#52. A Summary of ‘Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming’ by Mckenzie Funk


‘Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming’ by McKenzie Funk (Penguin Press; January 23, 2014)

Table of Contents:

i. Introduction/Synopsis


1. Global Warming

  • a. The World Is Warming
  • b. We Are the Main Cause of Global Warming

2. Climate Change and its Effects

  • a. Rising Sea Levels
  • b. More Drought and Desertification, and More Deluges
  • c. Stronger Storms

3. The Response to Climate Change on the Part of the World’s Governments: Complacency


Section A. The Economic Benefits of Burning Fossil Fuels

4. Fossil Fuels and Economic Productivity

Section B. How Some Countries Benefit from Climate Change

5. The Arctic 5, and the Fight for the (Melting) North

  • a. Melting Ice in the North Means Oil Finds, and Shipping Routes
  • b. The Fight for the North

6. Melting Ice in the North Means More Mineral and Gem Finds

7. Other Ways Northern Countries Are Benefiting from Climate Change—With a Focus on Greenland

  • a. Further Benefits of the Melt: Fresh Water and Hydroelectricity etc.
  • b. Fishing, Agriculture and Tourism
  • c. How Climate Change Is Paying for Greenland’s Independence

Section C. Individuals and Companies that Benefit from Burning Fossil Fuels, and Climate Change Itself

8. How Individuals and Companies Benefit from Burning Fossil Fuels

9. How Some Individuals and Companies Benefit from Climate Change

  • a. The Insurance Companies
  • b. Investing in Climate Change

10. The Psychology of Climate Change


11. Adapting to Water Shortages: From Sea-Water Desalination to Drought-Resistant Crops

  • a. Transporting Water to the Places that Need it (Is a Fail)
  • b. Desalinating Sea Water
  • c. Adapting to Drier Farmland: Drought-Resistant Crops

12. Protection Against the Sea

  • a. Storm-Surge Sea Walls
  • b. Floating Land-Masses

13. Skiing in a Warming World: Artificial Snow and the Indoor Ski Resort


14. Renewable Energy

15. Geoengineering

  • a. Influencing Weather Events: From Rainmakers to Hurricane Stoppers
  • b. Cooling the Earth: Solar Radiation Management (and the StratoShield)

16. Conclusion

 i. Introduction/Synopsis

That the earth’s climate is warming, and we are the main cause of this phenomenon (through the emission of greenhouse gases, including especially carbon), is now beyond dispute to anyone with an objective mind and an appreciation of science.

The clearest and most obvious effects of global warming are the melting of glacial ice and the corresponding rise in sea levels. But the effects of a warming world do not end here, we now know. The models tell us that warming also means less rain and even drought and desertification in some areas; more rain in others, often in deluges; stronger storms, such as hurricanes and cyclones; and an acidifying ocean.

On a human scale, this means salinated and eroding coast lines; desiccated farmland and more wild fires in drier areas; increased flooding and soil erosion in suddenly wetter areas; more destructive and deadly storms; and threatened sea life.

With all these negative effects, you would think that the people, companies and governments of the world would be eager to step in and do everything we can to stem the rising tide of climate change (including especially cutting emissions). Instead, however, what we have seen is much talk and little action.

There are several reasons for this complacency. One of the leading ones is that the effects of climate change often seem somewhat removed from our daily lives. Indeed, even though we are now seeing the beginnings of many of the effects listed above, most of us glimpse at most a small fraction of these effects. And besides, it is difficult to attribute any one of them to global warming specifically. What’s more, we like our way of life, and it’s difficult to imagine changing it for something as abstract and often remote as global weather patterns.

In connection with this, many of us are wont to think that the best approach to climate change might simply be to adapt. We’re an innovative species, after all, what’s to stop us from innovating our way out of trouble? This idea is especially appealing to the innovators and entrepreneurs among us, for whom not only peace of mind, but profits await. Given that this is the case, it is no surprise that we are already beginning to see some very innovative business approaches to adapting to the new normal. Everything from extensive water desalination plants, to man-made floating land-masses, to storm-surge sea walls, to snow machines and indoor skiing resorts.

Continuing with our wishful train of thought, it might also occur to us that as we are innovating to adapt, we should also be able to innovate to help mitigate and even halt climate change without necessarily weaning ourselves off oil until it is more convenient to do so. Once again, there are profits to be made here, and once again, such innovations are already underway. Everything from the development of alternative forms of energy (including solar, wind, and other renewables), to ingenious ways to manipulate the weather and climate back to normal (known as geoengineering).

Beyond optimism (some might say denial), and the fact that there are big profits to be made from adapting to climate change, there is also one other factor to consider in our relative complacency when it comes to halting and reversing carbon emissions. That is that while many of the effects of climate change listed above are bad for many people, at least some are good for some people some of the time—at least in the short-term. For instance, while melting ice stands to swamp some parts of the world, it is also leaving large tracts of land in the arctic open for resource exploration and shipping routes. In addition, while shifting hydrology is leading to the loss of large tracts of farmland in drier areas, it is also often leading to richer agriculture in newly warmer, wetter areas. Also, while shrinking farmland and water resources is leading to food and water shortages, and rising prices, those in control of these precious resources are making a fortune.

As we can see, then, being complacent about cutting carbon emissions is not only pleasant for most of us, for some of us, it’s even a windfall! And that brings us to the topic of the book: all the things that are now being done to profit off of climate change (which we have now been introduced to above).

What follows is a full executive summary of Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming by Mckenzie Funk.


1. Global Warming

a. The World Is Warming

There is now ample evidence that the world is in fact warming. This is not something that can be gleaned from single weather events, or even single seasons or years (though these can act as indicators). Rather, it is something that becomes apparent when we trace long-term weather trends (loc. 273). And here the evidence is unequivocal. To mention just one of these recent trends (together with one stark indicator), consider the following: in 2006, “the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would declare that winter the warmest since it began keeping records, which was in 1880. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change would announce that eleven of the previous twelve years were the warmest in human history” (loc. 277).

Still, global temperature records, which have been trending upwards for over a century (and at an accelerating pace), can be somewhat abstract and remote. For this reason, it is also useful to reference real-world effects; and here too the instances are mounting. Consider that in the summer of 2006, the same year mentioned above, “drought-crazed camels would… rampage through a village in Australia, a manatee would swim past Chelsea Piers in New York City’s Hudson River, and the Netherlands would announce that its famous Elfstedentocht ice-skating race might have to be postponed forever. Armadillos were reaching northeast Arkansas… Fire consumed fifty million acres of Siberia. Greenland lost a hundred gigatons of ice. The Inuit got air-conditioning units. The polar bear lurched toward the endangered-species list. India’s Ghoramara Island was mostly lost to the Bay of Bengal, Papua New Guinea’s Malasiga village was mostly lost to the Solomon Sea, and Alaska’s Shishmaref village decided to evacuate before being lost to the Chukchi Sea. Canadian scientists reported that the forty-square-mile Ayles Ice Shelf had broken off Ellesmere Island and formed a rapidly melting island of its own. A European satellite showed a temporary crack in the ice pack leading from northern Russia all the way to the North Pole” (loc. 273).

Of all the physical evidence reinforcing the idea that the planet is warming, the starkest is the melting of glacial ice. A couple examples of this were mentioned in the quote above; however, those examples fail to capture the full extent of the phenomenon. The fact is that the world’s ice is shrinking at an alarming pace. As an indication of this, consider the ice atop the Arctic Circle. As Funk explains, “the Arctic ice cap has never been smaller than it was in the summers of 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and especially 2012, when 4.57 million square miles, an area larger than the United States, melted away” (loc. 183). Nor is this phenomenon confined to the North—consider the Alps, as another example. As the author explains, “as a whole, Europe’s Alps have lost half their ice over the last century, one-fifth of it since the 1980s. The 925 named glaciers in Austria are receding at an average of thirty to fifty feet a year, twice the rate recorded a decade ago” (loc. 1116).

So, just what is causing all this warming? It is true that the earth’s temperature fluctuates naturally—hence the periodic ice age. In our current case, though, it is clear that something different is going on.

b. We Are the Main Cause of Global Warming

And that something different is the greenhouse gases we humans are spewing into the atmosphere—at an ever increasing rate since the Industrial Revolution. As Funk explains, “the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, our principal contribution to the climate and the principal driver of warming, has only been rising. It is now 40 percent higher than preindustrial levels, higher than it has been anytime in the last 800,000 years. In New York’s Madison Square Garden, a seventy–foot doomsday clock, recently unveiled by Deutsche Bank, is tracking greenhouse-gas levels in real time: 2 billion metric tons added each month, or 800 a second, for a total of 3.7 trillion tons and counting. The ticker has thirteen red digits, but when you stare at it from Seventh Avenue, the last three are a blur. They’re spinning too quickly to see” (loc. 135).

*For prospective buyers: To get a good indication of how this (and other) articles look before purchasing, I’ve made several of my past articles available for free. Each of my articles follows the same form and is similar in length (15-20 pages). The free articles are available here: Free Articles

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