In this study the role of atmospheric boundary layer schemes in climate models is investigated. Including a boundary layer scheme in an Earth system model of intermediate complexity (EMIC) produces only minor differences in the estimated global distribution of sensible and latent heat fluxes over land (upto about 15% of the net radiation at the surface). However, neglecting of boundary layer processes, such as the development of a well-mixed layer over land or the impact of stability on the exchange coefficient in the surface layer, leads to erroneous surface temperatures, especially in convective conditions with low wind speeds. As these conditions occur frequently, introducing a boundary layer scheme in an EMIC gives reductions in June-July-August averaged surface temperature of 1-2 °C in wet areas, to 5-7 °C in desert areas. Even a relatively simple boundary layer scheme provides reasonable estimates of the surface fluxes and surface temperatures. Detailed schemes that solve explicitly the turbulent fluxes within the boundary layer are only required when vertical profiles of potential temperature are needed.