YouTube influencers against climate change: How civil society and new forms of science communication are challenging the German government

Author: Joachim Allgaier – RWTH Aachen University, Germany

Just before the European election a YouTube video titled “The destruction of the CDU” caused political outrage in Germany. The video by the popular German YouTuber Rezo attacked the conservative Government party, CDU, mainly for climate inaction but also for other shortcomings. As a reaction to the following heavy attacks on Rezo and his video from the political establishment, an alliance of more than 70 popular German YouTubers got together to release a second video which had only one message: The YouTubers asked their followers not to vote for the Government or far right parties, because they would ignore the expertise of scientists and the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change and therefore would be unable to provide sustainable solutions for the future.

The Government parties experienced dramatic losses in the European Elections and the single biggest winner of new voters was the Green Party. It has been argued that the two YouTube videos had a stronger impact on public engagement and opinion than many of the previous debates initiated by scientists and journalists. This debate is still ongoing and further popular German YouTubers jumped on the bandwagon to attack the climate policy of the German government. They form a very unusual and extremely successful alliance of influencers, academics and scientists in order to increase the pressure on the German government on climate protection.

This contribution presents research in progress on the use of scientific expertise by the involved YouTubers and the role of the scientific experts in the debate, for instance, as providers of scientific fact-checks. In addition, it will also be discussed if and what kind of new forms of expertise emerge on YouTube and also what role authenticity, amenability and interactive dialogue plays for the perceived credibility of the involved actors on YouTube.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Insight talk
Theme: Transformation