Petroleum, prices and protests: The impact of climate change mitigation on social unrest

Time period: 2021-01-01 to 2024-12-31

Project leader: Nina von Uexküll

Other personnel: Isak Svensson, Espen Geelmuyden Rød

Funder: Swedish Research Council

Type of award: Project grant

Total fundning: 5 400 000 SEK

Climate change is increasingly regarded as humanity’s greatest collective challenge, which threatens to permanently alter the foundations of societies across the world. Mitigating global warming requires comprehensive measures, including a massive reduction of fossil fuel use. Countries as diverse as France, Yemen and Nigeria have experienced massive protests following rising fuel prices. These events illustrate that the economic transformation required to meet climate goals could have significant social consequences, including the potential for social unrest and conflict, that have received little academic attention. Recognising the significance of fossil fuels for modern economies and as a target of climate change mitigation policies, this project (1) assesses the extent to which social unrest is driven by changes in fossil fuel prices; (2) assesses the potential of such fuel protests to escalate to wider social conflicts, including armed conflict; and (3) studies why fuel protests end in different ways: governments backing down, protesters giving up, or government and protesters reaching accommodation. To these ends, the project combines statistical studies on fuel prices, government subsidies and social unrest and a comparative cases study on protest outcomes. The project, 2021-2024, is hosted by the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, and led by Dr. Nina von Uexkull.