This paper explores how the history-futures interface can inform a set of concrete adaptation options to climate change for stakeholders in South East Queensland, Australia. It is based on research undertaken as part of the Commonwealth funded South East Queensland Climate Adaptation Research Initiative (SEQ-CARI) that profiled 33 historical case studies to identify common themes in the ways societies responded to stress. The case studies are intended to provide a context for thinking about adaptive capacity with stakeholders in the four areas of human settlement and health; energy; agriculture, forestry and fisheries; and ecosystems and biodiversity. The case studies demonstrate that adaptive capacity varies with context and is affected by the complexity, technology, leadership, institutions and imaginative resources inherent to the social system examined. To increase the possibilities for reflection by stakeholders, the case studies were used to create a set of historical scenarios that explore some of the key features of human responses to challenges such as climate change. This paper draws on this work to suggest a set of ‘practical’ lessons for those engaged with climate change today and into the future.