Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair has admitted that climate change could be much more serious than previously thought in a new government report on global warming published today. The report is a major update to a scientific conference held in Exeter last year by the British government on the subject.

In the foreword to the report, Blair said: ” Climate change is the world’s greatest environmental challenge.” He then went on to argue that “the risks of climate change may well be greater than we thought.”

In diplomatic speak this means that we are in real trouble – its time to head for the life-boats.

Part of the growing political alarm is that doing nothing is no longer an option. The reason is because of the melting of both the Antartic and Greenland ice-sheets. The report includes alarming comments by the head of the British Antarctic Survey, Professor Chris Rapley, that the huge West Antarctic ice sheet may be starting to disintegrate.

“The last IPCC report characterised Antarctica as a slumbering giant in terms of climate change. I would say it is now an awakened giant. There is real concern,” said Professor Chris Rapley.

If it does sea-levels could rise by some 5 metres. If Greenland melts it could rise by 7 metres. Together that is a twelve metre rise or 36 feet. Even the most hardened politician recognises that this signifies a problem.

So Blair says its time to act as the giant is melting. Meanwhile Margaret Beckett, his Environment Secretary, admitted on the radio this morning that the UK government’s climate change strategy, that was meant to have been published at the end of last year, would not be published until sometime later this year. No final date has been set.
Well I am glad the urgency of the situation has rubbed off on someone.