EMPEROR penguins huddle on an Antarctic ice sheet, metres from a perilously large crack in the surface.

In Asia, there are floods and there are droughts, with their devastating effects on human life, with tens of millions of people to be made homeless in the next 50 years due to rising sea levels.

The climate change worst-case scenario is much, much worse than scientists previously feared, a report suggested this week.

In China coal-burning power stations continue to spew their toxic fumes into the atmosphere unchecked. While in Britain we have a nation completely reliant on the use of cars.

Public transport is the more environmentally-friendly option, but travelling to London by train for those of us not blessed with abundant riches involves taking out a second mortgage or selling a kidney.

Only in London can you get a train or bus to pretty much anywhere you want to be, at an affordable price.

And with the news that the East Coast Main Line – what should be our flagship route – has had to be renationalised yet again, the third time in ten years – it seems we have a public transport crisis.

Whole villages are cut off because their bus services have been axed after local authority subsidies ceased. In Sadberge, near Darlington, there are pensioners who walk two and a half miles to the nearest supermarket because there is only one bus a week. While Arriva runs a service along the A66 and passes the village several times a day, it has refused to put a stop there – presumably for commercial reasons.

Public transport companies are run for profit and profit alone, not to further the purpose of more environmentally-friendly travel and providing vital links for communities. And all the while people sit in their cars, in traffic jams on the A66 Darlington bypass, in Durham, the western Newcastle bypass, the Marton Crawl, and through Yarm, with the fumes adding to our climate change problem.

Commerce, economic growth and profit is crucial to a successful nation, but in this case it is at the expense of its citizens and the Earth.

Rail fares on the East Coast Main Line are a national disgrace. You can understand why companies charge so much when they are paying £3.3bn to the Government for the privilege of operating the franchise, but when the contract has collapsed for the third time then questions have to be asked. Why run the line for profit when it is clearly not commercially viable?

It must pain the Conservatives, the very party which pushed the privatisation agenda, to have to bring East Coast back into public ownership. Even so, the line will be run in a public-private partnership agreement. Operators Virgin and Stagecoach blamed Network Rail for not delivering a package of improvements to the line, which would have enabled more trains to run, soon enough.

Passenger numbers were not high enough, they said. But charge £145 for a ticket for one person to travel a journey of just two and a half hours, and passenger numbers aren’t going to be high. People – especially families – will just head down the M1 instead. £50 fuel there and back for a family of five.