- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Press; First Paperback Edition edition (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
- Average Customer Review: 85 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #198,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming First Paperback Edition Edition
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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
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.”
"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."
"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."
"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.”
“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.”
"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. "
"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.”
"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 Graeber, author 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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Restated from a positive perspective, these businesses profit from adaptation or a lack of mitigation, respectively.
Restated from a normative perspective, they are businesses that serve or exploit society.
So you can see that there's going to be a lot of hope and anguish in this book, except that it's often buried under discussions of revenue, jobs and market share. As an economist, I can appreciate the fact that money incentivizes a lot of behavior. As a human, I am horrified that so many clever people are making money on the corruption, fear and ignorance of politicians. (The book does not discuss a carbon tax or other mitigation policies that would erase the profits under discussion, and that's not the author's job. It's just a context that depresses me whenever I think of the magnificence of our "civilization" that humans seem determined to ruin.)
So... the book is divided into three sections: Melt, Drought, and Deluge.
In Melt, Funk tells about Canada's rush to defend the Northwest passage that's opening with the shrinking arctic; how Shell oil went from "planning for less oil" to "drilling the arctic" as politicians left the path of Blueprints (limiting carbon emissions) for Scramble (dealing with too much carbon); the development of natural resources (and political shenanigans) as Greenland loses its glaciers; and how the Israelis got into selling (artificial) snow in the Alps. These chapters describe businesses that are making money as ice melts.
In Drought, Funk joins private firefighters that protect insured houses while neighbors burn down; the traders who buy and sell water rights (covered often in this blog); the rush to buy farmland in poor countries to ship food to richer countries (see my article PDF); and the battle to halt desertification in Africa (and the refugees fleeing that desertification for Europe). These chapters are about the rich getting richer as they plan ahead and hedge their lifestyles, while the poor are increasingly marginalized.
In Deluge, Funk explores the tensions along Bangladesh's borders, which are likely to be overrun as some of the 150 million residents flee their sinking, flooding delta; how the Dutch are willing to sell seawalls to anyone with cash (sorry Bangladeshis!); the quest to outwit nature by destroying mosquitoes before they can bring tropical diseases to middle latitudes; and the hopes of geoengineers (a group that deserves to be slandered with rain makers). Yes, there are some "solutions" in these chapters, but their cost (via adaptation) is so extravagant compared to mitigation that I think that we should be handing out penny-wise, pound-foolish awards to our so-called "leaders."
In his final chapter, Funk reflects on his six years of seeing, thinking and talking about climate change. His words say it best:
In psychology, magical thinking is the fallacy that thoughts correspond to actions— that to think is to do, to believe is to act. Perhaps the most magical assumption of the moment is that our growing belief in climate change will lead to a real effort to stop it. But as I discovered in Canada and Greenland and Sudan and Seattle and all over the globe, that is not automatically true. We are noticing that in this new world, there is new oil to find. There is new cropland to farm. There are new machines to be built. From what I have seen in six years of reporting this book, the climate is changing faster than we are.
The hardest truth about climate change is that it is not equally bad for everyone. Some people -- the rich, the northern -- will find ways to thrive while others cannot, and many people will wall themselves off from the worst effects of warming while others remain on the wrong side. The problem with our profiting off this disaster is not that it is morally bankrupt to do so but that climate change, unlike some other disasters, is man- made. The people most responsible for historic greenhouse emissions are also the most likely to succeed in this new reality and the least likely to feel a mortal threat from continued warming. The imbalance between rich and north and poor and south -- inherited from history and geography, accelerated by warming -- is becoming even more entrenched
Climate change is often framed as a scientific or economic or environmental issue, not often enough as an issue of human justice. This, too, needs to change. From this moment on, many of us could get rich. Many of us could get high. Life will go on. Before it does, we should all make sure we understand the reality of what we’re buying.
The people who should read this book cannot afford it or cannot be distracted from their profits. What should those who read it do? The only action that comes to mind is revolution, but that's unlikely to succeed when citizens are distracted and deluded (e.g., Russia and the US), reactionaries are backed by crony capitalists (e.g., Egypt and Turkey), or people are too worried about big screen TVs to see the bigger picture (e.g., India and Australia). Indeed, it's hard to see how any leaders can win support from voters by promising less now for more later. Does this mean that China's dictators are our last hope?
Bottom Line: I give this book FIVE STARS for exploring the stories of those who are profiting from our demise.
This isn't a guide for how to get rich off of climate change, just several examples of people dealing with conditions on the ground, and prepping for things to get different - for better or for worse.