Hans Joachim (“John”) Schellnhuber studied physics and mathematics and completed his doctorate at the University of Regensburg. After a postdoctoral position at the Institute for Theoretical Physics, Santa Barbara, he held professorships at the Universities of Oldenburg and Potsdam, as well as at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. In addition, he held numerous visiting professorships (e.g., University of California, Santa Cruz; Oxford University; and Santa Fe Institute).
As founding director of PIK, he led the institute from 1991 until 2018. From 2001 until 2005, he was also research director at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Great Britain. Among other learned societies, he is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the German National Academy Leopoldina, the US National Academy of Sciences, and the Academia Europaea. He received, inter alia, the German Environment Prize (2007), the Volvo Environment Prize (2011) and the Blue Planet Prize (2017).
He served as scientific advisor to a number of eminent political and religious leaders, including the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Pope Francis. He has been a member of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) ever since its establishment in 1992. He also contributed in various ways to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
For his achievements, Queen Elizabeth II named Hans Joachim Schellnhuber a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (2004). He was also awarded the Order of Merit of the State of Brandenburg (2008) as well as the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (2011).