This paper reviews global scenario research to provide historical context for the efforts of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA). Taken together, the seven recent studies surveyed provide a useful platform for the MA by offering insight into the complex factors that drive ecosystem change, estimating the magnitude of regional pressures on ecosystems, sounding the alert on critical uncertainties that could undermine sustainable development, and understanding the importance of institutions and values. But these studies are only a point of departure. The integration of changing ecosystem conditions into global development scenarios, as both effects and causes, is at the cutting edge of scenario analysis. The paper concludes by identifying directions for this research program and suggesting ways that the MA can contribute to this effort.