Joshua Borokinni, from Lagos, Nigeria, is climate activist, social innovator, and Nigerian journalist with a keen interest in sustainable and developmental reporting. Borokinni graduated from the University of Benin, Nigeria, with a Bachelor’s Degree in human physiology and is also an alumnus of the Lagos Business School certificate program with a focus in non-profit leadership. His passion in climate activism started as a child when he overcame advanced stage jaundice and asthma. Through this experience he was able to make a connection between his life and climate sustainability, which led him to create the Borokinni Joshua Initiative, an organization that focuses on social innovation, youth engagement, sustainable development goal advocacy, and climate journalism.

In 2017, Borokinni was listed among the 50 influencers of the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform Goal13 in Africa. His other awards include being named as driver of social development at the West Africa Youths Awards that same year. In 2018, he was named as a Barack Obama Young African Leadership Initiative fellow, member of the International Youth Climate Movement, and was recently listed as part of 25under25 Nigerian entrepreneurs by SME100. Additionally, he serves on the executive board of various organizations including Xigma, a science-tech center creating affordable climate-smart and clean energy solutions to foster sustainable development.

As a successful climate journalist, Borokinni has published over 30 articles through Climate Tracker, Punch Newspaper, and among other national newspapers. Alongside his climate activism, Borokinni is a performance poet and his debut book, AKINDELE, generated 1,000 downloads in the first week of release. In 2017, out of a large pool of 12,300 international youth, Borokinni received second runner-up and bronze medalist in the Royal Commonwealth Essay competition.

Ultimately, Borokinni believes that a country without effective climate action is like a body without a soul. He believes that youth are the key drivers in directing social change. Today, he continues to fight for climate reform through social activism and journalism.


Climate Change and Health Impacts

by Borokinni Joshua

originally published on The Nation.

Human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels have released sufficient quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to trap additional heat in the lower atmosphere which affect the climate. This inevitably results in sea level rise, changes in rainfall patterns and melting of glaciers. While global warming has some positives such as fewer winter deaths in temperate climates and increased food production in certain areas, the overall health effects of a changing climate are likely to be overwhelmingly negative.

Climate change affects almost every area of life, especially the social and environmental determinants of health: clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. High atmospheric temperatures contribute directly to deaths resulting from cardio-vascular and respiratory diseases, particularly among elderly people. Extreme temperatures also raise the levels of ozone and other pollutants in the air that exacerbate these diseases. Aeroallergen levels are also higher in extreme heat giving rise to asthma, which affects around 300 million people globally. These on-going temperature increases are expected to increase this burden and a system of checks and balances of the global climate is direly needed.

Globally, the number of reported weather-related natural disasters has more than tripled since the 1970s. Every year, these disasters results in over 60,000 deaths, with the majority in developing countries such as Nigeria. With more than half of the world’s population living within 70 km of the sea, when the sea level increases, people may be forced to move. This heightens the risk of a range of health effects, from mental disorders to communicable diseases. Increasingly variable rainfall patterns are also likely to affect the supply of fresh water. A lack of safe water can compromise hygiene and increase the risk of diarrhoea and cholera, which kills over 500,000 children under age five, annually. In extreme cases, water scarcity leads to drought and famine. A World Health Organization report states that by the late 21st century, climate change is likely to increase the frequency and intensity of drought at regional and global scale.

The rate of recurrent floods is on the rise, as well as the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation. This has been visible in Nigerian suburbs, with the latest in Makurdi, Benue State and others occurrences in Lagos and Ogun states among others. Floods contaminate freshwater supplies, increase the risk of water-borne diseases, and create breeding grounds for disease-carrying insects such as mosquitoes. They also cause drowning and physical injuries, damage homes and disrupt the supply of medical and health services. Rising temperatures and variable precipitation are also likely to decrease the production of staple foods in many of the poorest regions. This will increase the prevalence of malnutrition and starvation, which leads to reduced productivity and inevitably, death.

Climatic conditions strongly affect water-borne diseases and diseases transmitted through insects, snails or other cold blooded animals. Changes in climate are likely to lengthen the transmission seasons of important vector-borne diseases and also alter their geographic range. For example, malaria is strongly influenced by climate; transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes, malaria kills over 400,000 people every year. The Aedes mosquito vector of dengue is also highly sensitive to climate conditions, and studies suggest that climate change is likely to continue to increase exposure to dengue.

An assessment by the World Health Organization, took into account only a subset of the possible health impacts, and assumed that continued economic growth and health progress, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050; 38,000 due to heat exposure in elderly people, 48,000 due to diarrhoea, 60,000 due to malaria, and 95,000 due to childhood starvation.

All populations will be affected by climate change, but some are more vulnerable than others. People living in small island developing states and other coastal regions such as Lagos, mega-cities, and mountainous and polar regions are particularly vulnerable. Children in particular, are among the most vulnerable to the resulting health risks and will be exposed longer to the health consequences. The health effects are also expected to be more severe for elderly people and people with infirmities or pre-existing medical conditions.

Regions with poor health infrastructure will be the least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond. Many policies and individual choices have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and produce major health co-benefits. For example, cleaner energy systems, and promoting the safe use of public transportation and active movement such as cycling or walking as alternatives to using private vehicles could reduce carbon emissions, and cut the burden of household air pollution, which causes some 4.3 million deaths per year, and ambient air pollution, which causes about 3 million deaths every year.

Nigeria has a wide range of variety in energy production. The solar potential in the northern region, if utilized, is one that can kick out the use of fossil fuels. Hydro power is an indispensable tool that can also aid in an end to dependency on crude oil. The Kainji Dam at New Bussa has proved beyond doubt that Nigeria has what it takes to foster on renewable energy and discard fossil fuels. Sadly, health challenges have also been on the increase in some parts of Nigeria due to oil pollution and gas flaring. For example, Ogoni has been regarded as a write-off as oil spilling has rendered farmlands, water, aquatic habitat, infrastructures and other viable resources useless. Oil has shown to be a nail-in-the-tooth and unreliable, which is an indicator for the urgent need to embrace renewable energy.

There is a vivid uprising in the need for energy as the population is on a geometric increase, which is a loud call for policy makers to take a close look at the need to embrace renewable energy. Life and properties are lost every day due to the constant depletion of the ozone and more will continue along this path if our climate is not well protected.