4 June 2021

The oil industry’s framing of the climate crisis


Professor Olaf Corry speaks to Videnskab.dk about a new study in Nature Climate Change which shows how the language around and framing of climate changes every time new climate goals are set. These changes also happen while new promises about speculative technologies, that allow a delay of climate action, are presented.

Professor Olaf Corry, a researcher of international politics and environmental politics, finds in the study, that there has been a consorted effort to distort the climate debate. Furthermore, the study in Nature Climate Change suggests that this is a known strategy from parts of the oil industry. 

The study shows how the oil company ExxonMobil has communicated quite differently in public than behind closed doors. This compares to the tobacco industry’s rhetorical strategies to frame smoking as an individual responsibility: “Climate policy is also a fight for the language used, for which terms should apply and for which benchmark is used. This point is underscored by the new study which raises awareness around the issue.”

Olaf Corry emphasises that we as consumers and democratic citizens have a responsibility to effect change. However, the debate becomes distorted when the discourse of the climate crisis as an individual responsibility is dominant as this can counteract imposing the structural changes needed to truly solve the climate crisis.