|John T. Houghton|
Sir John Houghton speaking at a climate change conference in 2005
|Born||30 December 1931
|Institutions||University of Oxford|
Sir John Theodore Houghton FRS CBE 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 Chief Executive at the Met Office and founder of the Hadley Centre.
He is the chairman of the John Ray Initiative, an organisation "connecting Environment, Science and Christianity", where he has compared the stewardship of the Earth, to the stewardship of the Garden of Eden by Adam and Eve. 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 which he pursued by attending Jesus College, Oxford. He was brought up as a Calvinistic Methodist in the Presbyterian Church of Wales 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 Meteorological Office; Honorary Scientist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory; a Trustee of the Shell Foundation; and Chairman of the John Ray Initiative.
Previously Sir John was
During the 1970s he was also Principal Investigator for Space Experiments on NASA Spacecraft.
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) and Hull (2002), and is an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford and of University of Wales, Lampeter.
His publications include
In 2003 he wrote:
|“||As a climate scientist who has worked on this issue for several decades, first as head of the Met Office, and then as co-chair of scientific assessment for the UN intergovernmental panel on climate change, the impacts of global warming are such that I have no hesitation in describing it as a "weapon of mass destruction".||”|
As co-chair of the IPCC, he defends the IPCC process, in particular against charges of failure to consider non-CO2 explanations of climate change. In evidence to, the Select Committee on Science and Technology in 2000 he said:
|“||We do try, in the IPCC, to look very hard at alternative explanations, and spend, actually, probably more time than we should on some of them, because they get so much publicity. We actually spend more time, for instance, on the solar variations, about which we have very little real scientific evidence but which some people have exploited in the media a great deal...||”|
He has accused countries such as Saudi Arabia, fed information by American coal and oil lobbyists, of attempting to subvert the IPCC process:
|“||The IPCC tries to ignore those political differences and tries to make sure that, in IPCC meetings, those political differences do not influence the debate. Now that, of course, is quite difficult, because, not so much with the USA but with the oil countries, in particular Saudi Arabia and some of the oil-producing countries, who are strongly fed with information by the American lobby, actually, the American coal and oil lobbyists, they can be very difficult, in some of these meetings, because they try very hard to weaken, or to change, or to alter, scientific conclusions. But, so far, we have been able to, I think, successfully resist those influences, because we stick very firmly to a presentation of the science, not the political interpretation of that science.||”|
In further evidence, he agreed with the statement that most of the scientific objection to the consensus is actually from vested interests within the oil/coal lobby, rather than from scientists. When asked his view of green groups such as Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth, as to whether they have they been generally responsible, or have they exaggerated the argument for their own purposes, he replied that
|“||They vary from one green group to another, but some of the green groups are really very responsible. They do tend to emphasise, of course, the larger effects. On the other hand, some green groups have produced documents which are really exaggerations...||”|
John Houghton also applies a Christian perspective to his views, to emphasise the need for long term thinking. In 25 May 2001, in the Winstanley Lecture Theatre, Trinity College, Cambridge, he said:
|“||...why we should be concerned about climate change. It is a problem that is well downstream; many of us will not be much affected ourselves but it is going to affect our children and our grandchildren... It is our children and our grandchildren who will experience the impacts of climate change. I remember in 1990 when the first IPCC report came out, the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher showed a lot of interest... one of the cabinet ministers asked me, "When's all this going to happen?" I replied that in 20 or 30 years we can expect to see some large effects. "Oh" he said, "that's OK, it'll see me out". But it won't see his children or grandchildren out. Christians and other religious people believe that we've been put on the earth to look after it. Creation is not just important to us, we believe also it is important to God and that the rest of creation has an importance of its own... we are destroying forests, important forests. When I say "we" I mean "we" the human race of which we are part. We are party to the destruction, we allow it to happen, in fact it helps to make us richer. We really need to take our responsibility as ‘gardeners' more seriously.||”|
|“||Creationism is an incredible pain in the neck, neither honest nor useful, and the people who advocate it have no idea how much damage they are doing to the credibility of belief.||”|
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 quote to his 1994 book Global Warming, The Complete Briefing. This has since been quoted by many critics, 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 quote does not appear in any edition of the book. Houghton denies saying any such thing and believes the opposite.