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.

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