A review in a recent article of the urgency of the situation emerging from scientific study is sobering. The diagram developed in this article is based upon information published in Science magazine showing an assembled curve known as "the wheelchair", which is a temperature chart that tracks the historic carbon levels precisely. It's documented with lots of other science measurements in a Climate Change summary and update page being maintained by Guy McPherson.
In order to show the essence of the situation that we're in, and anticipating the decision that the world will need to come to in December of 2015 in Paris, I've appended the diagram to lay out the kind of future that we'll be effectively deciding on, just to clarify the issue. As you can see, human civilization emerged and flourished over 10,000 years during a time of very benign conditions consisting of a balanced ecosystem with abundant plant and animal life. This ecosystem was fairly self-regulating in that the carbon was balanced by living systems. That mechanism is nearly gone now, having been decimated by human habitation. We are now creating a new mass extinction, wiping out countless species. On top of that, the carbon spike we've created is pulling a massive trigger, and the system now has a minimal capacity to balance and is beginning to wobble. The Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine is now tracking these climate anomalies on a daily basis.
This spike in carbon that shows on the chart is unprecedented - its rate of increase is faster than anything in the total record of geological history. Before humanity existed, the carbon and temperature had periods where these conditions existed, but these changes ocurred over thousands of years, not in the extreme spike of the 200 years of our industrial age. The atmospheric carbon was absorbed and trapped by the ecosystem which ultimately balanced out after the last ice age.
The astronomically rapid release of heat and carbon by human activities, which this planet has never seen before except during extinction events (there have been five) is triggering catastrophic climate anomalies that are destabilizing a very weakened ecosystem that no longer has any reserve capacity to absorb the shock.
The IPCC's AR5 fifth assesssment report, Part 2, has just been released, and their consensus is that we're experiencing an already dangerous impact on the global climate. A summary of the high points is here. A video from this report - Working Group II - Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, goes into further depth on their perspective.
The responsibility for a solution lies ahead of us in Paris next year, and it simply consists of an equitable global agreement on emissions by all countries that rapidly cuts back on all fossil fuel use. As a strategy, all countries need to enact policies and laws that will enable them to arrive simultaneously at the agreed-on goal of zero emissions. Large and rich energy consumers will need to curb their energy use faster than the poorer countries. The poorer countries will not be asked initially to make large sacrifices but must agree that they will strive to reach zero carbon emissions at the same time as everyone else. Rich nations will assist them so they do not have to sacrifice their social or environmental goals but poor countries need to understand that they will be held accountable and not exempt from the unified global effort. Without this concerted global effort the strategy will fail, and there won't be much left to do about it.
Even then, we're probably out of time. From Climate Code Red: After 30 years of climate policy and action failure, we are in deep trouble and now have to throw everything we can muster at the climate challenge. This will be demanding and disruptive, because there are no longer any non-radical, incremental paths available.