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Soviet climaologist Budyko has remarked: _temperature and rainfall are the two major variables of life on Earth. Human society is changing both of these phenomena markedly, along with many other key variables that affect evolutionary processes. A major risk is that the tempo (or rate of human-induced environmental change) may proceed more rapidly than the ability of scientists to understand, predict, or make any long-term changes that might reduce the severity of the consequences. Increasing evidence indicates that the general public and its leaders (i.e., policy makers and politicians) fail to grasp the full implications of a planet in which the types and rate of environmental change differ substantively from the climate records of the past 5 million years.