Laura Tobin: ‘Most people have conditioned themselves not to think about climate change’
TV meteorologist Laura Tobin talks about reporting on more extreme weather more often and shares the small steps we can take to save the planet
by: Millicent Machell
22 Apr 2022
Laura Tobin. Credit: Lorna Roach
Laura Tobin is a force to be reckoned with.
Her Twitter bio points out that she is #NotAWeatherGirl, as an Australian MP once called her, after she corrected his claims about the Australian bush fires in 2020. She is, in fact, an accomplished meteorologist. And after 14 years of broadcasting the weather on breakfast television – currently on Good Morning Britain – and four years of briefing the RAF before that, she’s hyperaware of the Earth’s changing climate.
What she has observed deeply concerns her. She has found herself reporting on extreme weather with increasing frequency. Worse than that, she has noticed people becoming numb to reports of record-breaking weather and natural disasters as they become more common.
A stickler for sustainability in her own life, the 40-year-old has decided to spur people into action with her new book: Everyday Ways To Save Our Planet. It has over 200 accessible ways for readers to make their lives more eco-friendly. We caught up with Laura to find out all about it.
The Big Issue: How are you doing Laura?
Laura Tobin: Yeah, it’s nice weather so I’m good! I just enjoying being the bearer of good news, which isn’t always the case.
As someone who reports on the weather every day, have you found that you are reporting on extreme weather more frequently?
Definitely. There was a point a couple of years ago, where it was like one record-breaking weather event after the other. We’re actually getting bored of the extreme records and seeing these pictures of storms and wildfires.
But we can’t just switch off to that. They’re happening more often for a reason. Because the Earth getting hotter. Because we’re polluting more. Because we’re overusing everything on Earth.
By 2050, if we keep using as we are we would need three planet Earths to provide everything we need. There’s a day coming up soon, called Earth Overshoot Day. That’s the day that we use all the resources for the year. And then everything else we use for the rest of the life puts us in deficit.
In your new book, how do you present climate change as an urgent problem, without making people feel overwhelmed or hopeless about it?
Well, that’s the thing. I wanted there to be a big science section at the beginning to spell out all the questions and answers to show how bad it really is. And it probably is worse than that! I didn’t want so much doom and gloom that people feel there’s nothing we can do. But that’s where the rest of the book showing that all those changes we can make comes in.
I wanted to show that if everyone works together it is possible to make a change. If the government’s leaders see that we want the change, they’re more inclined to invest the money in the right areas for the change to happen. So it’s very much a chicken and egg situation. Everyone has to make those changes together.
You’ve talked about how a huge motivation for you is your daughter, Charlotte, and the effects of climate change that she might experience as she grows older. How do you think we can inspire young people to be passionate about saving the environment?
I don’t want to create climate anxiety for young children, but I think we’ve just got to be really honest from the beginning. Charlotte has a much better grasp of climate change and the planet than most adults. And that doesn’t mean that adults are stupid, it just means that we have conditioned ourselves not to think about it!
Every one of us, even myself, will throw something in the bin and just think ‘it’s gone’. But when you throw things away, there’s not a magical place where it goes, it doesn’t just magically disappear.
We live on quite a busy road, and there’s a lot of rubbish. And she’s always like, “Mummy, why is there so much rubbish? Why do people throw these out their windows?”
I’m just like, “I don’t know why.” And actually it is unforgivable. Why do people feel they have the right to do that?
What’s the hardest change that you’ve had to make in your own life to live more sustainably?
The hardest change is changing other people’s opinions. So, for example, if I’m on location to film, if I don’t have a reusable cup, I just won’t have a coffee. And people will say, “but we’ve got disposable coffee cups that can be recycled” and I will say no – because recycling is still the last resort. We should have a circular economy and be able to use a cup, wash it and use it again.
I think it’s just people’s perceptions around trying to make those changes, but once one person shows that it’s not that difficult, everyone around you will start as well.
Have you encouraged any of your Good Morning Britain co-stars to make any changes?
They all say they love the book and want to make the changes, so I actually need to now harass them and check out what they’ve done so far!
What is something that the person reading this interview can do right now, today, to make a change?
In the UK, every day we throw away 1.4 million bananas. Lots of them are from supermarkets, like you know, when you go to supermarket, and there’s a pack of say, there’s five on the shelf, and you want four so you rip off one and you leave that one. Those one bananas add up. So, if you go shopping and you could do one thing, buy those single bananas, that makes a difference.
Tobin’s Ten Top Tips for sustainable living
Reduce food waste
“10 per cent of the world’s emissions are from the food we throw away and 70 per cent of that is from households. Plan your meals, don’t throw food away, put stuff in the freezer. It’ll save you money and have a much bigger impact than you would think.
Insulate your home
“It’s never been more important. With energy prices being so crazy, reducing your heating by one degree will save you 10 per cent on your bills. Insulation obviously has an initial outlay but given the price of our fuel bills, in two or three years time you will be cost negative or neutral. And after that you’ll be saving money.”
“Recycling is the crazy one. Only 9 per cent of all plastic in the world has ever been recycled. 91 per cent of all plastic is somewhere in a landfill or in an ocean. And the UK is really bad for it; I think we only recycle about 45 per cent of stuff we can recycle.”
Reduce meat intake
“Meat is an obvious one. I eat much less meat than I used to. I don’t eat red meat anymore, just chicken and fish. Reducing meat intake will save you money because vegetables are cheaper than meat, and it’s also better for your health.”
Go plastic free one item at a time
“I don’t want people to buy new stuff. Use what you have and then when you next need to replace something, make it a sustainable choice.”
“A no brainer.”
“Buying less stuff is obvious. Like in our wardrobes we wear 20 per cent of our clothes 80 per cent of the time. Use what you have!”
Think twice before you throw away
“There’s lots of stuff you don’t want that can be somebody else’s treasure!”
Invest money wisely
“If we can invest our money with green companies, or if we can make sure that we have green energy tariffs with energy provider, that’s a good change.”
Spread the word
“The number one thing you probably can do, above everything is to talk about it! It’s just telling one person about change that they can make, and then they tell another person and it becomes a chain reaction. If we’re all doing it then we can make a real difference!”
Laura Tobin: Everyday Ways To Save Our Planet, is out now (Mirror Books, £14.99) on sale from all good bookshops including WHSmith
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