Appendix 1: An Inventory of 56 Environmental Problems

Page Last modified 20 Apr 2016, 02:19 PM


The following non-prioritised list of environmental problems or issues was compiled from the results of a general survey of the literature, reviews of international initiatives and the results of the present study. Problems were recorded as they were reported or identified in the analysis, and thus some are more general expressions of particular problems which are also listed. Obvious references to the same problem were combined, but references to linked problems or issues with a common cause were usually kept separate to maintain the important differences of perspective and foci of interest. There are obvious groups of related problems expressed here and few, if any, are exclusive to the rest.

The problems listed vary widely in character: some have broad significance, others have more confined relevance (in time or space); some are already having effects, others refer to potential effects or risks; some are uncontested, others are disputed. Thus, the inclusion of a problem in this list does not itself denote significance. The list is the result of a trawl performed widely enough, and on a sufficently comprehensive foundation ­ as this current assessment represents ­ to expect confidently that the most significant environmental problems of concern to Europe are included.

The difficulties with an analysis identifying environmental problems can be best appreciated if environmental problems are seen to move through a development 'cycle', in regard to the way in which they are viewed and treated. First, there is the phase where awareness about the problem (or at this stage issues) begins and grows, and understanding increases. This often leads to a policy formulation stage followed by an implementation phase. Further evaluation of the problem and the actions taken to deal with it can result in modifications to the policy or its means of implementation and may give rise to insights into new problems. The level of recognition given to a problem, its mention in the literature and information about it by which it can be described, significantly depend upon its stage in this cycle of development. The list of 56 environmental problems identified below will therefore be strongly influenced by this, affecting both what is included and how it is expressed. For this reason also, despite the comprehensive approach taken for the analysis, and for this assessment in general, the list is unlikely to be complete. Problems most likely not to be included here are those which fall into the first 'awareness' stage of development. Conversely, the list is probably biased towards problems that fall into the policy formulation stage about which more is generally known and to which much attention is given.

This list of 56 broad environmental problems was used to help identify the 12 prominent European environmental problems, presented in Chapters 27 to 38 (see introduction to Part V). In defining the 12, a number of problems in the list below were consolidated so that more than 20 of the 56 are considered to be covered by the 12 prominent problems.


    * Nuclear accidents
    * Stratospheric ozone depletion, increasing UV
    * Loss of biodiversity and genetic resources
    * Resources and quality of groundwater
    * Acidification
    * Hazardous waste (transport and storage)
    * Climate change
    * Forest degradation
    * Waste disposal
    * Nuclear waste
    * Urban air quality
    * Nature conservation and sensitive ecosystems
    * Persistent air toxics
    * Industrial accidents
    * Direct pollution (discharges, dumping) to sea
    * Soil contamination from waste disposal
    * Conservation of threatened species
    * Tropospheric ozone increase and episodes
    * Waste production
    * Soil and resource contamination
    * Fragmentation and destruction of habitats
    * Eutrophication of surface waters
    * Riverine inputs into seas
    * Changes in hydrological regime
    * Management of large rivers and lakes
    * Desertification
    * Lack of water supply
    * Stress and degradation due to tourism
    * Food security
    * Urban waste
    * Growing vulnerability of complex systems
    * Bioacclumulation (metals, POCs)
    * Energy security
    * Soil erosion
    * Risks of biotechnology
    * Microbiological pollution of surface water
    * Oil spills
    * Sea-level rise
    * Intensification of land-use
    * Introduction of new organisms
    * Shortage of industrial raw materials
    * Coastal erosion
    * Natural radioactivity (radon)
    * Loss of agricultural land
    * Shift of biogeographical zones
    * Draining wetlands
    * Floods, droughts and storms
    * Non-ionising radiation
    * Societal health
    * Landscape modification
    * Noise
    * Occupational health
    * Loss of cultural heritage
    * Seismic activity, volanoes
    * Pests and locusts
    * Thermal pollution of waters

European Environment Agency (EEA)
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