As a geoscientist who works in that often strange area where government policy, academia and commercial practicality overlap I fully understand the quote, paraphrased from Heraclitus, circa 500BC, that "nothing is constant except change." I suspect Heraclitus had some geoscientist in him.
A recent article in EOS, the weekly magazine of the American Geophysical Union, by Kastens and others, describes a study, by a very diverse research group including theologians, anthropologists, sociologists, as well as earth scientists, about how geoscientists think. Geoscientists think temporally, in time, far into the past and future, think of the earth as a system of complex inter-related processes, stress learning based on observations of data from what the Earth tells us, and think spatially about how things are arranged in all dimensions. Change is inherent in a geologist's understanding of the Earth and is a principal tool for defining what happens between various observed events. Thinking like a geologist is a very good approach to understanding large-scale, complex problems and this includes climate change.
The issue surrounding the current climate change concern, in reality, only involves two concepts - the climate is changing and CO2 from man-made sources is the cause, or the climate is changing and it is a natural process. Common to both concepts is that the climate is changing - remember Heraclitus - and nobody argues that fact. Those scientists who study the Earth always see in their data the continuous process of global climate change occurring in predictable cycles far into the past. As a matter of fact, we count on those changes to help us understand the present and predict effects in the future.
All geoscientists, whether they study groundwater, volcanoes, earthquakes, shorelines, work in environmental cleanup, look for oil and gas, search for minerals, evaluate foundations, search the deep sea, or explore the Arctic, depend, as a primary source of information, on the cyclical process of past climate changes to help them understand the Earth. Everything that depends on geoscience knowledge, from roadways and dams, nuclear waste storage and landfills, beach renewal to hazardous waste cleanup, and anything that involves our utilization of the Earth, also depends on the understanding of past climate change processes that have produced the planet we currently know.
Thank goodness we can understand the past Earth because it is a sure predictor of what will happen in the future Earth. It is scientific folly at the most, and irrational at the least, to assume that all of a sudden the long-standing processes that affect Earth are now a lesser influence than man-made activities. There is a humanistic component to this assumption. The Earth is changing, change must be bad, humans are the greatest influence on the planet, therefore humans must be bad. The assumption implies we must "fix" the planet. We can do much, but our ability to change our orbit, regulate the sun, stop the continents, re-route ocean currents, or even accurately predict next months weather is not currently among our skills. They might be one day with more 'understanding'. Heraclitus had it right, 'change' happens, and what we must strive for is an 'understanding' of change in order to benefit from it.
There is an old joke often heard in the Earth sciences. If you ask mathematicians what two plus two is, they will say, in purist understanding, "four". If you ask an engineer what two plus two is they will say, in an engineering understanding, "four point zero." However, if you ask a geoscientist what two plus two is your answer may likely be "three for low values of two and five for high values of two" reflecting the wide range of variability found in the Earth and the understanding that change is a constant.
What we need to change is our understanding of climate and the Earth as a whole. The Earth is constantly changing, typically in cycles, always in fact, and as humans, we can strive to understand the processes of change. As humans, we are a change agent, as part of the complex set of systems that operate on our planet. Human effects on our environment must always be considered but within the balance of all existing natural Earth processes. However, human activities simply cannot dominate long-standing natural Earth processes. As numerous and important as we see ourselves, we pale in comparison to the large-scale, ancient processes and changes that define our planet. We must understand this in order to move forward. Our future welfare depends on it.