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From a writer and expert who has been at the center of the fight for more than thirty years, a brilliant, big-picture reckoning with our shocking failure to address climate change. Fire and Flood focuses on the malign power of key business interests, arguing that those same interests could flip the story very quickly—if they can get ahead of a looming economic catastrophe.
Eugene Linden wrote his first story on climate change, for Time magazine, in 1988; it was just the beginning of his investigative work, exploring all ramifications of this impending disaster. Fire and Flood represents his definitive case for the prosecution as to how and why we have arrived at our current dire pass, closing with his argument that the same forces that have confused the public’s mind and slowed the policy response are poised to pivot with astonishing speed, as long-term risks have become present-day realities and the cliff’s edge is now within view.
Starting with the 1980s, Linden tells the story, decade by decade, by looking at four clocks that move at different speeds: the reality of climate change itself; the scientific consensus about it, which always lags reality; public opinion and political will, which lag further still; and, perhaps most important, business and finance. Reality marches on at its own pace, but the public will and even the science are downstream from the money, and Fire and Flood shows how devilishly effective moneyed climate-change deniers have been at slowing and even reversing the progress of our collective awakening. When a threat means certain but future disaster, but addressing it means losing present-tense profit, capitalism’s response has been sadly predictable.
Now, however, the seasons of fire and flood have crossed the threshold into plain view. Linden focuses on the insurance industry as one loud canary in the coal mine: fire and flood zones in Florida and California, among other regions, are now seeing what many call “climate redlining.” The whole system is teetering on the brink, and the odds of another housing collapse, for starters, are much higher than most people understand. There is a path back from the cliff, but we must pick up the pace. Fire and Flood shows us why, and how.
About the Author
Eugene Linden is an award-winning journalist and writer on science, nature, and the environment. He is the author of nine books of nonfiction and one novel. His previous book on climate change, The Winds of Change, explored the connection between climate change and the rise and fall of civilizations, and was awarded a Grantham Prize Award of Special Merit. For many years, Linden wrote about nature and global environmental issues for TIME where he garnered several awards including the American Geophysical Union’s Walter Sullivan Award.
“A fascinating slice of climate history, notable especially for its focus on the insurance industry—which understood early on that we faced a crisis, but couldn't bring itself to break with the business consensus and make the kind of changes that would have resonated. This will be a telling story for a long time to come (assuming we're around to hear it).” —Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?