A Book Review — Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming

By Jerry Levine, Writer for Today's Machining World

I am a global warming (GW) cynic—not a total skeptic, nor a true believer. I am cynical because I know what motivates many of the people involved—what else, money. I know the hypocrisy of those who talk tough about others’ requirements, but renege on their own actions. And I know that this is a rich world’s problem that may be laid on the backs of the poor.

In McKenzie Funk I’ve found a fellow traveler. His recently published, Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming is about people looking for an opportunity to profit off GW. Whether there is a real crisis or not, it doesn’t matter. Making money is the objective. Their legions are many—wind and solar manufacturers, oil and mineral companies, seawall builders, bottled water companies, genetically modified seed producers, and inventors and patent holders in new technologies like geoengineering.

Funk cynically notes the first big GW financial success was Al Gore’s movie, The Inconvenient Truth. While the movie was not much more than a power point presentation, it grossed about $50 million. In full disclosure, from 1997-1998 I served on a committee chaired by Gore to determine a ballpark estimate for the U.S. to meet the Kyoto Treaty. The total estimate was between $500 billion and $1 trillion per year (about 3-6% of GDP). That’s enough of a tax to throw the economy into a severe tailspin. This is the real “Inconvenient Truth” that stalls significant emission reductions in the U.S. and around the world. The immediate cost is far too high, and the savings are much too far into the future.

That is why I am a cynic. Many countries talk tough, but waffle when their economy is impacted. The European Union’s recent backdown from their self-imposed 2020 requirements is a perfect example.

So, what are we to do about climate change? After examining many alternatives, Funk points to geoengineering as the answer—seeding the stratosphere with microscopic sulfur dioxide particles to shade the sun’s rays—but the potential downsides gave him cold feet at the end.

To write this book, Funk spent six years traveling the world, talking to creative people. Among them was Bill Gates, whose foundation has spent billions on disease eradication and genetically modified (GM) seeds but has not spent a penny on mitigating carbon emissions. Gates believes the best way to address climate change is to help poor farmers adapt. “A stalk of GM rice is just like a seawall, and far more cost effective” he said.

Funk visited Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s former chief technologist and current CEO of Intellectual Ventures (IV). Intellectual Ventures is working on geoengineering and patenting methods to stop hurricanes, refreeze the Arctic and cool the Earth using sulfur dioxide aerosols. The idea is to simulate the effect of large volcanic eruptions. This phenomenon was first observed by Benjamin Franklin in 1783 when he was stationed in Paris and severe Icelandic volcanic eruptions caused temperatures in the Northern hemisphere to plummet. The Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991 in the Philippines was the most recent example. World temperatures fell by about 1 F for a year after Pinatubo. Newt Gingrich, before his 2012 presidential run, echoed the sentiment in his campaign literature when he said, “Instead of imposing an estimated $1 trillion cost on the economy, geoengineering holds forth the promise of addressing GW for just a few billion dollars a year.” Myhrhold has now attracted funding from the Gates Foundation.

Funk points out that climate activists strongly oppose a broad set of solutions. They have the one solution—cut back, live lightly and go renewable. They believe everyone must do with less.

That solution is impractical, yet adherents preach it like a religious ideology. They say global warming is God’s punishment for the world’s population growth and profligate life style of its inhabitants.

Myhrvold stated that the strategy of relying only on emissions reductions was particularly burdensome to the poor, who cannot afford to do much. Asian countries want industrial development to move out of poverty. I don’t know how one can morally or physically stop them. Africa’s people live on the edge. Right now they are starving and dying of malaria, dengue fever and other diseases that could be alleviated by a fraction of the amount the rich world wants them to spend on ameliorating climate change. It’s clear the poor and hungry don’t have the same priorities as the wealthy elites.

Funk concludes with a discussion of magical thinking—namely that a growing belief in the impending cataclysm of global warming will lead to a real worldwide effort to stop it. But all he sees in reality is a bunch of entrepreneurs looking for short term gain.

Question: Does climate change worry you?

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22 thoughts on “A Book Review — Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming

  1. Richard R

    There is none so righteous as a reformed sinner. Hyprocrites like Al Gore are bad enough – their revolting two-facedness is fairly obvious. Naive do-gooders, on the other hand, are the most dangerous because they believe in their own righteousness. They have re-ordered their lives to move around by walking, or cycling, or jogging, by shopping at stores that sell organic non-GM whatever at outrageous prices, by composting their food waste in their apartment rooftop garden, by doing without. Good for them. But they have made a religion of this claptrap, and like all religious terrorists, they seek to impose their way on the rest of us – we have seen the light and it is good, they say, and the rest of you can, should, and will do the same.

    If you question their conclusions, their motives, or their “facts”, you are branded a Neanderthal, or worse, a Republican. A bit like being branded a racist if you happen to disagree with a certain politician’s policies.

    I think I outgrew that sort of adolescent moral certainty about everything by the time I was twenty-five years old.

    1. Josh

      The difference between the climate change “religion” you talk about and the one YOU follow is that we have evidence for climate change. We have science that tells us the effect of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and science that tells us we are responsible for much of it. The adolescence here is in acting like science is a religion, it’s not, it’s an evidence based platform for discovering knowledge.

      1. allen

        Sorry Josh but you don’t have verification of anthropogenic global warming. Otherwise it wouldn’t be necessary to try to conflate a claimed consensus with evidence of verification.

        That’s the evidence of the fraudulent nature of the anthropogenic global warming issue.

        If you had the evidence that verified the connection between human activity consensus would be immaterial. In science evidence talks and unsupported claims walk. Since the evidence that verifies the connection between human activity and anthropogenic global warming doesn’t exist proponents of anthropogenic global warming are forced to try to confuse the public with the implication that if enough scientists says it’s so then it’s so.

        It isn’t and therein lies the reason the momentum of the politics of anthropogenic global warming is diminishing. Even people who know little to nothing about science can identify the scent that emanates from the issue of anthropogenic global warming and it isn’t the scent of credibility.

      2. Tom

        Unfortunately the “science” of causation is a massive extrapolation from the warming trend. Climatology is has about the same scientific content of Economics. There are lots of hypothesis but very little fact.
        The real money behind GW/CC comes from the Harvard Business school. The market makers of Goldman Sachs. They earn their billions from legislative actions that allow them to game the system. They only wish to be the market makers of carbon credits. Whereby they make billions while accomplishing nothing. They have been funding this research for years so that the ignorant masses will agree to yet another tax that will have NO effect on carbon dioxide emissions.
        If you think for one minute the carbon credits are going to change fossil fuel use you are an absolute moron. Oil has gone from $20/bbl to $100/bbl in less than 20 years, and the world is burning more fuel than ever.
        Eventually fossil fuels will become so expensive there will become competitive technologies that replace them. The governments of the world will have little effect.

      3. Eric

        I09.com explains it and says it best. Ice ages have come and gone and there is nothing mankind can do to stop it, speed it up or slow it down. Shows how arrogant humans are!!!

  2. Doug

    The only thing that scares me about “climate change” is all the needless expenses we as businesses and individuals will have to pay out in increased utilities, as a start. I am all for a clean environment and am appreciative that world is generally a cleaner place thanks to environmentalists of the 70’s and 80’s. Today’s GW alarmists have become hysterical over the unfortunate fact that the temps has gone flat for more than 15 years now. They have so much invested in this that they have to resort to making up facts. “The debate is over”, all the current extreme cold weather in the southeast is due to Global Warming, err… I mean Climate Change. Pay attention to every weather event, now we have to name them to sound scary, Super storm Sandy, the polar vortex. Do some honest research on the various ice ages. Between the Ice ages the temperatures did what, they warmed. If you project out the warming periods after the various ice ages ended, guess what, you can project that it will only continue to warm and never stop. This made Al Gore a very rich man, who by the way since alarming everyone about the pending seas rising and taking everything in its path, has purchased plenty of ocean front property. How courageous he is, and so honorable, that he is willing to sacrifice himself. Can you imagine if Al Gore had actually been president. Right now throughout the Southeast where they are reporting about all this icy snowy weather due to Global Warming, instead we would be signing the praises of Al Gore and how he stopped Global Warming, I shudder at the thought.

  3. Charlie Burris

    I have often found myself thinking about Global Warming this year like last Saturday when I was blowing the 6″ fresh snow out of the drive and up on the other two feet of snow in my yard. As I contemplate the 2 plus inches thick ice on my drive heading up the hill to the highway I think “where is Global Warming when you need it”. I must admit I am more concerned about 400,000? barrels of Propane exported and my supplier telling me they are nearly out unable to resupply and limiting fills to “emergency’ partial fills only and these at $ 4.75 per gal. I do not think the many thousands in cold houses with heating bills they cannot afford will be too concerned about Global Warming this year.

  4. Eric

    You are correct Lloyd! FOLLOW THE MONEY!! Al Gore was working on brokering carbon credits worldwide. He would have made billions of dollars doing it. And who knows, he may still… We should do everything in moderation. Common sense measures that continue to improve on protecting the environment without sacrificing quality of life or making the Al Gores of the world rich.
    Someone should do a new reality show called, “Naked Environmentalist”. Interview an enviro-wacko on how he/she believes the world should be, then put that same person in that world and see how long they survive! Life would be pretty rough without all of the stuff made from petroleum products…

  5. allen

    Funk’s analysis isn’t so much wrong as too constrained.

    In the grand tradition of free enterprise Al Gore’s found a need and, at considerable benefit to himself, is filling it. Whether he’s a true believer who’s found a way to cash in or a cynic who’s found a way to cash in is largely immaterial. It’s the free market voluntary exchange of considerations of value that’s important and defines the situation. The motivations of the participants are secondary to the legitimacy of the transaction.

    Mr. Funk’s failure lies in his lack of curiosity about Al Gore’s customers.

    What is it that the likes of Josh, for example, find sufficiently compelling about anthropogenic global warming to part with their money? After all, it’s the customer who defines the market even if the entrepreneur garners most of the attention.

  6. Jim Goerges

    Origin, Al Gore. Manifested by democrats. Create a story that can’t be proven and see if you can spend trillions. Don’t measure things, just create manipulated formulas to skew the facts to prove your point. It used to be people would do things for the right reasons. Lloyd you clearly state that you don’t, why are you proud of that, in my opinion it’s disgusting, just think if that money would have been spent on poverty? If you look at this objectively, democrats are taking away money from the poor and homeless.

    1. Emily Halgrimson Post author

      This piece was written by Today’s Machining World writer, Jerry Levine, a retired Chemical Engineer with BP for many years.

  7. Brian

    Global warming that now has turned into climate change is pure political science. Don’t think I need to explain more about that right? It started with a politician……..

    However the damage that has been done is not noticeable now but it will be noticed in the future. We are throwing water and corn “food recourses” into our fuel. When we are burning off natural gas as we can not use it fast enough.

    We have 10 federal districts that are regulated by the EPA which are basically government run energy monopolies as a result. The districts supply of automotive/trucking/heating fuels is strictly regulated and refinery capacity is assigned. LP gas comes from a barrel of oil and since Mn is having a real winter the LP gas supplies are less than the demand so now the state of Mn has to get permission from the federal government to get access to other surplus. Thus a regulated shortage that increases prices.

    My truck is 2009 diesel and gets 25% worse fuel mileage than the 2006 same truck. I have to change my oil 2-3 times as often too. All because of the emissions crap. That is one hell of a lot of waist nation wide.

    Fluorescent light bulbs that we are regulated to buy as the incandescent light bulb is regulated out of existence – is so wasteful and expensive to produce it can not be produced in this country.

    Just think about all the manufactured waist as the result of some smart a$$ politician’s greed. We have created more waist and pollution in the name of global warming/climate change than what would have been if it were left alone. Just like all government programs tomorrow we sew what was reaped yesterday.

  8. Jim Armstrong

    Here we go with the finger pointing again. This is what makes America what it is today.
    Some assumptions that need to be accepted:
    The earth is more than 6,000 years old
    The earth’s climate has been relatively stable for a long time.
    Huge amounts of carbon were sequestered in the earth’s crust a long time ago as coal, oil & natural gas, etc.
    Mankind has released a large amount of this carbon recently turning it into CO2 mostly. Burning more everyday. Rising CO2 levels prove this and the current level is higher than it has been in a long time.
    Scientific study is a very competitive field. Challenging the status quo is what research is all about.
    Population is increasing. Demand for all of our natural resources is increasing. Politically and economically it is going to be very difficult to stop mining carbon as long as it is the cheaper alternative.
    The Bible illustrates the threats from war, pestilence, and famine. It tells us to be good stewards.

    These are my opinions and conclusions:
    After years and years of study the results are in: we have increased CO2 levels and the weather is all f–ked up.
    At our current population and certainly with the predictions coming we will eventually run out of something very important maybe clean water. Changing pestilence to disease, war, disease and hunger are poor ways to control population. Maybe not tomorrow but probably within a hundred years one of these scourges it going to make a corrective action in the human population. Maybe it will be ineffective antibiotics. (That wipes out us folks that can afford antibiotics leaving african children to run the world.)
    Small pox is gone, polio is waning, malaria and HIV are coming under control. Suffering, especially of the young is decreasing.
    There is almost no problem that is not enlarged with more people. Many of the rules and regulations that have been created in this country over the last 2 generations is because there are too many of us. Your right to take a swing stops at my nose. Well, sorry but you’re not allowed to swing if I am less than an arm’s length from you. Our collective intelligence is waning because there is no room for the individual.
    We are blessed with lots of unoccupied land. There is a reason for this; it is unproductive.
    Education and reproductive assistance, maybe even an abortion here and there, is really the only way for survival without a serious and painful correction.

  9. somo

    The average height of an American increased from the 1800’s through the 20th century; however, there are still short people today. People that don’t understand statistics and averages haven’t a clue why we can still have winter and cold weather, but the average temperature has increased 0.5 degree over the last 20 years. The average temperature in Phoenix is probably only 5 to 7 degrees warmer than New York. A 1 or 2 degree change in average temperature is a very significant change in climate. If you are reading or hearing somewhere that ice caps are growing, then you are being fooled. The US Navy wouldn’t plan to patrol an un-iced Arctic if they saw the ice pack growing. All that said, there will be nothing that can be done about now. Those that don’t understand statistics also don’t understand science. Even if the climate changes, it will always be a theory – there will be facts, but not proof. If the climate changes significantly, there will be a tipping point in believers and the crap will hit the proverbial fan. If the climate doesn’t change, then the climate change deniers can claim victory. Time will tell.

  10. Walter Ulmke

    I feel so strongly on this subject that I have to comment.

    I think man-made global warming is bollocks.

    All is based on computer models. For me, anyone making any forecast more than 20 years ahead is by definition a charlatan.

    In the mid 70’s there was a forecast that there would be no forests left in Europe by 2010 due to acid rain. Fish a little and you’ll find plenty more.

    Worldwide there are around 10000 scientists whose livelihood depends on the existence of global warming. Would YOU bite the hand that feeds you?

    We should spend all the money on something that makes a REAL difference, such as eliminating starvation.

  11. Vic Wieland

    Even the politically corrupted IPCC have staed there has been no global warming for 17 years .
    No “model” forecasted there would be no warming, but we’re supposed to believe they are forecasting what will happen correctly in 50 years time .
    The earth was warmer in the Medieval Warm period and has been warming steadily for the last 300 years since the little ice age – so you would expect heat “records” since records began ( records only beginning +/- 100 years ago )
    The Antarctic has record ice levels and the Artic Ice is currently fully recovered .
    Polar bears are flourishing and there is “snow in my lifetime ” .
    Co2 is not a pollutant – it is plant food and Al Gores graph has been proven to be a fraud as CO2 is the lagging indicator .
    Global warming – sorry Climate Change now that there’s no warming is a complete fraud .

  12. John

    And oil is not a fossil fuel , not made from dead dinosaurs and plants, which are mostly water. It is produced in the mantle from heat, pressure, and electricity. Methane is not a byproduct, but the primary molecule synthesized and is seed for the more complex hydrocarbon chains.

  13. Dean

    Polar melting is caused by Jet aircraft puking out huge amounts of black soot as they fly polar routes. They need to be restricted to maxamum latatudes as to avoid the polar ice caps. Polar bears have black skin under the white fur for infra red warming. This is now happening to the polar ice as the snow has this black soot inside the white snow absorbing infa red heat.

  14. Bob

    NASA has recently found that the earth is sheading more heat then originally thought. The recent global warming models did not predict increasing artic ice and Lake Superior freezing over or the cold snap in the US. The drought in CA is not caused by the “changing environment”, but envirnomentalists winning a court case to save a fish, hence requiring the reservoirs to be drained. So how can anyone make a firm conclusion.

  15. Jim Goerges

    I apologize for calling out Lloyd when Jerry wrote the article. When I was younger I must admit that I was not as pure as former President Clinton, I inhaled. That should be a lesson to all that we should not make marijuanna legal. As Bart Simpson would say DOPE!


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