People demonstrate as Greenpeace stages a climate protest at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport in Schiphol. When it comes to climate change, Greenpeace is a leading Action Now! radical group, while the Green Party is becoming ever more moderate. Photo: Reuters

WASHINGTON DC – The stage is set for a big fight between two green Titans – the Green Party of Germany and Greenpeace Germany. They sound similar and used to be so, but no longer. 

When it comes to climate change, Greenpeace is a leading Action Now! radical group, while the Green Party is becoming ever more moderate. This is clearly a prescription for political conflict.

These are two big outfits. Germany is the fourth biggest national economy in the world and by far the greenest major. In the last national election the Green Party got almost 10% of the vote and recent polls suggest this could get much bigger, more than double in some cases. So the Greens are seen as an emerging political powerhouse.

Greenpeace Germany is also politically powerful, with annual revenues on the order of 100 million dollars. They rival Greenpeace International, which has the rest of the world, in size. Both Greenpeaces are leading hysterics in the Action Now! radical political movement. Both are calling for disruption and Germany reportedly has seen more and bigger Greta Thunberg marches than anywhere else.

The Green Party is becoming progressively more moderate for the fundamental political reason; they want more votes. There is even speculation that Robert Habeck, the personable Green Party co-boss, might be the next Chancellor of Germany. He would replace Angela Merkel, who has been known as “the Climate Chancellor.” After all, Merkel’s ruling coalition is crumbling and the Green Party is coming on strong, at least in the polls. (The new German anti-green populist party is also growing in power, so some of this speculation may be well off.)

In recent weeks, Habeck has gone so far as to explicitly renounce key policies of the Action Now! radicals. For example he has said that people should be free to fly or eat meat if they want to. He knows perfectly well that these radical demands are vote killers.

Up to now the Green Party and Greenpeace Germany seem each to pretend that the other does not exist. The Party’s visible slide to moderation has been well discussed in the press but I have yet to see an article on it that mentions Greenpeace. Habeck certainly does not, lest he goad the radical green beast into action. Greenpeace could easily denounce Habeck, but have not yet done so.

Perhaps they have a political understanding. Greenpeace Germany may well think that the Green Party’s victory is more important than the extreme climate actions it espouses. They probably figure that they will get a big place in the new green government, if there ever is one. If so they are sitting on a powder keg of hypocrisy.

2020 is set to be the year of heated, even violent, rhetorical battles over climate policy, including in Germany. It may well be that at some point Greenpeace Germany will have to draw the line against the Green Party’s growing moderation. As Greenpeace said in Madrid when COP 25 collapsed: “Getting no deal is better than getting a bad deal.” They rejected the moderates then and they can do it again.

In fact rejecting moderation is central to the Action Now! mission. Greta Thunberg does it repeatedly. After all, this is precisely what “Action Now!” means, no more slow moving moderate action on climate change.

If and when this Green versus Green breakup occurs, it should be spectacular. Given the German situation, the Green Party will be fighting for its political life, while Greenpeace will be fighting for its dearly held principles. Both sides are powerful and well entrenched.

Germany could be where the most spectacular battle between the climate radicals and the climate moderates takes place. Sort of like Northern Virginia in the U.S. Civil War, where Grant and Lee hammered it out, except in Germany both sides could lose (to the skeptics).

If the misguided climate action movement is going to tear itself apart, which seems increasingly likely, Germany could be where it happens most definitively, and most publicly. The stage is set; let the show begin.

Dr David Wojick is a well-known and vocal climate change "skeptic", with strong links to the coal industry.

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