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Nature has just published a very good feature on its website which is worth reading for anyone wanting an overview of the real contentious areas of climate science.

As Nature sees it, the areas that need “greater open discussion” include: regional climate forecasts, precipitation forecasts, aerosols and palaeoclimate data.

A fuller reading of the e-mails from CRU in Norwich, UK, does show a sobering amount of rude behaviour and verbal faux pas, but nothing that challenges the scientific consensus of climate change. Still, the incident provides a good opportunity to point out that – as in any active field of inquiry – there are some major gaps in the understanding of climate science. In its most recent report in 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted 54 ‘key uncertainties’ that complicate climate science.

…Such holes do not undermine the fundamental conclusion that humans are warming the climate, which is based on the extreme rate of the twentieth-century temperature changes and the inability of climate models to simulate such warming without including the role of greenhouse-gas pollution. The uncertainties do, however, hamper efforts to plan for the future. And unlike the myths regularly trotted out by climate-change denialists (see ‘Enduring climate myths’), some of the outstanding problems may mean that future changes could be worse than currently projected.

Meanwhile, scientists writing in a letter to the journal Science have dissected the Himalayan glacier melt claim and how this erroneous information got into the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report. You can read the letter below.