PR problem." They put great stress on "consensus" and never fail to mention "overwhelming evidence." Given the variety of questions related to climate change, I'm pretty skeptical of someone who claims overwhelming evidence for everything, especially without a track record making money from successful prediction.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The global warming "Big Short" January 28, 2014
"Windfall" combines the lessons of "An Inconvenient Truth," by Al Gore, and "The Big Short," by Michael Lewis. It is a well-reported account of efforts by investors to hedge their bets on climate change. Unlike those focusing upon industries aimed at averting climate change, such as solar and wind energy, these investors are looking to profit from the likely, if not inevitable, warming of the earth. This amounts to a bet against the prospect that global warming can be controlled. It is, arguably, a bet against the survival of the human race. This is the ultimate "Big Short," and it is a bet being made by some ot the world's most sophisticated investors.

The message is extraordinarily timely. The narrative skill of the author puts one in mind of John McPhee. "Windfall" is at once enlightening and entertaining. It is a must read for those interested in the economics of climate change and, for that matter, the future of the earth
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Making money from the anthropocene January 4, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There's a fairly popular TED talk by the author that covers a lot of the same territory, but in very little detail. That could give you a quick preview of whether the book is likely to be interesting to you.

It's a strange tale, of essentially good people, who are aiming to profit from the massive climate change underway. It's clear that there will be winners (especially in the northern hemisphere, farther north) and losers (for sure on islands and in the tropics). The book is a very different look at climate change, one that I had never given much thought to, but which is important. Regardless of sea levels, there will be efforts to save Manhattan, we will burn a lot more fossil fuel in any future path, and the first world will continue to not pay to fix the effects of warning in the third world.

One criticism is that the coverage of geoengineering feels abbreviated. Admittedly that's the one area of profit making from climate change that I knew about ahead of this book.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars you can bank on change December 31, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Author McKenzie Funk goes gonzo across the globe, minus the booze and drugs, and delves into all the right people and places. Where is the money going? Do you believe? It doesn't matter what you believe, billions are being spent by the same companies that are funding climate denial; they are buying up farmland in Canada that is opening up with temperature shift, they are buying up mineral rights under formerly icebound lands and seas. GM crops are being developed, Dutch dike builders are being consulted. And water; fresh water is becoming a commodity. From new snow machines that are keeping ski runs in business, to the future of indoor skiing as traditional areas melt, 'Windfall' has it all. Much of the climate literature is dry, IPCC reports read like desiccated computer manuals. Mr. Funk makes the climate's cutting edge accessible, human, and fun.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Story well writ but dragged out April 4, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
By now most folk are aware of the basic arguments for/against climate change, the looming energy crisis and the resource problems, particularly surrounding water and arable land. Funk takes a "neutral position and then immediately proceeds to create a narrative about entrepreneurs who are basically libertarian neutral as to the consequences and seek only the opportunity much like the early pioneers who crossed the US plains seeking opportunities. Making money in the "paper markets" of Wall Street is boring and limiting compared to seeking the challenges in the field. This can be water rights in the United States, farm land in Africa or South America or natural resources, including oil and minerals as the ice sheets in the north open up access.

He misses the back story surrounding the "billions" from those very same, bored, "Wall Street" investors who are willing to buy a piece of the potential opportunities created by these venture entrepreneurs. Without this pile of funds knowingly choosing to support these ventures, the entrepreneurs would be forced, perhaps to approach these opportunities differently. Why, with all the socially and environmentally screened funds,would one actively seek to support this path given the same knowledge about the climate issues?

Like Buffet in his book, 40 Chances, or Ramalingam in his book, Aid as Chaos, Funk is caught up in the narrative in the field and the chance to touch and sense the environment and the players. Unfortunately, he can't make up his mind whether he needs to play Joe Friday or to play the personalities like Tom Wolfe.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful alternate perspective on a looming catasrophe
This series of examples of localized economic benefit from a probable global disaster illustrates mankind's resourcefulness in the face of the consequences of mankind's own... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good starting points
I found this book by mere chance, but I'm happy I did. Many of the things described there are perfect starting points for conversation, discussion or further debate on global... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Olivier Alvarez
5.0 out of 5 stars Climate change is real - here's what the smart money is doing about...
Excellent. Very balanced and insightful. A must read for those who understand that climate change is real and the doubters too. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Vlad
5.0 out of 5 stars Things to Come
If you don't talk to your financial advisor after reading this you are out of touch.Snow making for certain coming up in the future.
Published 1 month ago by Amazon CustomerGeezer
3.0 out of 5 stars Sort of a Case Study Book
This book takes you through a few specific examples of how corporations are adopting strategy to climate change. The section on Royal Dutch Shell is pretty interesting. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Known as
5.0 out of 5 stars Best and most important book I've read in a decade!
Who knows? Maybe McKenzie Funk just made this stuff up from a DMT/LSD experience; BUT, I don't think so. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Good to ponder
Having spent the last decade developing solutions to climate change, this book provides a poignant counterpoint. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Joseph Pallant
3.0 out of 5 stars Funk is a fine reporter, but .....
Funk is a fine reporter, who seems to enjoy physical challenges and risk. He is enterprising and good in getting people to talk and assist him. Read more
Published 3 months ago by algo41
4.0 out of 5 stars Understanding human nature
I read a review of "Windfall" in a recent New Scientist magazine and knew I just had to get the book. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Kennehy
4.0 out of 5 stars A glass of water will cost you $4.25 but some Businesses it's going...
This book seems like it was thrown together as the author looked for companies/countries/individuals who were using their savvy free market ideology to make a buck. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Rogers J. Johnson
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More About the Author

McKenzie Funk is an award-winning magazine writer and a founding member of the global journalism cooperative Deca. His stories appear in Harper's, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, Outside, and The New York Times. Website:

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