When UN boss Ban Ki-moon clambered out of a Chilean Air Force transport plane and planted his boots in the snows of Antarctica, he became the first head of the UN ever to visit the world’s icy underbelly.

It might have been an extremely fleeting visit, but it underscores how rapidly climate change is rising up the political agenda.

Scientists told Mr Ban of the changes they have witnessed on the continent’s peninsula.”The temperature increase here over the last 50 years has been up to 10 times the global average,” said Gino Casassa, a Chilean expert and member of the UN’s IPCC, which won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

From Antarctica, Mr Ban flew over Grey’s Glacier in southern Chile, and then to Brazil, where he was due to see the effects of logging and burning on the Amazon rainforest.

The secretary general will have clocked up about 17,000 air miles by the time he gets back to New York. I hope his trip was worth the damage it did to the climate. We will find out at next month’s climate meeting in Bali..