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John Houghton-Obituary

April 22, 2020

By Paul Homewood




John Houghton was of course at the heart of the global warming deception from the very early days, as Chairman of the IPCC Working Group I for the first three Assessment Reports between 1990 and 2001.

It was under Houghton’s tenure in the First Assessment Report (FAR) that the process began of writing the all important Summary for Policymakers which did not reflect the detailed chapters.

Houghton’s Summary claimed it was confident that the increase in CO2 alone had been responsible for over half of the warming during the 20thC. Yet the main report was far more guarded and evenly flatly contradictory. But none of this stopped Houghton’s Summary demanding immediate reductions of 60% in emissions.

It was the FAR which included John Houghton’s own graph, showing that temperatures were higher in the Middle Ages than the 20thC. Yet by 2001, the same Houghton was giving Michael Mann’s hopelessly flawed hockey stick top billing, even being pictured in front of it long after it had been debunked.


The whole IPCC process was compromised from the start, thanks largely to the two men initially responsible for setting it up, Bert Bolin and John Houghton. It was regularly portrayed as the global authority on climate change, being made up of thousands of scientists from around the world.

In reality, most of the key contributors were drawn from a surprisingly small network of  not more than a few dozen predominantly American and British academics and government employees, who were already as firmly committed as Bolin and Houghton to the belief that global warming was serious. Many of these came from Houghton’s own Hadley Centre.


We are still paying the cost of John Houghton’s obsession with climate change.

  1. Bertie permalink
    April 22, 2020 12:43 pm

    Requiescat In Tormentum!

  2. Ken Pollock permalink
    April 22, 2020 12:44 pm

    I met Sir John once, after a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference, maybe 3 years ago. I asked him why Greenland was called Greenland. He replied that the warming that made Greenland green was localised and not global. I think that has been refuted since.

    He died some days ago, and had been suffering from dementia, according to tweets from his grand daughter. Sad that his death has been ignored till now, given his importance in the climate change movement.

    • Broadlands permalink
      April 22, 2020 1:56 pm

      The small amount of warming seen today is not global either. Check the differences between hemispheres, North-South, East-West. The 20th century average for the contiguous US is five degrees colder than the globe (NOAA).

      • Gerry, England permalink
        April 23, 2020 2:13 pm

        Also remember how sparse true measuring stations actually are and how much is made up with gridding.

    • grammarschoolman permalink
      April 22, 2020 2:23 pm

      Give his evident confusion over the graphs, one wonders precisely when the dementia set in.

  3. Jackington permalink
    April 22, 2020 12:45 pm

    I take it Paul, the above words are your’s not the BBC’s! In which case well said. I always consider Sir John as dear Christopher Booker’s bete noir – Booker nailed him right from the start.

  4. April 22, 2020 12:46 pm

    Of Covid19 or with it?

    • saparonia permalink
      April 22, 2020 10:12 pm

      I was thinking the same and exhuming is ruled out, if all the ‘covid’ dead are cremated.

  5. April 22, 2020 1:14 pm

    Well, Covid-19 has done some good at last

    • CheshireRed permalink
      April 22, 2020 8:09 pm

      Poor taste matey. We can disagree with someone’s opinions and even their conduct but I think that’s out of order.

  6. cajwbroomhill permalink
    April 22, 2020 1:19 pm

    Obviously scientifically self-damning by hubristically not recognising the essential admission and expresssioin of any scientific doubts.
    Maybe some Nobel prizewinners are too senior and distinguished to realize self and scientific doubt?

    (excepting the likely Nobel prize nominee, Greta Thunberg, who is too young to know better)

    • OxfordNick permalink
      April 22, 2020 2:37 pm

      See Times article today

      The Nobel prize has often been described as the kiss of death,” said Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society and winner of the 2009 Nobel prize in chemistry. He said that the social obligations alone could be enough. “You constantly get invited to all sorts of events, and even if you say no to 99 per cent of them, it can be very distracting.”

      Sir Andre Geim, winner of the 2010 Nobel prize in physics agreed that the “Nobel dip” was common in in the “newly coronated”. “Most have recovered within a couple of years but some remain a bit mad forever,” he said.

  7. April 22, 2020 1:53 pm

    “Well, Covid-19 has done some good at last”

    It might (to use a word straight from the AGW lexicon) do more than anybody could ever have thought possible, especially in such a short time: bring this mania of global warming to an abrupt end. That’s what I am fervently hoping for. If it does, it will have been worth all
    the many sacrifices.

    • Gamecock permalink
      April 22, 2020 3:08 pm

      “Science advances one funeral at a time.” – Max Planck

      • April 22, 2020 10:57 pm

        > “Science advances one funeral at a time.”

        No it doesn’t. That paradigm died with Planck.

        Scientists then moved on to: science advances one discovery at a time, and can’t be held back by the mere existence of people with contrary opinions.

        I think it’s in poor taste when They throw Planckisms at one of Our fallen champions, and I think it’s in poor taste when We do it to Them.

      • Gamecock permalink
        April 23, 2020 1:01 pm


      • April 23, 2020 1:46 pm

        Gamecock—I apologize, having thought it through a bit more.

        My objection to that quote, in this context, is not a moral one; I don’t think you’re doing anything “wrong” by making a smart-arse allusion to the upsides of the passing of an enemy. In fact I’ve probably done the same thing myself on occasion. (I made a bunch of jokes online at Castro’s expense when he carked it.)

        So I’m sorry for the moralistic tone of my comment.

        My objection to that quote, in this context, is purely intellectual: science does NOT in any actual sense have to wait around for someone to die before it can “advance.” To think so would be to conflate scientific OPINION with the state of scientific KNOWLEDGE, which are not at all the same thing.

        And Planck didn’t say it anyway! What Planck said was more accurate and restricted, though much less funny. He said it in German, but it meant something like:

        “A new scientific truth does not prevail in such a way that its opponents are convinced and taught to be learned, but rather by the fact that their opponents gradually die out and that the adolescent generation is familiar from the outset with the truth”

        So, yeah, didn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

        It was Paul Samuelson, an economist, who changed it to: “Science advances one funeral at a time.”

        Punchy, but wrong. My compromise suggestion would be: “Scientific opinion / received wisdom / fashion [etc.] progresses one funeral at a time.”

  8. Richard Bell permalink
    April 22, 2020 1:57 pm

    I think it was John Houghton who made a big fuss at a lecture by Svensmark by demanding that a process was wrong and could not happen …… not sure I am correct but it always stood out in may mind how rude and arrogant the man was ???

    • Richard Bell permalink
      April 22, 2020 2:48 pm

      It was Sir John Mason …… not Houghton …… my mistake !!! “Svensmark The Cloud Mystery”

  9. April 22, 2020 2:57 pm

    The generally held belief that the IPCC is a climate science body is likely inaccurate. The IPCC is best understood as an agency of the UN and the UN is a bureaucracy out of control with an “ambition” to being a global environmental dicatator badly in need of global environmental issues to dictate. 11/ipccisun/

    • April 22, 2020 2:58 pm

      Here is the correct link.

    • April 23, 2020 2:54 pm


      Says the History of the Climate Debate:

      1988: IPCC created

      The Panel’s mission is to periodically book a conference room in a 5-star hotel, where Policy will have the unique chance to tell Science what to tell Policy to do.

      Heads of state everywhere worry that the Science may be too heavy to hold aloft whilst saying “this is the Science,” so the IPCC will issue ergonomic ‘Policymaker’s Summaries’ in advance, from which Sciencemaker’s Assessment Reports can then be extrapolated using more words.

      • April 24, 2020 12:27 pm

        Thank you for this very helpful contribution to understanding the complexity of the UN’s climate mission.

  10. April 22, 2020 3:25 pm

    Gordon Dobson, who was succeeded by Houghton at Oxford, did more to increase our understanding of the atmosphere than any other individual except perhaps the much later John M Wallace who wrote some excellent texts on Atmospheric Science.

    Houghton was a mathematician and very religious. A crusader for causes he would have been a perfect candidate for the Knights Templar.

    Dobson was an observer, a creator, a problem solver. It’s salutary to remember that in the 1920’s our knowledge of the stratosphere was virtually non existent. Dobson appreciated the connection between the distribution of ozone and surface pressure. Low pressure at the surface is due to heating by ozone aloft. Dobson developed an instrument to measure total column ozone based on the absorption of some particular wave lengths in the spectrum of solar radiation. Using his instrument the British Antarctic Survey team were amazed to discover the ‘ozone hole’ in Antarctica long before the widespread use of refrigeration and the gases that were subsequently banned by the Montreal protocol.

    Dobson’s interest in the stratosphere was piqued by the observation that wind speed increased with elevation. He came to understand that its the distribution of ozone in the stratosphere that determines the way the wind blows at the surface. That observation was anathema to Houghton. It didn’t fit his notion of the way the world worked.

    Of course, Houghton got his way in the end. Unlike Lysenko in the Soviet Union, his brand of science is still an article of faith.

    Dobson is a great example of the citizen scientist. He had an unshakable belief in the value of observation and measurement. His instruments were built in his garden shed at home. His book on the atmosphere is a joy to read.

    Wallace cautioned his colleagues about their enthusiasm for the CO2 hypothesis. They didn’t listen. Despite his excellent work climate science hit the skids due to the influence of Houghton and a small cabal of British and American believers who came to control the UNIPCC.

    • Broadlands permalink
      April 22, 2020 8:20 pm

      Well said! Perhaps that’s why ozone is measured in Dobson units and not Houghton or Gore units 🙂 His 1956-58 work in the Antarctic is still not widely appreciated, even disputed, as it doesn’t fit the CFC-depletion narrative, as Happ points out.

      A good source of information on Dobson is available:

  11. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    April 22, 2020 4:15 pm

    He was 88, and apparently ill. “ dementia, according to tweets from his grand daughter
    Seriously sad.

    Likely not correct to claim the virus for his death.
    If a parachute fails to open and the person hits the ground and dies – –
    would the obituary mention the long fall, or not?
    Or: ‘Sir Bubba took a hard fall and sustained fatal damage.’

  12. dearieme permalink
    April 22, 2020 4:38 pm

    Commendably blunt, Mr Homewood. I’ve never understood why evil sods should not be criticised just because their deaths happen to be recent.

  13. Up2snuff permalink
    April 22, 2020 6:31 pm

    I thought the IPCC was stuffed full of economists who had passed the arts bit of their degrees but had flunked the science.

  14. jack broughton permalink
    April 22, 2020 8:13 pm

    Houghton took over as head of the East Anglia University Climate Department from HH Lamb who had founded & developed it into a world renowned institution. Sadly, Houghton and his staff changed it to a laughing stock and spawned the equally bad Tyndall institute.

    Figure 2 above is from HH Lamb’s work not Houghtons, and is one of the few correct pieces in the IPCC reports.

  15. martinbrumby permalink
    April 22, 2020 11:35 pm

    Absolutely, Dearieme.
    Who mourns Mugabe or Mao (and a long list of others).
    I don’t suggest that Houghton is in the same league as either of these monsters, but through incompetence and / or malice, he has blood on his hands.

    I think violence, and State violence particularly is seldom the answer to anything.
    But I find myself thinking that extraordinary problems call for extraordinary solutions and that (for example) the bureaucrats and politicians who thought that the 2016 Cygnus trial results were ‘too scary’ to reveal to the public and chose to bury the results, rather that building a few strategically sited tin sheds and filling them to the rafters with gloves, gowns, face masks, visors, antiseptics and the rest, also have blood on their hands.
    In reality, there is zero point zero chance of those who made that decision being reprimanded. Let alone be sacked.

    I’m afraid that I now think that, actually, we should implement the Admiral Byng option. Seems tough, but (to borrow Voltaire’s bon mot) perhaps it would “encourage the others”?

  16. bungalbill permalink
    April 23, 2020 3:39 am

    Some people had to die from the CHINA VIRUS. Thanks be to God that this moron Houghton was among them. He has ruined life as we know it on this planet with his evil CLIMATE CHANGE HOAX. May he rot in hell. Next on the list should be the communist running dog who dictates over China: Shitting Ping.

  17. Mike Cross permalink
    April 23, 2020 10:46 am

    It is easy to be offensive about someone one did not know. The John Houghton that I knew and worked with for some years was a gentleman, always courteous and kind. I disagree profoundly with his take on climate change and cannot understand why he took the view he did. However, great learning sometimes leads one to the wrong conclusions, so one needs to stay humble in what one believes. Notwithstanding, my memories of him are good.

    • April 23, 2020 5:56 pm

      > It is easy to be offensive about someone one did not know.

      Mike, thank you. A good point well taken. On the other hand our knowledge of other people is always incomplete, isn’t it? The Houghton you know is more nuanced than the one most of us knew, but neither version is guaranteed to be the TRUE Houghton. I’m not solving, just posing, a dilemma here.

  18. Steve permalink
    April 23, 2020 10:56 am

    I wonder what the temperature is where he is now. If it’s the better place he’s gone to then this will worry the good but skeptical. Imagine having to listen to him for eternity. On the other hand, if St Pete doesn’t let you in and you finish up in the other place he will be going on for ever and ever that he was right all along.

  19. Vernon E permalink
    April 23, 2020 11:14 am

    I think that the point is to consider aspects of obsessive behaviour. Sir John was a dedicated devotee of Plymouth Brethren from birth like his father. The latter, S M Houghton, owned the most valuable collection of original religious texts in the UK – over 30,000 volumes. I assume Sir John inherited at least a third of their value so we can rule out money as his driver. He was a mathematician and physicist of renown, so couldn’t have been stupid. So his life’s behaviour must have something to do with psychological obsession – needs more study.

    • C Lynch permalink
      April 23, 2020 11:51 am

      I agree Vernon. I’m always saddened when a great mind, like Sir John undoubtedly had, takes a wrong turn and allows itself to be put put to such pernicious use.

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