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Ronald Oxburgh, Baron Oxburgh : biography

02 November 1934 -

Ernest Ronald Oxburgh, Baron Oxburgh, KBE, FRS (born 2 November 1934) is an eminent geologist and geophysicist. Lord Oxburgh is well known for his work as a public advocate in both academia and the business world in addressing the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and develop alternative energy sources as well as his negative views on the consequences of current oil consumption.


Born in Liverpool, 2 November 1934, the young Oxburgh remained there with his family throughout World War II, despite Luftwaffe air raids. He attended Liverpool Institute High School from 1942 to 1950. While at Princeton, he was joined by his fiancee, Ursula, whom he married in the university chapel. They have three children. An outdoorsman, Oxburgh enjoyed orienteering and running marathons until knee surgery limited him to mountain hikes with his wife.

Awards and honors

  • He was knighted (KBE) in 1992 and made a Life Peer (crossbench) as Baron Oxburgh, of Liverpool in the County of Merseyside in 1999, where he sits on the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology and is an officer of the All-Parliamentary Group for Earth Sciences.
  • He is an honorary fellow of St Edmund Hall, St Edmund Hall, Oxford, UK. and University College, Oxford.
  • He received the 2007 Platts Life Time Achievement Award.
  • He is a fellow of the Royal Society.
  • He is a Corresponding Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.
  • He is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and a Foreign member of the US National Academy of Science as well as the Australian and German Academies of Science.
  • He is an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.
  • Degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, from Leeds University conferred 21 July 2009
  • Singapore Honorary Citizenship, from the President Tony Tan Keng Yam of Singapore, conferred 2 October 2012.

Education and career

He is a graduate of the University College, Oxford and Princeton University (PhD) (1960) where he worked on the emerging theory of plate tectonics with the famous geologist Harry Hammond Hess. He has taught geology and geophysics at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. At Cambridge he was head of the Department of Earth Sciences and President of Queens' College. He has been a visiting professor at Stanford, Caltech, and Cornell. From 1988 to 1993, Lord Oxburgh was chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence, and Rector of Imperial College London from 1993–2000.

During 2004–05 Oxburgh was a non-executive chairman of Shell, the UK arm of Royal Dutch Shell. His tenure was remarkable in that while chairing a fossil fuels giant he expressed his "fears for the planet" because of climate change, sought new energy sources, and urged the global community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Lord Oxburgh was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Science and Engineering Research Council (Singapore), as of 1 January 2002, and is a member of the International Academic Advisory Panel of Singapore and the University Grants Committee (Hong Kong). He is honorary president of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, chairman of Falck Renewables, a wind energy firm, an advisor to Climate Change Capital. He was chairman of D1 Oils, plc, a biodiesel producer, in 2007, and a director of GLOBE, the Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment.

In March 2010, he was appointed as the chairman of an inquiry into the research conducted by the Climatic Research Unit following the Climatic Research Unit hacking incident. The report, released 14 April 2010, found that " has been carried out with integrity, and that allegations of deliberate misrepresentation and unjustified selection of data are not valid." Critics asserted Oxburgh's ties with businesses that stood to profit from the decision created a conflict of interest. The University of East Anglia did not see any conflict of interest, The Register stating,

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