In collaboration with the Commonwealth Club of California we had the pleasure of speaking with Eugene Linden, who is is an award-winning journalist and author on science, nature and the environment. He is the author of nine books of non-fiction and one novel. His previous book on climate change, Winds of Change, explored the connection between climate change and the rise and fall of civilizations and was awarded the Grantham Prize Special Award of 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.
In his new book, Fire and Flood, Linden examines the role of business interests in muddying messages from scientists and derailing attempts to galvanize the public. He tells a story of big monied interests doing what they do to protect short-term profits against longer-term threats. One of the through-lines of the book is the insurance industry’s response to climate change, which for a long time was painfully slow, but recently has pivoted quite dramatically. Florida and California are seeing the housing insurance sector retreat from entire regions because of the unmanageable risks of fire and flood—some believe that the housing markets in parts of those two states are another bad season or two away from collapse. In a larger sense, big business, which for so long has been a woeful headwind to needed change, is waking up to the need to act very quickly now, as the long term has become the near term with terrifying speed.