A shocking account of how governments and corporations are confronting the crises caused by global warming: After traveling to 24 countries and more than a dozen states and meeting hundreds of people, journalist Funk concluded that “existing [global] imbalances seem only magnified by climate change.” He found major international corporations like Shell and Chevron preparing to invest billions in oil fields made exploitable by retreating Arctic ice. He discovered Wall Street speculators and cash-rich countries like China assembling massive plantations in newly liberated Darfur and other African countries in expectation of coming food crises. He documents the international security-driven responses—building walls, using satellites and other forms of surveillance, and setting up detention facilities—to prevent refugees from famine and flooding in the Southern hemisphere from resettling in the wealthier countries of the Northern hemisphere. The author examines three different effects of global warming: melting ice caps and glaciers, droughts and desertification, and floods resulting from rising oceans. As polar ice retreats, new shipping routes and farmland open up. Greenland is set to become “an untapped Gulf of Mexico in the North Atlantic” and is already ranked in the top 20 of countries with oil reserves. In the western United States, Spain, Israel, and parts of Africa and Latin America, desertification and other effects of rising temperatures—e.g., devastating wildfires—are allowing speculators to put a premium on land ownership and acquire water rights in the expectation of future gains. Furthermore, Monsanto and BASF have filed more than 150,000 patents on the seeds of food plants, trying to lock up the genome…A well-written, useful global profile.
— Kirkus Reviews (starred)
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, who for traveled six years studying climate change, saw beyond the ecological disaster, profiling individuals and companies with an ambitious goal of turning a profit from a distressed planet—one overwhelmed by carbon emissions at higher concentrations than at any time in the last 800,000 years. In alarming terms, he lists three major categories of global warming that need very little explanation—the melt, the drought, and the deluge—all of which have nations and citizens jockeying for position to cash in on the world’s dwindling resources. Everybody is in the mix, according to Funk, from the Greenland secessionists betting on oil to set them free, Israeli wizards creating snows for barren ski slopes, South Sudanese warlords controlling precious farmland in a deal with fund managers, California firefighters teaming with insurance companies as the last barrier against wildfires, and a Dutch engineering firm’s water-management ideas for securing a storm-ravaged New York City. Still, Funk’s original, forthright take on the little-discussed profit-taking trend in the climate change sweepstakes is very unsettling.
— Publishers Weekly (PW Pick of the Week)
"Apparently, if you look at climate change the right way, it looks like money instead of disaster — if you're looking at it from a corporate boardroom, for example, and not, say, coastal Bangladesh...Funk doesn't waste time with climate change skeptics—there's enough scientific evidence to back up the environmental effects he describes. Instead, he considers a thornier issue: the true cost of adapting to climate change."
— Associated Press
"In 'Windfall' McKenzie Funk, an intrepid American journalist, reports on the lesser-known victims and profiteers of climate change [and] brings a dizzyingly abstruse phenomenon down to a more human scale...It turns out that climate change is rather like the financial crisis. Those who may have caused it with their emissions are likely to profit most from it, and the gulf between the world's rich, who can protect themselves from its worst effects, and the poor, who cannot, will only widen. It is an ugly truth, but one well worth recognizing as we ponder what do if Maine turns into Tuscany and the Marshall Islands vanish beneath the sea."
— The Wall Street Journal (PDF)
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."
— Men's Journal
Coverage of climate change tends to focus on the losers, of whom there are likely to be very many. The world’s poor, especially, are apt to find themselves starved, swamped, or parched as seas inundate cities and droughts turn farmland into desert. But this is not the primary subject of McKenzie Funk’s fascinating and troubling new book, Windfall. Instead, Funk travels the world to meet the winners—the entrepreneurs, charlatans, and multinational corporations that are devising ingenious ways to make a buck amid the coming chaos.
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.
— Mother Jones
“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.”
Funk’s unsparing focus on the mechanics of planning ahead for the many contingencies and emergencies of a warming world makes for an arresting book. Watching the various players in the emerging new climate economy deal with the inevitability of global warming in real time is fascinating, if also fairly depressing, reading... Funk comes off a bit like the Zelig of climate adaptation. He is present at some key moments in the recent annals of climate-change preparation: the Chukchi Lease Sale 193 in 2008, when the US government sold nearly forty-six thousand acres of Arctic seabed to Royal Dutch Shell and other oil firms; the 2006 mock interdiction of a supposed American merchant vessel conducted in the Northwest Passage by a Canadian frigate; and Deutsche Bank’s 2008 “The Investment Climate Is Changing” party in Manhattan, complete with a green anaconda, two scarlet macaws, and a Brazilian dance troupe. Name any site where someone is making a buck on global warming—in California, where wildfires are raging hotter and more often and disaster entrepreneurs are cleaning up, or in South Sudan, where an American capitalist is trying to acquire farmland from the country’s president, Salva Kiir—and Funk is there.
“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.”
— Outside Magazine
The Best Books of 2013 "(O.K., one is really from 2014)...I am jumping the gun a bit on this book, which will come out in a few weeks. Funk’s take on global-warming profiteering is as entertaining as it is disturbing."
— Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker
"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."
— Scientific American
Windfall is written on a premise we’re all familiar with: If there’s a way to make a buck, someone somewhere will figure out how. Climate change, journalist McKenzie Funk argues, is no exception. Funk does an excellent job in conveying the realpolitik of environmental upheaval... [T]he scramble to decide who will be the winners and who the losers when chaos finally sets in, Funk says, is well underway. This a smart, well-observed primer on the new world order climate change is already shaping."
Logic tells us that a book about climate change shouldn’t be fun—or, for that matter, funny. Yet in journalist McKenzie Funk’s capable hands, the subject matter is just that. Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming is a globe-spanning, wide-reaching romp to the front lines of a warming planet, where entrepreneurs, engineers, and savvy capitalists see a market opportunity. Funk doesn’t attempt to convince skeptics of the reality of climate change or rehash the science for believers; instead, this is a book about who stands to profit—and, conversely, lose—from global warming.
"Funk hits his richest vein in the world of business. It’s a world ruled by men: There’s nary a woman among all his bankers, hedge fund managers, generals, desalinators, warlords, scenario planners, fire chiefs, genetic engineers, inventors of inflatable smokestacks that will climb 15 miles into the sky to pump emissions from power plants into the stratosphere. In Funk’s Mad Max world of climate change, women have only walk-on parts. There are three protesters against oil drilling in Alaska, one dressed in a polar bear costume. A member of a Japanese cult helps to build a wall of trees across the Sahel by beaming invisible light energy at a row of seedlings. Oh, and there’s Ayn Rand..."
"McKenzie Funk pulls off the nearly impossible task of covering the most cynical of profiteering (making money off of the Earth's catastrophic reconfiguration because of climate change), while penning a captivating read that avoids being funereal. Even while being aware of the dangers at hand, Funk regularly acknowledges the droll ironies of a society that can even make money off of its own self-destruction."
"The business of climate change is growing, in other words, at least somewhat because political action on climate change has so overwhelmingly failed."
— Canadian Business
"Funk's book is a warning - a unique insight into a world that largely exists in the business pages of our media. A fund manager tells him some insurance companies are licking their lips over climate change, because increasing rates prove ''hurricane season is actually quite a positive thing''. Screw the environmental and practical devastation on lives and property."
— The Sydney Morning Herald
The result is at once refreshing, fascinating and deeply unsettling. While the mainstream media continue to rehash the stale debate about the scientific validity of climate change, Funk shifts the frame to those who are already taking action in response to climate change, particularly those who stand to gain from a warmer reality.
— Student Reporter
Instead of preaching to the converted and drawing new warnings from climate scientists immersed in dry data, journalist McKenzie Funk decided to chat up a much more colorful set of characters: the land and water speculators, inventors, and various other profit seekers who are trying to cash in on the effects of a changing climate.
— The Week ("Book of the week")
In the sustainability field, the trope of the "win-win" is ubiquitous. Being in the business of sustainability is about finding opportunities to score wins for the firm's bottom line that also represent wins for the planet. Professionals who work on sustainability issues operate with a more expansive conception of "value" that prioritizes environmental and social impacts along with financial returns. They think seriously about the present and future of our shared environment. "Windfall" invites us to think about another breed of environmentally savvy business actor: The people who will be winners because other people will be losers.
But alongside those who are creating are those who, simply put, take advantage of new opportunities. Expected water shortages are causing more and more countries and investors to hoard land in Africa and Latin America in order to claim aquifers.
— El País
One notable constant is this: The valuable services to respond to climate change are generally available only to those who can pay.
— Daily Kos
The positive effects of global warming mainly affect the countries in the Northern Hemisphere - the rich, industrialized countries, therefore, notes Funk, who also are the most responsible for the climate crisis.
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.
— Barnes & Noble
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.