John T. Houghton

Sir John Theodore Houghton CBE FRS FLSW (born 30 December 1931) is a Welsh scientist who was the co-chair of the Nobel Peace Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) scientific assessment working group. He was the lead editor of first three IPCC reports. He was professor in atmospheric physics at the University of Oxford, former Director General at the Met Office and founder of the Hadley Centre.

Sir John T. Houghton
Sir John Houghton speaking at a climate change conference in 2005
Born (1931-12-30) 30 December 1931
Alma materJesus College, Oxford (B.A., 1951, M.A, 1955, PhD, 1955)[1]
AwardsThe Chree Medal and Prize (1979)
Japan Prize (2006)
Albert Einstein World Award of Science (2009)
Scientific career
FieldsAtmospheric physics

He is the president of the John Ray Initiative, an organisation "connecting Environment, Science and Christianity",[2] where he has compared the stewardship of the Earth, to the stewardship of the Garden of Eden by Adam and Eve.[3] He is a founder member of the International Society for Science and Religion. He is also the current president of the Victoria Institute.


Born in Dyserth he moved to Rhyl at the age of two and attended Rhyl Grammar School where he discovered his interest in science. He continued his education at Jesus College, Oxford, gaining an MA (Oxon), MPhil and DPhil.[4] He was brought up, in Wales, as an evangelical Christian by devout Christian parents and has remained a strong Christian throughout his life and sees science and Christianity as strengthening each other and believes strongly in the connection between Christianity and environmentalism. Houghton's evangelical Christianity combined with his scientific background has made him a significant voice in evangelical Christian circles. Winning the support of Richard Cizik, one of the most prominent Evangelical lobbyists in the United States, is a notable example of how Houghton has had a significant effect. He is currently an elder at Aberdovey Presbyterian Church.

Houghton is currently Honorary Scientist of the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research at the Met Office (since 2002); Honorary Scientist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (since 1991); a Trustee of the Shell Foundation (since 2000); Chairman of the John Ray Initiative (since 1997)[5][6][7] and in 2013 was announced as an Advisory Board member for Sure Chill Technology.

Previously Sir John was

During the 1970s he was also Principal Investigator for Space Experiments on NASA Spacecraft.

He moved back to Wales and currently lives in Aberdyfi. In 2007 he criticised the controversial documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle for its inaccuracies.

Awards and honours

He has received Honorary Doctorates of Science from the Universities of Wales (1991), Stirling (1992), East Anglia (1993), Leeds (1995), Heriot-Watt (1996), Greenwich (1997), Glamorgan (1998), Reading (1999), Birmingham (2000), Gloucestershire (2001), Hull (2002) and Dalhousie (2010). He is an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford and of University of Wales, Lampeter and is also a Founding Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.


His publications include

  • Does God Play Dice? 1988, Intervarsity Press
  • Global Warming, the Complete Briefing, 1994, Lion Publishing (2nd edition 1997, Cambridge University Press; 3rd edition 2004, Cambridge University Press; 4th edition 2010, Cambridge University Press; 5th edition 2015, Cambridge University Press)
  • The search for God; can science help? 1995, Lion Publishing
  • Physics of Atmospheres, 1977. 2nd edition 1986, 3rd edition 2002, Cambridge University Press.
  • Climate Change, the IPCC Scientific Assessment, eds J.T. Houghton, G.J. Jenkins and J.J. Ephraums, 1990, Cambridge University Press
  • Climate Change 1992, the Supplementary Report to the IPCC Scientific Assessment, eds. J.T. Houghton, B.A. Callander and S.K. Varney, 1992, Cambridge University Press
  • Climate Change 1994, Radiative Forcing of Climate Change and an Evaluation of the IPCC IS92 Emission Scenarios, eds. J.T. Houghton, L.G. Meira Filho, J. Bruce, Hoesung Lee, B.A. Callander, E. Haites, N. Harris and K. Maskell, 1994, Cambridge University Press
  • Climate Change 1995, the Science of Climate Change, eds. J.T. Houghton, L.G. Meira Filho, B.A.Callander, N. Harris, A. Kattenberg and K. Maskell, 1995, Cambridge University Press
  • Climate Change 2001, The Scientific Basis, eds J.T. Houghton, Y. Ding, D.J. Griggs, M. Noguer, P.J. van der Linden, X. Dai, K. Maskell, C.A. Johnson, 2001 Cambridge University Press


In a November 2006 article in Australia's The Daily Telegraph, journalist Piers Akerman quoted Houghton as saying "Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen", attributing the quotation to his 1994 book Global Warming, The Complete Briefing. This has since been quoted by many sceptics, including Benny Peiser and Christopher Monckton, and is listed at the top of the front page of Christopher Booker's The Real Global Warming Disaster. However, the quotation does not appear in any edition of Houghton's book. Houghton has never said any such thing and believes the opposite.[9] The publishers of The Real Global Warming Disaster, The Continuum International Publishing Group, have apologised for the reference to that quotation, confirmed (in addition to Booker's confirmation) that it will not be repeated, and have agreed to place a corrigendum in any further copies of the book. In an article which appeared in The Sunday Telegraph on 20 February 2010, Christopher Booker purported to correct the misquotation contained in The Real Global Warming Disaster but this article contained yet further inaccuracies.[10] As a result, Houghton referred the matter to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC Reference 101959). Following the PCC's involvement, The Sunday Telegraph published on 15 August 2010 a letter of correction by Houghton stating his true position.[11] An article supportive of Houghton also appears in the edition of 21 May 2010 of New Scientist.[12]

The correct quotation was, "If we want a good environmental policy in the future we'll have to have a disaster. It's like safety on public transport. The only way humans will act is if there's been an accident."[13]


  1. "Prof. Sir John Houghton – Brief biography". Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  2. "DSc for JRI Chairman" at The John Ray Initiative website
  3. "The Christian Challenge of Caring for the Earth Archived 7 November 2006 at the Wayback Machine" at The John Ray Initiative website
  6. "Albert Einstein World Award of Science 2009". Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  7. Bio details heavily drawn from bio at the Faraday Institute Archived 10 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  8. "Albert Einstein World Award of Science 2009". Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  9. "Fabricated quote used to discredit climate scientist", The Independent, 10 February 2010, retrieved 10 February 2010
  10. "Article by Christopher Booker in The Sunday Telegraph, "What the weatherman never said"", The Daily Telegraph, 20 February 2010, retrieved 10 February 2010
  11. "Letter by Sir John Houghton in The Sunday Telegraph, 15 August 2010", The Sunday Telegraph, 15 August 2010, retrieved 9 January 2010
  12. ""Living in denial: Unleashing a lie", Jim Giles, New Scientist, 21 May 2010", New Scientist, May 2010, retrieved 9 January 2010
  13. 'Me and My God', Sir John Houghton talks to Frances Welch, 10 August 1995 (PDF), 10 August 1995
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