Summary of Windfall

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  • Controversial
  • Scientific
  • Eye Opening


While environmentalists implore humanity to curb carbon emissions, the smart money bets that humanity will do no such thing. Environmental journalist McKenzie Funk profiles investors, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders who see global warming as an opportunity. They sell desalination machines to arid countries, snowmaking machines to melting Alpine resorts and storm barriers to coastal cities. A Dutch architect even designed a floating metropolis to be built on top of rising oceans. Funk notes that such schemes reinforce the developed and developing worlds’ unequal vulnerability to climate change. Wealthy nations that rely on these technological fixes have little incentive to reduce energy consumption. As a result, their enormous greenhouse gas emissions continue to worsen conditions in poorer countries. Funk offers a colorful world tour of characters and ideas. His witty, lucid writing makes for a great read, although sometimes his focus on detailed storytelling can obscure how various ventures operate. getAbstract recommends his report to policy makers, entrepreneurs, environmental activists and investors.

About the Author

Deca journalism cooperative founder McKenzie Funk won the Oakes Prize for Environmental Journalism and was a finalist for the National Magazine Award and the Livingston Award. He has written for Harper’s, Rolling Stone, National Geographic, Outside and The New York Times.



Warm Planet, Cold Cash

Humanity spews two billion metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each month. If this pace holds, says an MIT study, the Earth is likely to see “a median warming of 5.2°C [9.4°F] by 2100.” Such a rise could produce ice-free Arctic summers and create dust bowls in Central America and the southern United States. Island nations could simply disappear beneath the rising ocean. To head off such a future, humanity needs to curtail significantly its emissions of carbon dioxide, the main culprit in global warming. A growing number of business ventures, however, rely on humanity failing to do so.

Investors, entrepreneurs and corporations see economic opportunities within environmental catastrophe. Their business plans aren’t about preventing climate change. They are about inventing and selling ways of adapting to a warmer world. Such solutions include desalination plants that enable countries to tap the oceans to withstand drought. Or they might be high-tech seawalls, which can protect cities from rising sea levels and increasingly ferocious hurricanes. Or they might even be floating artificial islands to replace vanishing...

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