Kenyan Farmer Jusper Machogu Champions Fossil Fuels and Climate Change Denial

Kenyan Farmer Jusper Machogu Champions Fossil Fuels and Climate Change Denial

In the landscape of climate change denial, Kenyan farmer Jusper Machogu has emerged as a controversial figure. At 29, Mr. Machogu, a farmer from rural Kisii in south-west Kenya, has gained notoriety on social media as a vocal proponent of fossil fuels in Africa and a skeptic of man-made climate change.

On X, formerly Twitter, Machogu shares videos of his farming activities—planting garlic, picking avocados, and weeding his land. While his farming content attracts clicks, likes, and retweets, it is his denial of man-made climate change that has catapulted his online profile. By posting debunked theories about climate change, Machogu has garnered thousands of dollars in donations, some from individuals in Western countries linked to fossil-fuel interests. Despite this, he insists his views are genuinely held and not influenced by these contributions.

Scientists have conclusively shown that the Earth's warming is driven by greenhouse gases emitted from burning fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal. However, Machogu disagrees, frequently tweeting that “climate change is mostly natural” and using the hashtag #ClimateScam.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that Africa is one of the lowest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions but one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change effects, such as intense heatwaves, prolonged droughts, and devastating floods. Despite this, Machogu continues to assert that "there is no climate crisis," suggesting that Western nations use climate change as a ploy to keep Africa poor.

Joyce Kimutai, a climate scientist from Kenya who has contributed to IPCC reports, argues that Machogu’s views stem from a lack of understanding. “This is not just belief; it's about analyzing the data and seeing changes in the data. Saying that climate change is a hoax is just really not true,” Dr. Kimutai stated.

Machogu began sharing his climate change denial posts in late 2021 after conducting his own research. He launched a campaign called "Fossil Fuels for Africa," arguing for the continent to exploit its oil, gas, and coal reserves. This perspective aligns with some African governments, which have approved new fossil fuel projects despite pledges to transition away from such fuels. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has criticized Western restrictions on African states, highlighting the hypocrisy given the West's own wealth accumulation from fossil fuels.

However, climate activists like Ugandan Nicholas Omonuk caution that fossil fuel exploration does not necessarily lead to growth and development, citing the example of Nigeria's Niger Delta, where decades of oil extraction have left communities impoverished and polluted.

Machogu's message has found a receptive audience, particularly among users in the US, UK, and Canada who also promote conspiracy theories about climate change, vaccines, COVID-19, and the war in Ukraine. This online community has supported Machogu financially, enabling him to raise over $9,000 in the past two years. He has used these funds to improve his home and support local families by building a borehole for water, distributing gas bottles for cooking, and connecting homes to the electricity grid.

Among his donors are individuals linked to the fossil fuel industry and groups known for promoting climate change denial. However, Machogu denies that these donations have influenced his views, stating, "Nobody has told me to change my views."

Machogu's stance has attracted attention from prominent figures in the West, including Canadian author Jordan Peterson, who retweeted one of his posts and described him as an “actual African,” contrasting him with the “poor, oppressed, useless African” supposedly imagined by “globalist utopians.” A US fossil fuel advocate even funded Machogu’s trip to South Africa for a conference promoting African oil and gas. Additionally, a UK film crew interviewed him for a documentary dismissing climate change as an “eccentric environmental scare.”

Amy Westervelt, a US investigative climate reporter, notes that Africa is seen as a significant market for fossil fuels amid global policies limiting their use. Having African voices like Machogu advocating for fossil fuel projects is beneficial to these interests.

Dr. Kimutai warns that Machogu’s promotion of fossil fuels and denial of man-made climate change could undermine climate action, especially given the low climate literacy levels in Africa and Kenya. "If that conspiracy theory spreads, it could really undermine climate action. That is really, really dangerous," she said.

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