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Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming Hardcover – January 23, 2014

4.4 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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

Review

Honorable Mention for the Rachel Carson Environment Book Award

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.”

Nature:
"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."

Wired:
“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."

GQ:
“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.”

Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe:
"Smart, daring, and darkly funny, Windfall offers a new take on perhaps the world's most intractable problem. McKenzie Funk is a gifted storyteller."
 
Eric Klinenberg, author of Heat Wave and Going Solo:
"Climate change may well be humanity's greatest challenge, but here McKenzie Funk offers definitive evidence that it's also a great way to make a buck. Windfall is a gripping account of how banks, energy companies, engineers, and entrepreneurs have turned a global crisis into a golden opportunity, harvesting short-term profits while sowing the seeds of future ruin. It's an engaging, infuriating, and important story about the way the world works now, and about the reasons it may not work at all tomorrow."

Donovan Hohn, author of Moby-Duck:
"Exploring the profitable frontiers of climate change, Funk travels the globe like some sort of journalistic special agent, patrolling the melting Arctic on a Canadian battleship one minute, breakfasting with the son of a Sudanese warlord the next. His secret weapons: a highly sensitive irony detector and a satirist’s eye for vanities and vices that Twain would have admired. The result is a wonder, a nonfiction eco-thriller that is disturbing, yes, revelatory, yes, but also a lot more fun than books about ecological catastrophe are supposed to be."
 
Jon Mooallem, author of Wild Ones:
"McKenzie Funk has traveled around a planet that's melting, flooding and drying out all at once to meet the peculiar characters who are making the biggest, amoral hedge of our time: finding the value and opportunity hidden in all this ecological upheaval. Windfall is a shocking and important book that reads, at times, like dystopian science fiction written by Michael Lewis. But this unrecognizable world is our world, of course. Funk argues that the people he meets merely see it more clearly than the rest of us do."

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press (January 23, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594204012
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594204012
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #433,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book adds a great deal to our understanding of climate change. Author McKenzie Funk focuses not on atmospheric science, which has been adequately covered before, but rather on the complex human economic reaction to it, which has not. This exploration is replete with ironies. 

Funk divides his book into three sections: the Melt, the Drought, and the Deluge- in other words, the arctic, the dry regions, and the threatened coasts and islands. He travels widely and interviews many- in fact the amount of work he put into this over six years is intimidating. A fascinating pattern emerges: while humans collectively talk a good line about fixing global warming, as individuals or members of families or nations we focus more on ways to survive it or to thrive despite it. This realization echoes Jared Diamond's statement in his book "Collapse"- that the Easter Islander who cut down the last tree there probably did so because someone else would get the wood if he were to leave the tree standing.  In other words, the "tragedy of the commons" dictates that the human race will indulge in a race to the bottom on climate change if we cannot forge a planetary agreement to combat it. 

An entertaining and insightful look at human nature, this certainly gives the lie to those on the right wing who argue that global warming is a hoax designed to make scientists rich. Funk makes it clear that the world of economics has come to accept that global warming is quite real. Instead of working to fix it, however, that world is now focusing on how to turn a profit while letting it happen. Warning, there is a great deal of information this book even though it is under 300 pages in length. It is slow going at times!
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