Studying the climatic and environmental changes on different time scales in inland arid regions of Asia can greatly improve our understanding of climatic influences for the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in the context of global change. Pollen, as a remnant of seed plants, is sensitive to environmental factors including precipitation, temperature and altitude, and is a classic proxy in environmental reconstruction. In the last two decades, great progress in the application of palynology to inland areas of Asia has highlighted the role of palynology in paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental research. The main progress is as follows. (1) On the tectonic time scale of the late Cenozoic, the palaeoclimatological sequence has been established on the basis of pollen percentage, concentration and taxon. Pollen data have revealed a continuous enhancement of drought in the inland arid region of Asia, in contrast to evidence acquired based on other proxies. (2) In the late Quaternary, an increase in herbaceous plants further supports the intensification of drought associated with global cooling. In more detail, the palynological record shows a glacial-interglacial pattern consistent with changes in global ice volume. (3) The Holocene pollen record has been established at a high resolution and across a wide range of inland areas. In general, it presents an arid grassland environment in the early Holocene, followed by the development of woody plants in the mid- to late-Holocene climate optimum. This pattern is related to moisture changes in areas dominated by the westerlies. There are also significant regional differences in the pattern and amplitude of vegetation response to the Holocene environment. (4) Modern pollen studies based on vegetation surveys, meteorological data and statistics show that topsoil palynology can better reflect regional vegetation types (e.g., grassland, meadow, desert). Drier climates yield higher pollen contents of drought-tolerant plants such as Chenopodioideae, Ephedra, and Nitriaria, while contents of Artemisia and Poaceae are greater under humid climates. Besides these achievements, problems remain in palynological research: for example, pollen extraction, identification, interpretation, and quantitative reconstruction. In the future, we encourage strengthened interdisciplinary cooperation to improve experimental methods and innovation. Firstly, we should strengthen palynological classification and improve the skill of identification; secondly, laboratory experiments are needed to better constrain pollen transport dynamics in water and air; thirdly, more rigorous mathematical principles will improve the reliability of reconstructions and deepen the knowledge of plant geography; and finally, new areas and methods in palynology should be explored, for example DNA, UV-B and isotopic analysis. It is expected that palynology will continue to develop, and we hope it will continue to play an important role in the study of past climatic and environmental changes.