Kayakers protest the passage of Arctic drilling equipment

Kayakers protest the passage of Arctic drilling equipment in Seattle, WA. Photo: Backbone Campaign/Flickr

Mounting evidence suggests that a large portion of the world’s fossil fuel reserves will have to remain in the ground to prevent dangerous climate change. Yet, the fossil fuel industry continues to invest in new infrastructure to expand fuel supply.

Political leaders seem to follow the prevailing logic that extraction is inevitable, in spite of growing climate change concerns. This absence of political action has sparked a burgeoning social movement focused on constraining fossil fuel supply.

Drawing from literature on social mobilization and political change, this article discusses the social and political barriers to mobilization focused on restricting fossil fuel supply and describes pathways through which mobilization efforts may influence climate policy.

The article highlights that effective social mobilization requires the aligning of a combination of factors – such as windows of political opportunity – and compelling framing that calls citizens to action.

It concludes that a critical examination of the factors that lead to movement success is necessary to understand the circumstances where social mobilization may influence supply-side climate policies.