Climate model simulations available from the PMIP1, PMIP2 and CMIP (IPCC-AR4) intercomparison projects for past and future climate change simulations are examined in terms of polar temperature changes in comparison to global temperature changes and with respect to pre-industrial reference simulations. For the mid-Holocene (MH, 6,000 years ago), the models are forced by changes in the Earth's orbital parameters. The MH PMIP1 atmosphere-only simulations conducted with sea surface temperatures fixed to modern conditions show no MH consistent response for the poles, whereas the new PMIP2 coupled atmosphere-ocean climate models systematically simulate a significant MH warming both for Greenland (but smaller than ice-core based estimates) and Antarctica (consistent with the range of ice-core based range). In both PMIP1 and PMIP2, the MH annual mean changes in global temperature are negligible, consistent with the MH orbital forcing. The simulated last glacial maximum (LGM, 21,000 years ago) to pre-industrial change in global mean temperature ranges between 3 and 7 °C in PMIP1 and PMIP2 model runs, similar to the range of temperature change expected from a quadrupling of atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the CMIP simulations. Both LGM and future climate simulations are associated with a polar amplification of climate change. The range of glacial polar amplification in Greenland is strongly dependent on the ice sheet elevation changes prescribed to the climate models. All PMIP2 simulations systematically underestimate the reconstructed glacial-interglacial Greenland temperature change, while some of the simulations do capture the reconstructed glacial-interglacial Antarctic temperature change. Uncertainties in the prescribed central ice cap elevation cannot account for the temperature change underestimation by climate models. The variety of climate model sensitivities enables the exploration of the relative changes in polar temperature with respect to changes in global temperatures. Simulated changes of polar temperatures are strongly related to changes in simulated global temperatures for both future and LGM climates, confirming that ice-core-based reconstructions provide quantitative insights on global climate changes.