fbpx John Holdren | Harvard Kennedy School
John Holdren Photo
Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy

DR. JOHN P. HOLDREN is the Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at the Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Co-Director of the School’s Science, Technology, and Public Policy program, Professor of Environmental Science and Policy in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Faculty Affiliate in the Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science. He is also Visiting Distinguished Professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, and Senior Advisor to the President at the Woods Hole Research Center, a pre-eminent scientific think tank focused on the role of the terrestrial biosphere in global climate change. From January 2009 to January 2017, he was President Obama’s Science Advisor and Senate-confirmed Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), becoming the longest-serving Science Advisor to the President in the history of the position.

His responsibilities in his White House role included advising the President on all science and technology (S&T) issues bearing on the President’s agenda, including the role of S&T in economic competitiveness and job creation, biomedicine and public health, energy and climate change, the oceans and the Arctic, the Nation’s space program, and national and homeland security. He was also responsible for coordinating R&D strategy and budgets across the Executive Branch departments and agencies; overseeing interagency S&T programs, including the U.S. Global Change Research Program; developing initiatives in STEM education; advancing scientific integrity and openness in government; and representing the U.S. government in interactions with the U.S. and global science and engineering communities.

Dr. Holdren earned S.B. (1965) and S.M. (1966) degrees from M.I.T. and a Ph.D. (1970) from Stanford in aerospace engineering and theoretical plasma physics. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also a foreign member of both the Royal Society of London and the Indian National Academy of Engineering and a former President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His many other honors include one of the first MacArthur Prizes (1981), the Volvo International Environment Prize (1993), the Tyler Prize for Environment (2000), the Heinz Prize for Public Policy (2001), the Moynihan Prize of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences (2018), and six honorary doctorates. In 1995 he gave the acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international organization of scientists and public figures in which he served in leadership positions from 1982 to 1997.

From 1996 through 2008, Dr. Holdren held the same chairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences as he holds today. From 2005 through 2008 he was also President of the Woods Hole Research Center. From 1973 to 1996 he was on the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, where he co-founded and co-led the interdisciplinary graduate-degree program in energy and resources (the Energy and Resources Group). Prior to that he was a theoretical physicist in the Theory Group of the Magnetic Fusion Energy Division at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and a Senior Research Fellow at Caltech in the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Caltech Environmental Quality Laboratory. He served from 1991 to 2005 as a member of the Board of Trustees of the MacArthur Foundation and from 1994 to 2005 as Chairman of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control at the National Academy of Sciences. During the Clinton Administration, he served for both terms on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, leading multiple studies for the President on energy-technology innovation and arms control.

Dr. Holdren has been married since 1966 to Dr. Cheryl E. Holdren, a biologist. They have a son, a daughter, and five grandchildren ages 13 to 27. John and Cheryl currently live on Cape Cod.

Transparent Engagement

Harvard Kennedy School is proud of its energetic involvement in the world. To better understand how to solve public problems by improving policy and leadership, we engage directly with policymakers, public leaders, governments, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit businesses whose activities affect those problems. However, we recognize that such engagement can raise questions about perceived and potential conflicts of interest, so we disclose publicly the key professional activities of our faculty outside the Kennedy School.

Outside Professional Activities For John Holdren



Academic Year 2018-2019


7/30/2018         Nantucket, MA, Nantucket Atheneum, Geschke Lecture Series, “Climate Change and the Cape & Islands: What We Know. What We Expect. What We Can Do”


8/16/2018         Chatham MA, Cape Cod Commission, One Cape Summit, Keynote, “The Economy, the Environment, and the Future of the Cape”

8/22/2018         Cambridge, MA, Harvard Kennedy School, Program for Senior Executives in National and International Security, Lecture, “Challenges in a Changing Arctic: National Security and More”


9/06/2018         Woods Hole, MA, Airplane House, Big Hook Conference on IT and Society, Keynote, “Long-Term Thinking in Government About Science/Technology and Human Well-Being (With a Focus on the Obama Administration)”

9/06/2018         Cambridge, MA, MIT, Sloan School Course on Energy Ventures, Guest Lecture, “The Energy-Climate Challenge Today: An Update on Science, Policy, and Politics”

9/11/2018         San Francisco, CA, University of San Francisco, Low Emissions Solutions Conference, Keynote, “The Science and Policy of Climate Change: An Update on the Challenge and the Opportunity”.

9/12/2018         San Francisco, CA, The Giving Pledge, Learning Session on Climate Change, Keynote, “The Global Climate Change Challenge and the Role of Philanthropy in Meeting It”

9/27/2018         Cambridge, MA, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, Workshop on Governance of Geoengineering, Invited Presentation, “Why Think About Geoengineering Now? Tine is Much Shorter Than Most People Think.”

9/27/2018         Cambridge, MA, MIT – Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint PhD Program, 50th Anniversary Symposium, Invited Lecture, “Speaking Science to Power:  Fifty Years of Climate Science Informing Policymakers”.


10/2/2018         Cambridge, MA, Harvard Kennedy School, Executive Education Program on “Climate Change and Energy: Policy Making for the Long Term”, Lecture, “Insights from Climate Science”

10/12/2018       Beijing, China, McDonnell International Scholars Academy Annual Meeting, Keynote Lecture, “The Energy-Climate Challenge and Sustainable Well-Being: Status, Prospects, and Opportunities”

10/14/2018       Beijing, China, Tsinghua University, Tsinghua University – Tufts University Fletcher School Symposium on “Challenges and Opportunities for Energy Innovation in China”, Keynote, “Energy Innovation and the Climate-Change Challenge”

10/19/2018       Reykjavik, Iceland, Arctic Circle Assembly, Session on Putting the Changing Arctic in Context and Predicting Future Trends, Invited Presentation, “Arctic Climate Change: Regional and Global Dimensions”


11/2/2018         Cambridge, MA, Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement, Invited Lecture, “Climate Change and Cape Cod:  What We Know; What We Expect: What We Can Do”       

11/05/2018       Cambridge, MA, MIT, Annual Meeting of the Schmidt Science and Technology Fellows, Panel Presentation, “Science and Technology Policy Under Obama and Trump”

11/13/2018       Cambridge, MA, Harvard Kennedy School, BP / HKS / Tufts Fletcher School
Symposium on Energy Policy, Invited Presentation, “Policy Implications of Recent Insights from Climate Science”

11/16/2018       Washington, DC, C2ES Business Environmental Leadership Council, Invited Presentation, “Implications of Recent Insights from Climate Science”

11/29/2018       Cambridge, MA, Harvard Kennedy School, Senior Executives Program in National and International Security, Lecture, “Arctic National Security Challenges and Climate Change”


12/12/2018       Washington, DC, American Geophysical Union Fall meeting, Keynote, “Climate Science and Policy in Obama Whitehouse.”

12/13/2018       Washington, DC, American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, Invited Presentation, “Communicating Climate Science in the Obama White House”

12/14/2018       Washington, DC, American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, Invited Presentation, “International Collaboration in Arctic Science: Progress and Prospects”

2/06/2019         Brookline, MA, WBUR “Cityspace” Inaugural Event, One-hour moderated conversation  on “Climate Change and New England”

2/19/2019         Cambridge, MA, Harvard Kennedy School, Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program Seminar (with India’s Minister of Power and the Director General of the Tata  Energy and Resources Institute), Moderator, “The Energy Transition in India—Towards Climate-Change Mitigation”


3/4/2019          New York City, Vinexpo 2019, Invited Lecture, “Climate Change and the Wine Industry”

3/7/2019          Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Asia Center, Symposium on the Politics of Climate Change in Asia, Invited Presentation, “Dealing with Asia Constituencies on Climate Issues During the Obama Administration”

3/8/2019          Boston, MA, Spring Meeting of the American Physical Society, Invited Presentation, “Speaking Science to Power: Providing S&T Advice to Governments”

3/12/2019         College Park, MD, University of Maryland, Center for Global Sustainability Lecture “Rapid Climate Change in the Arctic and Why You Should Care”

3/27/2019          Cambridge, MA, Harvard Kennedy School, Guest Lecture in IGA-100 (Steven Walt,  Introduction to International Affairs), “Rapid Climate Change in the Arctic (And Why Everybody Should Care)”

3/29/2019          Woods Hole, MA, Marine Biological Lab Community Forum, Lecture, “Climate Change  and Cape Cod: What We Know. What We Expect. What We Can Do”  
Read more about Climate Change and Cape Cod: What We Know. What We Expect. What We Can Do.


4/9/2019          Cambridge, MA, Harvard U, Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science, Guest Lecture in ES-28 (Sheila Jasanoff, Technology, Ethics and Society), “Science and Technology Advice in the Obama White House”

4/9/2019          Boston, MA, Climate One podcast with former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, “The Green New Deal”

4/15/2019         Princeton, NJ, Princeton University, Symposium on Destiny Studies for a Small Planet,Panel on Energy Technology and Policy, Opening Presentation, “The Magnitude of the  Challenge”

4/17/2019         Cambridge, MA, Harvard Kennedy School, Managing the Atom Seminar, Presentation,                 “Nuclear Weapon Policy Under Obama: One Insider’s View”

4/24/19            Cambridge, MA, Harvard Kennedy School, Guest Lecture in IGA-565 (Afreen Siddiqi, Analytical Methods and Applications for Complex Sociotechnical Systems), “Providing Science and Technology Advice for Policy Makers”

4/30/2019         Cambridge, MA, Harvard Kennedy School, Kennedy School Forum, Moderator’s Introduction to Session on “Climate Change and Justice” with Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights


5/18/2019         Troy, NY, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Commencement Exercises, Commencement Speech

5/26/2019          St. George, Bermuda, Simons Foundation, Staff Retreat, Keynote, “Climate Change and the Human Condition: What We Know. What We Expect. What We Can Do”     


6/4/2019             Beijing, China, Tsinghua University, Harvard-Tsinghua Workshop on Greening the Belt and Road Initiative, Opening and Closing Remarks

6/6/2019             Beijing, China, Tsinghua University, Campus-Wide Lecture, “Rapid Climate Change in the Arctic (and Why Everybody Should Care)”

6/8/2019          Cambridge, MA, MIT, Technology Day Symposium on Climate Change, Invited    Presentation, “Current Findings of Climate Science and Their Policy Implications                                        

6/13/2019          New York City, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Invited Presentation for Michael Bloomberg,    “U.S. Interests and Policy in the Arctic and How Climate Change is Affecting Them”


2017 Activities – John Holdren


2/15/2017                       Start of faculty appointments in the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences after leaving the Obama Administration on January 19

2/21/2017                     Keynote remarks, Reception for Board and Friends of the Woods Hole Research Center, Harvard Club of New York (Topic: Science and environment in the Obama Administration); unpaid

2/27/2017                      Distinguished Lecture, School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland, College Park, MD (Topic: Science, technology, and environment in the Obama White House); unpaid

2/27/2017                     Guest Lecture, School of Public Affairs course on “Influence of Science on Policy”, University of Maryland, College Park (Topic: Science in the Obama White House); unpaid


3/07/2017                     Invited speaker, VI Retirement Residence, Palo Alto, CA (Topic: Science in government); unpaid

3/07/2017                     Stephen Schneider Memorial Lecture, Stanford University, Stanford, CA (Topic: Science, technology, and environment in the Obama Administration); paid

3/17-3/18/2017               Invited discussant, Meeting of science leaders on restoring the proper roles of science in government, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ; unpaid

3/20/2017                     Guest lecture, HKS IGA-100, “International and Global Affairs” (Topic: Science and technology in international affairs); unpaid

3/21/2017                     Dinner lecture, Harvard University Center for Environment (Topic: Science, technology, and environment in the White House); unpad

3/29/2017    &nbs


Environment & Energy
Science, Technology & Data
International Relations & Security

Mailing Address

Harvard Kennedy School
79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138