James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who issued warnings about man-made climate change as early as the 1980s, said public skepticism is increasing even in the face of growing scientific acceptance of the reality of global warming.
"There is remarkable inconsistency between the scientific story and public story," Hansen said in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he will receive the Edinburgh Medal at the Edinburgh International Science Festival this week, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Hansen said those opposed to major social and economic changes needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were attempting to undermine the scientific evidence.
"The science has become stronger and stronger over the past five years while the public perception is has gone in completely the other direction. That is not an accident.
"There is a very concerted effort by people who would prefer to see business to continue as usual. They have been winning the public debate with the help of tremendous resources."
Without a dramatic change in public opinion, Hansen said, he fears future generations will inherit a world where global warming is out of control.
"Our parents honestly did not know what the consequences of continued development and reliance on fossil fuels as an energy source," he said. "We can no longer claim that, as the science is now clear."