Monday 27 May 2019

A historic climate election in Germany

It is really late, but I have to report on a historical European election night in Germany. The government parties lost bigly, while the Greens won enormously. It is not the only reason, but a main reason for these changes was a lack of government action on climate change. The leaders of the main parties agreed with his assessment.

The difference between recent polling and the results suggest that also the YouTube video "The Destruction of the CDU" mattered. The CDU is the governing conservative party led by Angel Merkel. This video was watched more than 10 million times, which is more than 1 in 10 Germans.

Before we begin some background most non-Germans will need. Germany is currently governed by a coalition of Christian Democrats (not purposefully nasty Conservatives) and Social Democrats (Labour). These used to be huge parties, people's parties, which officially cater to all demographics. Before the 2017 general election they were also in power and already got a beating. Even together they now only have a modest majority. However, no other coalition could be found, the classical liberals broke up an earlier coalition attempt, and they were forced to govern together again.

So they were already vulnerable. Then they put the brake on the energy transition by strongly reducing its funding and got ahead slowly with building the new stronger power grid, they agreed on a very late closing date for the lignite coal power plants and it became clear that they will miss the CO2 emissions reduction goals they set themselves for 2020.

Sunday for Future

The climate strikes initiated by Greta Thunberg have become an enormous movement in Germany, still attracting many students after many months of strikes. This Friday, just before the European elections, there was an international strike day. An estimated 222 places in Germany held protests; this time there were not just students. And a week ago the video "The Destruction of the CDU" dropped, followed by a petition of a large part of the German YouTube scene not to vote for the governing parties, nor the far right.

Friday for Future rally in Stockholm with Greta Thunberg on stage.

As a consequence climate change was a big topic in the campaigns. All main parties promised they would work on it. Polls show that 81% of Germans demand better action on climate policy and environmental protection.

In the exit polls they always ask what the main themes are that decided one's vote. For the first time the most mentioned theme was: "Climate & environmental protection". Fortyeight percent gave this answer (you can give multiple answers).

The table below gives the results of the European election in Germany, together with the previous European election five years ago, the general election two years ago and recent polling.

Compared to the previous European election the Christian Democrats lost 6.5% and the Social Democrats lost 11.7% of the votes. The Greens on the other hand gained 10% and are now the second largest party with 20.7% of the votes. The Greens were already polling at this level since October last year.

I have chosen not to show the joy of the Greens when the results came in. In case any CEOs or climate science deniers are reading this post, I do not want to cause any heart problems.

However, in the European polling data the Greens were lower just before the election. Probably because in European elections there are many small parties to compete with. I would say that the Greens won 2 to 3% more than expected and the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats lost a percent more than expected. That is some evidence that the YouTube video made a difference.

In my last post I wrote that I would not be surprised if polling were off more than usual because of the large turnout, the large changes and the events of the last week. But they were within the normal uncertainties. Chapeaux!!

Name Ideology EU 2019EU 2014General 2017Polling
CDU/CSUConservative 28.9%35.3% 32.9% 28%
SPD Social Democrat 15.8%27.3% 20.5% 17%
Grünen Green 20.5%10.7% 08.9% 18%
Linke Democratic Socialist05.5%07.4% 09.2% 07%
FDP (Classical) Liberal 05.4%03.4% 10.7% 06%
AfD Far Right Mix 11.0%07.1% 12.6% 12%
Sources: Preliminary official results. Previous results European election and general election from Polling is the average of the two most recent polls of the most reliable polling agencies in Germany: Forschungsgruppe Wahlen and Infratest Dimap.

Some non-climate notes. The Christian Democrats did relatively well because their front man, Manfred Weber, is running to be the next head of the EU Commission. (The Dutch Social Democrat running for the same post, Frans Timmermans, also did well very well in The Netherlands.)

It is good to see that the AfD, a party which rejects European moral values went down compared to two years ago. It did gain compared to the last European election by 4 percent. This increase is worse than it sounds because five years ago the party was still mostly an anti-Euro party and not yet so radicalised.

The turnout was very high for European elections: 61.4%. This 13% higher than in 2014, when it was only 48.1%. In all of Europe the turnout was relatively high with 50.5%.


There are clear differences between young and old voters. The greens won in all age categories, but were especially strong with younger voters.

While young people watch YouTube more, this is likely not just the video. The younger you are the more climate change will impact your life. Young people also more often vote for the first time and change allegiances faster; so partially it may be a question of time. Furthermore, younger people were already politicised because the Conservatives were hurting the internet, #article13. And the denigrating way they were treated then and now on climate change was a good motivation to show up and vote. The biggest campaign helpers of the Greens were the Conservatives, especially my local MEP Alex Voss representing Bonn and leading the effort for internet upload filters.

Especially spectacular are the results if only people below 30 could vote. The Greens would be way ahead of all other parties with 33 percent of the vote, the Conservatives are a distance second with 13%.

Who did people under 30 vote for?

Political responses

Andrea Nahles (chair of the Social Democrats):
"Climate protection has been a voting issue for many voters. The difference between us and the Greens is not the question whether we want to achieve the Paris climate goals without ifs and buts, but how. And we will also discuss this issue actively in the next few weeks and we will act. With the socially compatible brown coal exit, we have managed what [an in 2017 explored coalition of Conservatives, Greens and Liberals] did not do. Now we take the next step, this year we want to bring a climate protection law for our whole national economy on the way."

German original: "Klimaschutz ist für viele Wählerinnen und Wähler ein Wahlentscheidendes Thema gewesen. Zwischen uns und den Grünen steht nicht die Frage im Raum ob wir die Pariser Klimazielen ohne wenn und aber erreichen wollen sondern wie. Und diese Frage werden wir auch offensiv discutieren in den nächsten Wochen und wir werden handeln. Mit den socialverträglichen Braunköhleausstieg haben wir es geschafft, was Jamaika nicht geschafft hat. jetzt drehen wir das nächste Rad, wir wollen noch diesem Jahr ein Klimaschutzgesetz für unse ganz Volkwirtschaft auf dem Weg bringen."
Katarina Barley (campaign leader of the Social Democrats):
"The topic of climate protection has played a huge role in the last few days and actually the whole election campaign and obviously we are not well enough prepared yet."

German original: "Das Thema Klimaschutz hat den letzten Tagen und eigentlich schon den ganzen Wahlkampf eine riesige Rolle gespielt und da sind wir offensichtlich noch nicht gut genug aufgestellt."
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer aka AKK (chair of Conservatives):
"We certainly have the result that in the government we were not very credible how we will protect the climate. And as a party we did not develop our platform enough. We have the ambition to say, we are firmly convinced that one can protect the climate and achieve a good economy and social balance. That we can present concepts that are convincing. This is exactly the work, one could say, that we have as CDU. And that's why we will certainly already starting with the internal party meeting next week, will very intensively care especially about this topic in the coming weeks and months."

German original: "Wir haben sicherlich den Befund, dass wir weder in der Regierung sehr glaubwurdig vertreten wie wir die Klimaschutz erreichen. Und als Partei sind wir programmatisch von den Antworten noch nicht so weit, dass wir das was wir selbst als anspruch haben, namelich zu sagen, wir sind die fest Überzeugung, dass man Klimaschutzen kann und eine gute Wirtschaft und sociale Ausgewogenheit erreichen kann. Das wir dazu die Konzept vorleggen die überzeugen. Das ist genau die Baustelle die wir, wenn Sie so wollen, die wir als CDU haben. Und deswegen werden wir uns sicherlich auch schon beginnend mit der Klausur nächste Woche, sehr intensive vor alem Dingen um diesem Thema in den kommenden Wochen und Monate kummern."
Manfred Weber (leader of the German and EU Christian Democratic campaigns) did not say anything about climate in his official response.

Markus Söder, the leader of the Bavarian Christian Democrats (CSU):
"The big challenge of the future is the intense confrontation with the Greens ... Old standards, as we had them so far, no longer apply. ... As Christian Democrats, we have to work together to become younger, cooler, more open. We have to handle topics and communication such that we do not look like a party from yesterday."

German original: "Die große Herausforderung der Zukunft ist die intensive Auseinandersetzung mit den Grünen ... Alte Maßstäbe, wie wir sie bislang hatten, gelten nicht mehr. ... Wir müssen als Union insgesamt daran arbeiten, wieder jünger, cooler, offener zu werden. Wir müssen mit den Themen und der Kommunikation so agieren, dass wir nicht von gestern wirken."
Annalena Baerbock (Chair of the German Green party):
"This election was a climate change election. This election was an election for democracy. For human rights, for a cosmopolitan Europe. That's why the votes make us happy, they are not just Green votes. These are votes for climate protection. These are votes for democracy. These are votes against right-wing populists. These are votes for human rights throughout Europe. We have not achieved that alone. We achieved that because many people took to the streets for climate protection. Because many young people, in schools, in universities, in sports halls were ready to fight for climate protection."

German original: "Diese Wahl, diese Wahl war ein Klimaschutzwahl. Diese Wahl war eine Wahl für Demokratie. Für Menschenrechten, für ein Weltoffenes Europa. Deswegen sind die Stimmen die uns glücklich machen, nicht nur Grünen Stimmen. Das sind Stimmen für den Klimaschutz. Das sind Stimmen für die Demokratie. Das sind Stimmen gegen Rechtspopulisten. Das sind Stimmen für die Menschenrechten in ganz Europa. Das haben wir nicht nur alleine erreicht. Das haben wir erreicht weil viele viele Menschen für den Klimaschutz auf die Straße gegangen sind. Weil viele junge Leute in den Schulen, in den Unis, in Turnhallen bereit waren für Klimaschutz zu kämpfen."
Jörg Hubert Meuthen (Campaign leader of the far-right AfD):
"Certainly, the topic of climate policy and the hysteria around this topic was something that did not help us. The topic was hyped up. This appealed to people in large numbers."

German original: "Sicherlich war das Thema Klimapolitik und die hier verbreitete Hysterie um dieses Thema etwas was uns nicht in die Karten gespielt hat. Das Thema wurde nach oben gehypt. Die Menschen wurden damit in großer Zahl erreicht."
The press spokesman of the AfD even denies the greenhouse effect itself. Although it is possible that he is too stupid to understand the difference between the natural greenhouse effect and human activities making it stronger leading to global warming. Naturally such extremist irrational positions are problematic trying to gain votes from a well-informed critical electorate that knows the misery right-wing extremism has produced before very well.

Related reading

The leader of the Bavarian Christian Democrats (CSU) declares the Greens to be the main competitor: Söder erklärt Grüne zur Hauptkonkurrenz der Union.

Preliminary official results

Ireland is the place to be for climate reporting in English: Green wave hits Germany with doubling of support. Shock result for Germany’s ruling parties, with worst-ever election for Merkel’s CDU.

AP: Europe wakes up to climate concerns after green wave in vote.

Saturday 25 May 2019

A climate change bomb explodes in the middle of the German EU elections #RezoVideo

More than 10% of the German population has watched a YouTube video (currently over 10 million views) called: "The destruction of the CDU". The CDU is the Christian Democratic Union, the German conservative party.

This post is a small warning for those not following German politics that you may get away with paying lip service to solving climate change for a long time, but not actually solving it is like a game of chicken, it increases popular anxiety until it explodes. This week it exploded in Germany.

Next to unboxing and make-up tutorials, political YouTube is rather preoccupied with destroying stuff. Or claiming to have destroyed stuff. You have to game the algorithm to be heard.

The video features a blue haired YouTuber, Rezo, a normally not particularly political 26 year old who explains in 55 minutes how he researched what the conservatives are about and was shocked how bad it was. This is supported by 300 references and clips of ignorant conservative politicians and government speakers accidentally saying the truth, for example that Germany fights a war against Syria, while the German constitution forbids wars of aggression. I will focus on the climate change part being a climate scientist.

Climate change is the largest topic, but he also talks about illegal wars, aiding American war crimes, growing inequality, less social mobility, education, the incompetence and ignorance of CDU politicians (e.g., about drugs and article 13), supporting the Iraq war, denigrating protest (article 13) and spreading conspiracy theories,


The response to the video was an unprecedented amount of pearl clutching. How dare these young people have a fact-supported opinion. The "best" was journalists calling Rezo one-sided. I do not recall them ever saying that about a politician.

Some pearl clutching was anticipated after the lies that were spread earlier this year by the CDU to try to defend their atrocious EU law to make corporations administrating copyrights more powerful at the expense of creatives, the internet, start-ups and the freedom of speech. This law is best known for its most disastrous paragraph: #article13.

So a few days ago a large part of the German YouTube scene published an additional statement urging everyone to vote in the EU elections and not to vote the conservatives, social democrats or the far right (currently 2.5 million views). They call climate change the highest priority and bluntly state that the main parties will only change if they have an incentive, climate dinosaurs have to lose votes.

I love the last paragraph:
"Finally, dear politicians: of course you again have the possibility to discredit us. You can claim we have no clue what we are talking about. That we lie. That we participate in fake campaigns. That we are being bought and paid for, etc. You already used these respectless methods this year against us, against your own population. And we speak for many citizens when we say: This did not make you any friends."
The internet strikes back.

A large part of the video is about climate change and this part is also not just aimed at the conservatives, but also at the social democrats whose main excuse for neglecting climate change is 20 thousands coal workers. Politicians of either main party typically do not bring up themselves that politics is a precarious job and how nice it is to be assured to get a follow-up job at one of the main utilities.

I am in favour of paying politicians well, also in the years after they leave parliament under the condition that they do not work as a lobbyist or for a large corporation. We have to be able to be confident that politicians work for us. You see the mess in America when you cannot.

CDU reply

The conservatives made a response video because the Rezo video was so unfair to them, but then decided not to publish the video, but an 11-page PDF reply. My local conservative spread it calling the Rezo video populist and fake news and expecting the reply to be less popular. I see no reason why people watching a 55 minute political video would not read an 11-page text, which could have been a 10-page text, the first page contained only empty phrases.

When Rezo states that 20 thousand coal workers are used as an argument not to protect the climate, while the CDU-SPD governemnt put a brake on the energy transition and doing so killed 80 thousand renewable energy jobs, the reply of the CDU completely ignores the comparison, while claiming to feel responsible about the affected workers and regions and saying that a further 40 thousand indirect jobs are affected. The question is why they do not feel responsible for the larger group of renewable energy workers. And there are naturally also indirect jobs that depend on those workers.

If you deceive your readers like this and count on them not haven seen the full arguments, it is best not to complain the others are fake news.

Climate scientists Stefan Rahmstorf just wrote a fact check, he found most claims to be accurate and summarized:
"All in all, I can only say: Chapeaux. For someone new to the subject matter, Rezo understood the key facts about the climate crisis very well, and he communicated them clearly and vividly in his video. As clear and insistent as science has failed to achieve with its IPCC reports, and as it is rarely read in the classic media."
The main problem was the clearly wrong claim that the climate will spiral out of control if we would cross the 1.5°C warming limit. If scientists had come up with a hoax to enslave mankind, we would have been smart enough create something with such a clear threshold, but the climate change nature came up with just gets worse and worse.

The 1.5°C warming limit is a political compromise between the powerful status quo and the damages of climate change. As a Dutch person, I would have voted for no climate change, no sea level rise. But politicians from America and Saudi Arabia were sitting at the table and I was not.

One thing Rahmstorf missed was that Rezo implied that the current 100 times accelerated mass extinction of species is due to climate change. At the moment the main reasons are humans occupying more and more land and industrial intensive agriculture. Currently climate change is a factor, but not the main one yet. I am not surprised that people getting their science from the mass media get this wrong.

In the age of Fact Checks, also the CDU reply was checked for its claims on reducing greenhouse gas emissions (climate change mitigation as the English say; the Germans simply say: climate protection). Volker Quaschning, Professor for renewable energy systems at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences, summarized:
"Overall conclusion: In this fact check no solid statements of the CDU were found, which substantively refute the contents regarding climate protection of the video of Rezo."
Tiemo Wölken, member of the European parliament for the social democrats, replied with a video. Showed you can talk to young people respectfully. He kinda admits his colleagues in Berlin do not do enough, but says that in Brussels they did their job. For example, the Climate Action Network (CAN) put them in the group of climate defenders; see graphic summary for Germany below.

The Rezo video is quite friendly on the German classical liberals (FDP). This could be because they voted against article 13 (internet upload filters), or to give people with right-wing politics an option, but they are not really better than the conservatives when it comes to climate change. For example, CAN put them in the climate dinosaur category together with the conservatives.

Their number one for the European parliament is Nicola Beer is even a partial climate change denier who wrongly claimed that extreme weather is not increasing. The FDP itself are not climate change deniers; Germany is not as systemically corrupt as America.

The video was not explicitly a call to vote for the Green party, but polls expect them to win 50% more votes than last time, with 17% to 19% of the votes. In the EU elections a party only needs 0.6% of the votes in Germany. It looks as if many people will vote a small party, they get between 10 and 13% of the votes. Polling suggests that the turnout will be larger than usual and that the conservatives will loose 5 to 8 percent points this Sunday. (The Social Democrats may loose 10 percent points.) Not a complete destruction, but a good sign to defend the climate, the internet and young people better in future.

With this bomb, the likely exceptional turnout and the large number of people thinking of voting new/small parties, I would not be surprised if some polling results will be more off than the usual 2 or 3 percent.

Whatever you do. Please vote.

Related reading

(All links are in German.)

Rezo: Die Zerstörung der CDU.

Rezo is either a big fan of the YouTube channel Jung und Naive or Tilo Jung helped him a bit.

Ein Statement von 90+ Youtubern

Social Democratic Member of the European Parliament Tiemo Wölken: Reaktion auf Rezo

CDU 11-page reply: Offene Antwort an Rezo: Wie wir die Sache sehen

Satire page on the CDU video: "Mussten leider feststellen, dass Rezo in jedem Punkt recht hat": CDU erklärt, warum sie kein Konter-Video veröffentlicht

TAZ on the press reaction: Schnappatmung wegen eines Videos

Stefan Rahmstorf: Das Rezo-Video im Faktencheck

Volker Quaschning: Faktencheck des Teils "Die Klimakrise" der offenen Antwort der CDU an REZO vom 23.05.2019

Open Letter


This is an open letter. A statement. From a large part of the Youtuber scene. On weekends are the EU elections and it is important to go voting. But it is just as important to make a rational decision in the election that is consistent with logic and science.

There are many important political issues, but according to the risk hierarchy, the potential destruction of our planet obviously has the highest priority. Any other issue has to be at the back of the queue.

The irreversible destruction of our planet is unfortunately not an abstract scenario but the predictable result of current politics. This is not what we claim, it is the unbelievably large consensus in science. The experts clearly say that the course of CDU/CSU and SPD is drastically wrong and leads us into a scenario in which the earth becomes inexorably warmer no matter what we do. In this world, not only many animal species are extinct, but also many people. For the survivors illnesses increase, trillions of economic damages develop and hundreds of millions of refugees will come, who must be accommodated not for a few years but for ever in other countries.

Science is certain of that. This is not about individual expert opinions, because you can always find them. No, it is an overwhelming consensus among scientists based on countless independent studies and investigations.

Those who deny this consensus, like the AfD, or do not act on it, like the current government, have no place in the leadership of an enlightened country.

Perhaps ignorance is the reason for this misconduct, perhaps they do not have the strength or decency to put science and reality above money and the influence of big corporations and lobbies. In any case, we must ensure that parties have an incentive to act in the spirit of science. And the obvious incentive we can create is for them to lose votes in the elections. Only then would they have a reason to change their behaviour.

Therefore we all ask: Do not vote for the CDU/CSU, do not vote for the SPD. Nor should it vote for any other party that acts so little in the sense of logic and science and, according to the scientific consensus, destroys our future with its course. And certainly not the AfD, which even denies this consensus.

This is not about different legitimate political opinions. It is about the irrefutable need to do everything in our power to drastically change course as quickly as possible. This is what more than 26,000 German-speaking scientists are demanding. This is the demand of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is reviewing and summarising the thousands of scientific publications. And we take the side of the experts. Because if we stay on this course for the next few years, perhaps we will no longer have a chance of stopping the destruction.

Finally, dear politicians: Of course you now have the opportunity to discredit us again. You can accuse us of not having a plan anyway what we are talking about. That we lie. That we participate in fake campaigns. Are instrumentalized. That we are bought and paid and so on. All these disrespectful techniques you have already used this year against us, against your own population. And we speak for very many citizens when we say: You have not made friends with it.