Germany’s rightwing populists are embracing climate change denial as the latest topic with which to boost their electoral support, teaming up with scientists who claim hysteria is driving the global warming debate and ridiculing the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg as “mentally challenged” and a fraud.
The Alternative für Deutschland party (AfD) is expected to launch its biggest attack yet on mainstream climate science at a symposium in parliament on Tuesday supported by a prominent climate change denial body linked by researchers to prominent conservative groups in the US.
The AfD’s focus on climate change has increased since it entered the Bundestag in autumn 2017. It has added a sceptical voice to the rising number of parliamentary debates on the topic and concentrated its opposition specifically on the scandal over diesel car emissions and plans to phase out brown coal.
But the attention the party paid to the topic has been noticeably ramped up since the emergence last August of Greta, the teenage climate activist who has appeared at climate rallies across Europe, including in Germany.
A joint investigation by Greenpeace Unearthed and the counter-extremism organisation the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) has shown a surge in AfD digital communication on climate issues. While climate change barely got a mention on its social media channels when the AfD was first founded in 2013, it mentioned the topic on its channels about 300 times in 2017-18