Environmental scientist James Lovelock, renowned for his terrifying predictions of climate change's deadly impact on the planet, has gone back on his previous claims, admitting they were 'alarmist'.
The 92-year-old Briton, who also developed the Gaia theory of the Earth as a single organism, has said climate change is still happening - just not as quickly as he once warned. He added that other environmental commentators, such as former vice president Al Gore, are also guilty of exaggerating their arguments.
The admission comes as a devastating blow to proponents of climate change who regard Lovelock as a powerful figurehead.
Five years ago, he had claimed: 'Before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.'
But in an interview with msnbc.com, he admitted: 'I made a mistake.' He said: 'The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing,' he told '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.
'The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world. '[The temperature] has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising - carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that.'
After two books - Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is Fighting Back and How We Can Still Save Humanity, and The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning: Enjoy It While You Can - he is writing a third.
It will not go back on climate change, he said, but will admit he had been 'extrapolating too far'. It will suggest how people can change their habits to co-ordinate with the Earth's natural systems.
Lovelock said he is not the only one who got it wrong, suggesting other environmental commentators, such as Al Gore and Tim Flannery, also thought the impact would have been seen sooner.
Now he admits: 'We will have global warming, but it’s been deferred a bit.'
A long-time advocate of nuclear power, he suggested we should cut back on burning fossil fuels.
The independent scientist, who is based in south west England and has conducted research at Yale and Harvard universities, has been a respected member of the academic community for decades.
He discovered the presence of harmful chemicals - CFCs - in the atmosphere in the 1960s.
In 2007, Time magazine named him as one 13 leaders and visionaries in an article on Heroes of the Environment.
In 1990, he became a CBE, presented to him by Queen Elizabeth II, and in 2003, she awarded him a Companion of Honour for his achievements in science.