In December last year, at the UN conference in Bali, I heard Viscount Monckton present a paper prepared by himself, the Australian Dr David Evans and our own Dr Vincent Gray (who were at Bali, too) that showed while the IPCC models predict that greenhouse gases would produce an extensive "hot spot" in the upper troposphere over the tropics, the satellite measurements show no such hotspots have appeared.
Monckton and Evans found a large part of this discrepancy is the result of some basic errors in the IPCC's assessment of the Stefan-Boltzmann equation. When they applied their revised factor to the effect of greenhouse gases, the temperature rise was about a third of that predicted by the IPCC.
So by late last year we not only knew IPCC forecasts of atmospheric global warming were wrong; we were beginning to understand why they are wrong.
The key issue in this debate is whether anthropogenic greenhouse gases or natural solar activities are the prime drivers of climate change. A closely related argument is whether the climate is highly sensitive to carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.
Put together, these uncertainties raise doubts as to whether the IPCC models can accurately forecast the climate over the long term. If they cannot, then we have to wonder how much damage we should risk doing to the world's economies in attempts to manage the possibly adverse effects of these "predictions."
The findings that the predicted "tropical hot spots" do not exist are important because the IPCC models assume these hot spots will be formed by increased evaporation from warmer oceans leading to the accumulations of higher concentrations of water vapour in the upper atmosphere, and thereby generating a positive feedback reinforcing the small amount of warming that can be caused by CO2 alone.
Atmospheric scientists generally agree that as carbon dioxide levels increase there is a law of "diminishing returns" - or more properly "diminishing effects" - and that ongoing increases in CO2 concentration do not generate proportional increases in temperature. The common analogy is painting over window glass. The first layers of paint cut out lots of light but subsequent layers have diminishing impact.
So, you might be asking, why the panic? Why does Al Gore talk about temperatures spiraling out of control, causing mass extinctions and catastrophic rises in sea-level, and all his other disastrous outcomes when there is no evidence to support it?
The alarmists argue that increased CO2 leads to more water vapour - the main greenhouse gas - and this provides positive feedback and hence makes the overall climate highly sensitive to small increases in the concentration of CO2.
Consequently, the IPCC argues that while carbon dioxide may well "run out of puff" the consequent evaporation of water vapour provides the positive feedback loop that will make anthropogenic global warming reach dangerous levels.
This assumption that water vapour provides positive feedback lies behind the famous "tipping point," which nourishes Al Gore's dreams of destruction, and indeed all those calls for action now - "before it is too late!" But no climate models predict such a tipping point.
However, while the absence of hot spots has refuted one important aspect of the IPCC models we lack a mechanism that fully explains these supposed outcomes. Hence the IPCC, and its supporters, have been able to ignore this "refutation."
So by the end of last year, we were in a similar situation to the 19th century astronomers, who had figured out that the sun could not be "burning" its fuel - or it would have turned to ashes long ago - but could not explain where the energy was coming from. Then along came Einstein and E=mc2.
Hard to explain
Similarly, the climate sceptics have had to explain why the hotspots are not where they should be - not just challenge the theory with their observations.
This is why I felt so lucky to be in the right place at the right time when I heard Roy Spencer speak at the New York conference on climate change in March. At first I thought this was just another paper setting out observations against the forecasts, further confirming Evans' earlier work.
But as the argument unfolded I realised Spencer was drawing on observations and measurements from the new Aqua satellites to explain the mechanism behind this anomaly between model forecasts and observation. You may have heard that the IPCC models cannot predict clouds and rain with any accuracy. Their models assume water vapour goes up to the troposphere and hangs around to cook us all in a greenhouse future.
However, there is a mechanism at work that "washes out" the water vapour and returns it to the oceans along with the extra CO2 and thus turns the added water vapour into a NEGATIVE feedback mechanism.
The newly discovered mechanism is a combination of clouds and rain (Spencer's mechanism adds to the mechanism earlier identified by Professor Richard Lindzen called the Iris effect).
The IPCC models assumed water vapour formed clouds at high altitudes that lead to further warming. The Aqua satellite observations and Spencer's analysis show water vapour actually forms clouds at low altitudes that lead to cooling.
Furthermore, Spencer shows the extra rain that falls from these clouds cools the underlying oceans, providing a second negative feedback to negate the CO2 warming.
This has struck the alarmists like a thunderbolt, especially as the lead author of the IPCC chapter on feedback has written to Spencer agreeing that he is right!
There goes the alarmist neighbourhood!
The climate is not highly sensitive to CO2 warming because water vapour is a damper against the warming effect of CO2.
That is why history is full of Ice Ages - where other effects, such as increased reflection from the ice cover, do provide positive feedback - while we do not hear about Heat Ages. The Medieval Warm Period, for example, is known for being benignly warm - not dangerously hot.
We live on a benign planet - except when it occasionally gets damned cold.
While I have done my best to simplify these developments they remain highly technical and many people distrust their own ability to assess competing scientific claims. However, in this case the tipping point theories are based on models that do not include the effects of rain and clouds.
The new Nasa Aqua satellite is the first to measure the effects of clouds and rainfall. Spencer's interpretation of the new data means all previous models and forecasts are obsolete. Would anyone trust long-term forecasts of farm production that were hopeless at forecasting rainfall?
The implications of these breakthroughs in measurement and understanding are dramatic to say the least. The responses will be fun to watch.
Alarmists, 'experts' face a new inconvenient truth
Christopher Pearson, of The Australian newspaper (March 22), has written up a remarkable ABC television interview with Dr Jennifer Marohasy, a senior fellow of the Institute of Public Affairs, a Melbourne-based think tank.
Dr Marohasy says the impact of the Aqua satellite and Spencer's interpretation of the data and prompts the reporter to conclude with some pungent observations of his own:
"If Marohasy is anywhere near right about the impending collapse of the global warming paradigm, life will suddenly become a whole lot more interesting.
"A great many founts of authority, from the Royal Society to the UN, most heads of government along with countless captains of industry, learned professors, commentators and journalists will be profoundly embarrassed. Let us hope it is a prolonged and chastening experience.
"With catastrophe off the agenda, for most people the fog of millennial gloom will lift, at least until attention turns to the prospect of the next ice age. Among the better educated, the sceptical cast of mind that is the basis of empiricism will once again be back in fashion. The delusion that by recycling and catching public transport we can help save the planet will quickly come to be seen for the childish nonsense it was all along.
RAIN CHECK: Spencer's analyses based on new satellite data pour cold rain on warming theory
"The poorest Indians and Chinese will be left in peace to work their way toward prosperity, without being badgered about the size of their carbon-footprint, a concept that for most of us will soon be one with Nineveh and Tyre, clean forgotten in six months.
"The scores of town planners in Australia building empires out of regulating what can and can't be built on low-lying shorelines will have to come to terms with the fact inundation no longer impends and find something more plausible to do. The same is true of the bureaucrats planning to accommodate 'climate refugees."