The flawed science and shady politics behind today’s claims about man-made global warming are coming under strong attack from a growing band of sceptics.

“Global warming is strictly an imaginary problem of the First World middle class,” says Denis Rancourt, professor of physics at Ottawa University and an environmental science researcher.

“The atmosphere will continue to change as it always has under the influence of life and of geology. We can’t control these things. We can barely perceive them correctly.”

On issue after issue, from rising oceans threatening low-lying cities to the Gulf Stream reversing direction, the alarmist claims are being challenged.

It has also become clear that various groups, from population controllers to green campaigners, are using the issue to push their own dubious agendas.

Meanwhile religious leaders in the US have warned that measures to deal with the issue could inflict the heaviest burden on the world’s poorest people.

“The real ‘inconvenient truth’ about climate change is that those who contribute least to the problem are likely to suffer the most [from these measures],” said Bishop Thomas Wenski, spokesman for America’s bishops.

A shortage of wheat, with higher prices, for example, has been caused by demands for biofuel.

The UN’s Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), set up in 1988, is one of the principal forces driving the panic about man-made global warming.

“Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen,” wrote Sir John Houghton, its first chairman, in 1994. This policy has led to massive distortions of the evidence.

But “a backlash against such exaggeration is growing, not least among scientists concerned for their own professional integrity,” wrote Thomas S Derr in a recent issue of the influential US Catholic magazine First Things.

According to Deer, scientists who question or reject the alarming claims “are denied publication in Science and Nature journals.”

And newspapers which seek balance in their reporting “are told that they are doing a disservice to the public, to truth, and to the survival of the human race.”

A major difficulty for the alarmists is the growing evidence that global temperatures have not risen since 1998, and may soon even fall. And this despite the continuing rise in CO2 levels.

According to scientific researcher Scott McIntosh of Boulder, the warming caused by CO2 compared to changes in the sun “is like a flea’s contribution to the weight of an elephant.”

Christopher Booker and Richard North have also examined the panic over climate change, in their new book, “Scared to Death: From BSE To Global Warming – How Scares Are Costing Us The Earth.”

They trace five main stages in the drive to get global warming to the top of the international agenda, beginning with the 1970’s scare over a possible ice age.

The campaign continued with the UN setting up its Panel on Climate Change in 1988 and the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. In 2004 the Kyoto treaty was ratified, and the European Union took the lead on the issue.

Since then, write North and Booker, “we have seen the EU announcing every kind of measure geared to fighting climate change,” including “a commitment that by 2050 it will have reduced carbon emissions by 60%.”

But this pledge, they say, “could only be met by such a massive reduction in living standards that it is impossible to see the peoples of Europe accepting it.”