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GEO-3: GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK  
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Coastal concerns

Coastal and marine environments are also a key concern in Europe. In a world of Markets First, tourism exercises an ever-increasing pressure on coastal zones throughout the region, leading to an increase of local environmental problems such as salinization. In addition, second homes exercise a considerable footprint in some areas such as the Baltic. Specifically in Eastern Europe, coastal zones are increasingly left to local authorities to manage, with somewhat unpredictable outcomes.

Under Policy First conditions, governments acquire some coastal zones in Western Europe for full protection status. In Eastern Europe, basic legislation regarding coastal zone protection is put in place and zoning plans are revitalized. In a Security First situation, coastal zones in Western Europe see a continuation of industrial development, tourism development, airport construction and other infrastructure. In Central Europe, coastal zones remain by and large as they were in 2002.

In Eastern Europe, coastal zones may be remilitarized, restricting access, but also used for new port development. On balance, pressures remain at approximately the same level as in 2002. In Sustainability First, integrated coastal zone management schemes based on voluntary partnerships and participatory arrangements, significantly improve coastal environments.

Imagine ... a major food scare in Europe

A major food scare breaks out in Europe in the middle of the 2010s, reminiscent in some respects of the Spanish cooking oil disaster in the 1980s or the BSE crisis in the 1990s. But this crisis is on a much larger scale and so is its psychological impact. It erupts with simultaneous outbreaks of death and illness among young children in various parts of Western and Central Europe. With casualties growing, the cause remains elusive for at least a year. Speculation is widespread about a link with genetically modified organisms or biotransplants, but there is no conclusive evidence. Eventually, the cause is found to be a hitherto uncommon mycotoxin. It turns out that a fungus in many cereals, the emergence and spread of which appears related to the changing climate, produces this toxin. Unfortunately, the news does little to diminish the problem for a culture that relies on bread as a staple food.

In the case of ...

Markets First
  • Consumer distrust rises in Western and Central Europe. This leads to agricultural demise in countries for which the EU is a key export market in the 2010s, such as Argentina, Ukraine, Romania, Latvia and Kenya.
  • Stricter certification schemes are put in place, stimulated by initiatives by transnational corporations.
Policy First
  • There is European-wide coordination on issues such as sharing the burden of the costly recall of cereals and a rush programme to develop alternative bases for common children's food, many of which rely on the affected cereals. Heavy reliance is set on early warning systems and regulation of developments in biotechnology to avoid similar outbreaks in the future.
  • There is a renewed global effort to address climate change.
Security First
  • Initial fears of a biological weapons attack cause several nations to place themselves on military alert.
  • Xenophobic reactions to illegal immigrants increase as they are seen as potential carriers of exotic viruses.
  • Trade disputes increase, stemming from fears of other possible outbreaks.
Sustainability First
  • Efficient support systems, notably at local level, help to minimize deaths and to optimize treatment of victims.
  • Ongoing agricultural reforms, which are further accelerated in the aftermath, help reduce the spread of the fungus.

The lessons
The roots of many environmental crises can lie in the very complexity of human and natural systems and their interactions. Recognizing this and remaining alert to unexpected developments can help to reduce shocks and to respond to crises when they occur. Foresight, early warning and flexible response provisions can play key roles.