Over recent decades, palaeolimnological records from remote sites have provided convincing evidence for the onset and development of several facets of global environmental change. Remote lakes, defined here as those occurring in high latitude or high altitude regions, have the advantage of not being overprinted by local anthropogenic processes. As such, many of these sites record broad-scale environmental changes, frequently driven by regime shifts in the Earth system. Here, we review a selection of studies from North America and Europe and discuss their broader implications. The history of investigation has evolved synchronously with the scope and awareness of environmental problems. An initial focus on acid deposition switched to metal and other types of pollutants, then climate change and eventually to atmospheric deposition-fertilising effects. However, none of these topics is independent of the other, and all of them affect ecosystem function and biodiversity in profound ways. Currently, remote lake palaeolimnology is developing unique datasets for each region investigated that benchmark current trends with respect to past, purely natural variability in lake systems. Fostering conceptual and methodological bridges with other environmental disciplines will upturn contribution of remote lake palaeolimnology in solving existing and emerging questions in global change science and planetary stewardship.