By Ray Fleming WHAT a pity yesterday's news from Siberia wasn't reported six weeks ago before the G8 summit meeting at Gleneagles had to breakup without agreeing what to do about global warming because of the reluctance of President Bush to listen to the opinion of the oil companies rather than that of almost all American and international scientists concerned with the subject. Yesterday's alarming news, published in the UK magazine New Scientist, was that a vast area of permafrost in Western Siberia is thawing, probably for the first time since it was formed some 11'000 years ago. Permafrost is frozen peat bog which, as its name implies, normally never changes its character. The area in Siberia which is melting spans one million square kilometres, roughly the size of France and Germany combined. For the last two decades there have been frequent reports of glaciers melting at a faster rate than normal, of mountain tops and ski slopes being prematurely denuded of snow, and of many other indications of climate change attributable to global warming, some of them observable in our own gardens. However, the melting permafrost is a much more serious matter. It is not just that new lakes and landscapes are being created in Western Siberia as the result of global warming; the melting permafrost is also releasing huge new quantities of methane into the atmosphere and is therefore contributing to increased global warming as it is itself being changed by the phenomenon. Methane is a greenhouse gas twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide which is the most commonly cited cause of global warming. Fortunately, the scientists involved in observing the changes in Siberia calculate that the release of the methane will take place slowly, perhaps over a century. But, even so, throughout that period it is likely to lead to a increase of between 10 and 25 per cent in the process of global warming. After the G8 summit President Bush put together a group of nations to develop clean technology to combat global warming as an alternative to the Kyoto treaty provisions for reductions in carbon emissions. Perhaps Mr Bush could explain how such technology would deal with the methane rising from a million square kilometres of Siberia?