Dr James Hansen brought climate change to the world’s attention in the 1980s when he testified before Congress in his home country.
Since then the 70-year-old has said he believes that the threats posed by global warming have increased substantially because of the absence of effective policies.
Dr Hansen said: “I am honoured to receive the Edinburgh Medal and I hope that I can use the occasion to draw attention to the urgency of addressing climate change, with a different approach, one that would be effective.
“Our parents did not know that their actions could harm future generations.
“We will only be able to pretend that we did not know.”
Lord Provost George Grubb said: “Dr Hansen is an extremely worthy recipient of the Edinburgh Medal.”