Jacques Theys presents here the main findings of a survey of the views of the international scientific community on the environmental priorities. The survey was started in France on the joint initiative of the Ministries of the Environment and of Research and Equipment; it is the longest and most ambitious effort to investigate how risks are ranked.
Thanks to the survey, it is possible to derive a relatively clear picture of the risks to the environment from the scientists' perspective. Three main areas of risk emerge quite clearly: one focused on nature (biodiversity, climate change, water, land, coastal pollution); another on human activities and attitudes (demographic pressures, health, transport, growth of cities, citizenship, changing values, etc.); the last on technical issues, energy and industrial activities.
The survey also reveals differences in priorities and attitudes from one continent to another, even though bad development seems generally to be perceived as the most serious environmental problem for the future.
In addition, the survey presents "a new configuration of risks likely to emerge in the next 30 years", according to the scientists questioned. Among these risks, the most important include the increasing frequency of meteorological disasters resulting from global warming, conflicts or migration related to access to resources such as water and energy, the appearance of new health problems or viruses, instabilities linked to the manipulation of information, and the growing problems of governance.
Finally, in the view of the respondents, none of the environmental issues highlighted in the survey is being adequately tackled by current policies. It is therefore urgent both to boost international research into these issues and to encourage decision-makers to foresee and take action to deal with this wide range of problems.