[enviro-vlc] Bad tidings (Viet Nam climate change)
vern.weitzel at gmail.com
Thu Dec 18 01:17:05 EST 2008
Vietnam is the country most at risk from rising sea levels, according to a new
study, as rich nations are being called on to bail out vulnerable populations
The Guardian, Wednesday 10 December 2008
Which country will be most affected by the steady rise of the seas? Which
country could see more than a tenth of its population displaced, a tenth of its
economic power crippled and a tenth of its towns and cities swamped by the end
of this century? The answer, which may surprise you, is Vietnam, named by the
World Bank as the nation with most to lose as global warming forces the oceans
to reclaim the land.
Just a one-metre rise in sea level would flood more than 7% of the country's
agricultural land, and wreck nearly 30% of its wetlands, the bank says. And the
situation could be worse than that: a one-metre rise in sea level is at the
conservative end of the predictions for the year 2100. Some climate experts,
including Jim Hansen, director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies,
argue that the likely rise should be measured in several metres.
A one-metre rise would still be enough to cause chaos. In a study recently
published in the journal Climatic Change, the World Bank says such a rise would
impact on about 0.3% of the territory - some 194,000 sq km - of 84 developing
countries. That might not sound much, but it would affect about 56 million
people. Coastal populations across poorer countries generally do better
economically, so the surge in the seas would impact on GDP even more - about 1.3%.
The study, which summarises the findings of a 50-page briefing paper published
by the bank last year, comes as campaigners call for rich countries such as the
UK to do more to help the developing world adapt to the inevitable effects of
Heather Coleman, senior climate change policy adviser with Oxfam, says: "Helping
vulnerable people cope with the effects of climate change is desperately needed
today because they already face increasingly severe and ever-worsening climate
The charity released a report last week that called for at least $50bn
(£33.85bn) a year to be channelled from international carbon trading schemes
into adaptation efforts.
"With a global financial crisis unfolding, these mechanisms could raise enough
money from polluters without governments having to dip into national
treasuries," Coleman says. "Many negotiators agree that this is one of the more
practical approaches. Billions of dollars can be raised and invested to prevent
future climate change and to help poor people adapt to the negative impacts of
Oxfam says poor countries need help to upgrade national flood early-warning
systems, plant mangrove "bio-shields" along coasts to diffuse storm waves, and
grow drought-tolerant crops.
The report comes as ministers are due to arrive at UN talks in Poznan, Poland,
to continue negotiations on a new global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto
protocol. With little progress on new carbon targets expected until the new US
administration makes its position clear next year, adaptation could be a key
issue at Poznan.
"It is extremely important for negotiators in Poznan to reach a broad
understanding about how best to raise adaptation money, because they have paid
lip service to the issue for too long," Coleman says. "It is a vital part of the
overall deal, a litmus test of how serious rich countries are in tackling the
"Poor people around the world bear the brunt of climate change, and yet they are
least responsible for global warming. Even during tempestuous financial times,
rich countries can and should help poor people to cope. We can't afford to
exchange a short-term saving for a long-term disaster."
If countries fail to adapt to the new reality of climate change, Coleman warns,
they would suffer far greater damage from floods, droughts and hurricanes.
Of those, the World Bank study, led by Susmita Dasgupta, of its Development
Research Group, says some countries will suffer the effects of sea level rise
much worse than others. Severe impactswill be limited to a "relatively small
number of countries".
As well as Vietnam, the report highlights likely damage to the Bahamas, which
could lose more than a tenth of its territory to a one-metre rise, and Egypt,
which faces the flooding of 13% of its agricultural land. Mauritania, Guyana and
Jamaica are also among the biggest losers.
In the bank's rankings of the top 10 countries affected by a sea level rise,
across six different types of impact, Bangladesh - often associated with rising
sea levels - features only once. The country is listed as the tenth most
affected by land area, with just over 1% likely to be flooded.
The report says: "The overall magnitudes for the developing world are sobering:
within this century, tens of millions of people are likely to be displaced by
sea level rise, and the accompanying economic and ecological damage will be
severe for many."
It adds: "International resource allocation strategies should recognise the
skewed impact distribution we have documented. Some countries will be little
affected by sea level rise, while others will be so heavily impacted that their
national integrity may be threatened. Given the scarcity of available resources,
it would seem sensible to allocate aid according to degree of threat."
The bank says the study is the first of its kind, but admits it is not
foolproof. It did not investigate the effects of milder sea level rise, which
will be felt in the next few decades. And its methods were too crude to assess
the fate of small islands, which are particularly vulnerable. It also fails to
take into account adaptation measures put in place over the next century, which
would lessen the damages, or storm surges, which would worsen them.
Nevertheless, its central message is clear: "There is little evidence that the
international community has seriously considered the implications of sea level
rise for population location and infrastructure planning in many developing
countries."A separate Oxfam report last month investigated the situation on the
ground in Vietnam, in the provinces of Ben Tre and Quang Tri.
Achievements at risk
The charity warned that the effects of climate change threatened Vietnam's
development achievements. It is one of the few countries on track to meet most
of its millennium development goals by 2015, and it managed to reduce its
poverty rate from about 58% of the population to 18% in 2006. "Such impressive
achievements are now at risk," Oxfam says. In 2000, Vietnam produced just 0.35%
of world greenhouse gas emissions - one of the lowest contributions in the world.
It is not just rising sea levels that pose a threat; higher temperatures, as
well as more extremes of weather such as drought and typhoons, will have a
"potentially devastating impact on the country's people and economy", the report
Some communities are already adapting to changing weather patterns. Rice farmers
are harvesting earlier, before the main flooding season, or growing a rice
variety with a shorter cycle. But the report found countless cases of poor
people across both Ben Tre and Quang Tri, who were ill-equipped to cope with the
consequences of the climate changing.
Oxfam says that rich countries must step in - and quickly. "The amounts of
investment needed are beyond [Vietnam's] budgetary capacity," it says.
"International adaptation finance will be needed in the face of unavoidable
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