James Lovelock, the scientist who developed the "Gaia theory" of Earth, said in a MSNBC interview that he was too "alarmist" in an earlier book on global warming.
The science supporting global warming, Lovelock said, does not understand as much about how the Earth's climate changes as scientists had previously claimed.
"The problem is we don't know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn't happened," Lovelock said. "The climate is doing its usual tricks. There's nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now."
Lovelock has written several books considered important works within the environmentalist movement, including, Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (1979), The Revenge of Gaia (2006), and The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning (2009).
His next book, due next year, will take a more measured tone about climate change, Lubbock said. Lubbock still believes that atmospheric carbon is causing the Earth to warm, but not as much and as quickly as he had previously expected.
The "Gaia theory" developed by Lovelock postulates that Earth is like a single organism, with its living and non-living parts interacting with one another. While the "Gaia theory" has made Lovelock a seminal figure within the environmentalist movement, he has butted heads with some environmentalists for his outspoken advocacy for nuclear power.
In the interview, he mentioned "An Inconvenient Truth," the 2006 Oscar winning documentary narrated by former Vice President Al Gore, as another example of alarmist global warming rhetoric.
Few challenge the notion that the planet is getting warmer. The debate over climate change is mostly about whether, or to what extent, Earth's warming is caused by humans, mostly in the form of burning fossil fuels, versus part of a natural warming and cooling cycle.
Christians are also split on the issue. Some advocate stronger policies aimed at reducing atmospheric carbon, others worry such policies would be unadvisable without sufficient scientific evidence to justify them.
President Barack Obama this week, in a Rolling Stone interview, blamed conservatives for raising doubts about human-caused climate change.
With Americans' concerns focused on the economy, Obama explained, "it's been easy for the other side to pour millions of dollars into a campaign to debunk climate-change science."
The current presidential race will present an opportunity, Obama added, to voice "my belief that we're going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way."