IT is said that the director Ridley Scott used the image of Teesside's chemical plants as inspiration for the futuristic setting of his seminal film Blade Runner.

The tropical climate and communities built high in the sky may have seemed far fetched but the fact is that reality may be far bleaker. The worst case scenario predicts that if Britain fails to change its ways, then sea levels will rise by two feet by 2080.

The effect of global warming caused by carbon dioxide emissions will see the polar ice caps melt to such an extent that our coastline will contract by two miles. Seaton Carew will become the Atlantis of the North-East with day trips from Middlesbrough-upon-Sea. Flash floods which recently crippled Britain will be monthly occurrences with associated massive rises in insurance premiums.

The resultant sewage problems, combined with the increase in temperature, will lead to an explosion in the number of vermin and herald the return of mosquitoes to these shores.

In the past, the problem ecologists have had when issuing such dire warnings is that people simply do not relate to events which will take centuries to occur. But the threat is now so great that, if we don't act now, these massive changes will take place in the blink of the eyelid in historical terms. If he or she survives three score years and ten, this is the legacy we will bequeath a baby born today.

So we cannot say we have not been warned, but how do we change the habits of our lifetimes? The problem is that as you sit in the traffic jam, the carbon dioxide emissions belching from the exhaust pipe will linger in the atmosphere for 100 years.

Scientists calculate we need a 60 per cent global reduction in such emissions before we even begin to reverse climatic change. If everyone in Britain switched off computers or lights overnight then we could do away with one coal fired power station and the subsequent pollution. On a larger scale, bodies like Middlesbrough Council are looking at ways to develop hydrogen cell technology which produces pollution-free energy.

So everyone can help, but in reality it is going to take real sacrifice to make a difference and prevent the rise of the oceans. No one would argue with the logic that we have to get more people using public transport. Our roads simply cannot cope with the current demands upon them.

But while those with foresight quite rightly argue that transport networks based around light rail are the answer, the sad truth is that most people simply cannot envisage life without their car. I know I fall into that category. I love cars and though I have done a little bit to help by deliberately buying a car with a less powerful engine, I know this is a drop in the ocean. Athens has tried various schemes to cut pollution but the most effective was to simply ban cars from the city on certain days, forcing people to use public transport.

One way or another we will see a massive drop in the amount we use cars. By the next century they will either have been banned from towns and cities - or we will have evolved into amphibians.

Published: 08/11/2002