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The Penguin Press



Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming

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.





“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 Wall Street Journal

“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.” The Associated Press

“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.” Nature

“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

“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.” Wired

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

“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

“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

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

“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

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

“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.” 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’s original, forthright take on this little-discussed profit-taking trend in the climate change sweepstakes is very unsettling.” —Publishers Weekly

“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.” Eliza Griswold, author of The Tenth Parallel 

“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.” —Charles Graeber, author of The Good Nurse 

“Smart, daring, and darkly funny, Windfall offers a new take on perhaps the world’s most intractable problem. McKenzie Funk is a gifted storyteller.” —Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe

“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.” —Eric Klinenberg, author of Heat Wave and Going Solo

“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.” —Donovan Hohn, author of Moby-Duck

“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.” —Jon Mooallem, author of Wild Ones

Author Q&A


The contract had called for either a boa or an anaconda, whichever would best handle the crowds, and in the end the bankers got the latter: a green anaconda, six feet long and eighty-five pounds, which hung from the neck of a long-haired snake handler who lurked amid the exotic plants, next to the fake waterfall and the model dressed in “Amazonian” garb. Nearby were two scarlet macaws in wire cages and a hut offering free organic smoothies. At the base of the waterfall were giant koi swimming in a pond: forty-five hundred gallons of warm, filtered water that would soon be dumped into the East River. The jungle was in a tent on the promenade at South Street Seaport, near Wall Street in lower Manhattan. It was cold outside, a typical, thirty-nine-degree February day in early-twenty-first century New York, so those beckoned inside by two models outside the entrance had to quickly shed their jackets and scarves, so stark was the difference in temperature. Which was, of course, the point. The stunt was a coming-out party, the most expensive stop on Deutsche Bank’s eighty-event “The Investment Climate Is Changing” road show held across the United States. In scale and imagination, it was rivaled only by the ski village and ninetyfoot snowboard slope the bank had constructed a few weeks earlier along Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive. Together, the Manhattan and Beverly Hills events cost $1.5 million, but they were carbon neutral, the bankers boasted, their greenhouse emissions offset by investments in a biogas project in India. At South Street Seaport, every attendee was given a certificate from the Carbon Credit Company as proof. The jungle party, which lasted three hours, produced 152 tons of greenhouse gases, which the average Indian would need three lifetimes to match.

Before a DJ set by the Brazilian Girls—a group with no actual Brazilians and only one girl—the bankers held a press conference. A half dozen major investment houses had launched global warming–themed mutual funds by 2008. Deutsche Bank’s was the $2.9 billion DWS Climate Change Fund. “Without taking a position on climate change,” a press release had explained, the “DWS Climate Change Fund is on the cutting edge of climate change investing.” The event’s objective was “not simply to show that climate change is happening,” said executive Axel Schwarzer, “but that it creates related climate change investment opportunities.” Another release went further: “The debate around climate change is shifting away from cost and risk,” it said, “toward the question of how to capitalize on exciting opportunities.”

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