Environmental guru Dr James Lovelock has said that worsening climate change will force fundamental changes in the way we live, with people clustering together "like insects" in vast super-cities.

Lovelock, who developed the Gaia theory of natural harmony with the Earth as a self-regulating organism, has based his new model on the way insects such as termites have evolved. Termites live in their millions in nest towers and have evolved a crude air-conditioning to make it possible.

He cited Singapore as an example of a place where residents have found a way to get on together despite the fact the country is 12C hotter than the global average.

At the Oxford Literary Festival to promote his next book, A Rough Ride to the Future, Lovelock said: "It's not surprising that insects have found that the best way of living is to live in nests.

"Termites in Australia have nests with huge air-conditioning towers on top of them to keep the internal climate just right.

In the UK, the cultural dream of having a "home in the countryside with a nice big garden" needed to be abandoned because it was no longer realistic or sustainable, he added.

The answer to global warming was not "sustainable development" but "sustainable retreat".