Sir John Houghton (1931-2020)

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The eminent meteorologist, climate change expert and Christian, Sir John Houghton, has died at the age of 88 of suspected Covid-19. Sir John was a Patron of Operation Noah.

Among many achievements, he was co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) scientific assessment working group and lead editor of the first three IPCC reports. In December 2007 he received the Nobel Peace Prize as part of the IPCC delegation, alongside the former vice-president of the United States of America, Al Gore. He was also professor in atmospheric physics at the University of Oxford and Chief Executive of the Met Office.

Sir John firmly believed that faith and science belong together. He founded the John Ray Initiative (JRI), an organisation connecting environment, science and Christianity, in 1998.

Paul Bodenham, Operation Noah founder, recalls: ‘John spent many hours, over many years, touring churches in Britain and the United States, making the case for Christians to act on climate change. It was a ministry in which he was quietly tenacious, and I was struck by the integrity with which he spoke, fully both a scientist and a disciple. He was opening speaker at the launch of Operation Noah in 2004, while it was still a project of Green Christian, and featured in the campaign video which followed. It is no exaggeration to say that John was instrumental in the churches in the UK finding their voice on climate change.’

Sister Louisa Poole, an Operation Noah Board Member, said: ‘We owe him a lot in being the first scientist who took a public stand. He supported Operation Noah hugely, often mentioned us, and tirelessly appeared to speak to groups large and small.’

In a moving tribute on Twitter, Sir John’s granddaughter, Hannah Malcolm, quoted him as saying of his time at university: ‘Science was a voyage of discovery to the way the universe worked, and it was God’s universe, then it was studying the works of God, and that’s something that stuck with me.’

She also said: ‘My… consistent memory will be his deep faith that he was doing work in service of the God he loved, and in service of the world he loved.’

The Church Times has republished an interview with Sir John, which took place in 2013 at the time of the publication of his autobiography In the Eye of the Storm.

Here at Operation Noah our thoughts and prayers are with Sir John’s family at this time.

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