Paul Dolan reflects on the world

When one thinks of Paul Dolan, one generally thinks of wine.
Dolan and his partners - the Thornhill family - took their combined expertise in agriculture and business and brought sustainability to the wine industry. Parducci Winery - the centerpiece of the Mendocino Wine Company - is the first carbon-neutral winery in the United States. Using protocols established by the California Climate Action Registry, the winery utilizes solar and windmill installations, bio-diesel vehicles and earth-friendly packaging, water conservation, composting and recycling, and purchases carbon credits from environmentally aware companies - setting the green standard for wineries and grape growers worldwide.

And it is no less than the entire world that Dolan is concerned with. Last week, he attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in his role as United States board member for the Climate Group - a global organization committed to stopping global warming.

"The Climate Group provides information and research for business and governments. We help generate conversations about investment, innovation and sound public policy," Dolan explains. The London-based organization has offices in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, China, Belgium, India, Hong Kong and the United States. Staff works with member companies and governments to help financial institutions manage risks and opportunities of climate change. They partner with automakers transitioning to electric vehicles, create pilot projects in countries to facilitate transition to LED lighting and provide real-time tracking of greenhouse emissions.

Dolan has investigated for himself and says he is certain that climate change is inextricably linked to global emissions. "In this country, we still seem to believe there's a debate. This is a polarizing dynamic. If you take one position, someone else takes the other. It's party lines. That becomes the context for discussing the eminent crisis."

"Another challenge is consumerism," says Dolan. "Our economy runs on it, thrives on it and expects it. We've made bad decisions thinking this is for the greater good. We've created an environment that operates in service of more stuff - which consumes natural resources. America uses the largest numbers of resources and generates more waste than any other nation. About 5 percent of the world's population produces 80 percent of the waste. We have to get from 40 gigatons of greenhouse emissions to 20 gigatons by 2020. That's huge."

China, says Dolan, will sell more cars than the U.S. next year and produce more emissions than the U.S. is able to reduce. "China will emit incredibly for a period, but they've also recognized they have to come up with alternative energy sources. They are the current leaders in solar and wind power."

"Forty percent of planetary energy comes from coal," says Dolan, "and we must retool our vehicles to eliminate the burning of fossil fuels." The answers are there, he says, but investors and business must see the cost benefits. "If we don't support the playing field, it makes it difficult for business to move forward. They just want to know what the playing field is so they can move into the competitive environment."

"Business is recognizing the reality of carbon costs," says Dolan. "Investors and inventors are lining up to go to work and create new ventures. Governments can get in the way or get behind these projects. If we drag our feet, it's at our own expense."

One of the most stark and shocking facts to come out of Copenhagen was a report produced by the Dutch-based Shell firm. "They are famous for scenario planning and projecting out in time what is possible," says Dolan. Their findings were astounding. "Shell cannot find a scenario in which we are able to overcome the global warming crisis. Their conclusion was that our only hope was the human spirit."

For Dolan, Shell's pronouncement meant the fragile cup filled with the planet's future is still half-full. "If you dig into the downside issues, you can become very depressed. But there are innumerable positive actions, especially when you look at small communities, businesses, families, even small regions. You start to access the hope for the future."

Dolan had an opportunity to meet with the premier of Nova Scotia. "Nova Scotia has the largest tidal movement of any place in the world - one billion gallons each day. If they could harness that, it could literally light up the entire East Coast.

"The technology to solve these problems is available.," he said. "Payback efficiencies for businesses are enormous. Wal-Mart is doing incredible environmental work and will probably end up being the world leader in these areas. We will find ways to use discarded uranium. Cold fusion will be more powerful than nuclear power. These are what businesses are calling radical efficiencies.' People are looking at sustainability in new ways."

For Dolan - the grandson of Edmund Rossi, who ran the Italian Swiss Colony Winery - years of keeping his hands and heart close to the earth have helped him draw the same conclusions about our future as the statisticians and number crunchers at Shell. "We are moving out of the Industrial Revolution into the Green Revolution. Our internal, planetary immune system will kick in and rise to the occasion. We'll see the sense of urgency and we will respond."

For information, visit theclimategroup.org