Climate change research is increasingly focusing on the dynamics among species, ecosystems and climates. Better data about the historical behaviours of these dynamics are urgently needed. Such data are already available from ecology, archaeology, palaeontology and geology, but their integration into climate change research is hampered by differences in their temporal and geographical scales. One productive way to unite data across scales is the study of functional morphological traits, which can form a common denominator for studying interactions between species and climate across taxa, across ecosystems, across space and through time—an approach we call ‘ecometrics’. The sampling methods that have become established in palaeontology to standardize over different scales can be synthesized with tools from community ecology and climate change biology to improve our understanding of the dynamics among species, ecosystems, climates and earth systems over time. Developing these approaches into an integrative climate change biology will help enrich our understanding of the changes our modern world is undergoing.