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Influential climate scientist passes away

UEA honorary graduate Sir John Houghton, who played an influential role in international climate research, has passed away.

UEA’s climate research community have been saddened to hear the news that Sir John passed away last week, at the age of 88. With Prof Tim Osborn, Director of the Climatic Research Unit referring to him as ‘a champion of international climate science and the science-policy interface for decades’.

Sir John gained an MA, MPhil and DPhil from the University of Oxford and went on to have an esteemed career, including roles at Oxford University, Director General and later Chief Executive of the UK Met Office, and Chair of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.

Sir John played a fundamental role in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Scientific Assessment Working Group from its establishment in 1988 until 2002, and was a leading figure in the first three influential IPCC assessments.

He received numerous prestigious awards and honours throughout his life, including being knighted in 1991 and collecting the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the IPCC alongside Al Gore in 2007.

Prof Robert Nicholls, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, said: “Sir John played a pivotal figure in the early days of the IPCC, bringing climate change from a scientific theory to something that shaped global policy in fundamental ways.”

Sir John was a long-standing supporter of UEA climate science and received an honorary doctorate of science from the UEA in 1993.

Prof Corinne Le Quéré, Professor of Climate Change Science, described Sir John as ‘a key figure in my “growing up” as a climate scientist, with a clear vision long before evidence of climate change became so overwhelming’.

Asher Minns, Executive Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, added: ‘He was an inspiration to many of us and our careers. His legacy to climate change science and society is everlasting’.