Climate change in the coming centuries will be characterized by interannual, decadal, and multidecadal fluctuations superimposed on anthropogenic trends. Predicting ecological and biogeographic responses to these changes constitutes an immense challenge for ecologists. Perspectives from climatic and ecological history indicate that responses will be laden with contingencies, resulting from episodic climatic events interacting with demographic and colonization events. This effect is compounded by the dependency of environmental sensitivity upon life-stage for many species. Climate variables often used in empirical niche models may become decoupled from the proximal variables that directly influence individuals and populations. Greater predictive capacity, and morefundamental ecological and biogeographic understanding, will come from integration of correlational niche modeling with mechanistic niche modeling, dynamic ecological modeling, targeted experiments, and systematic observations of past and present patterns and dynamics.