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A man paddles a boat through a flooded village in Hanoi, Vietnam. A man paddles a boat through a flooded village in Hanoi, Vietnam, July 31, 2018 (AP photo by Manh Thang).

In the Face of Catastrophic Sea Level Rise, Countries in Southeast Asia Dither

Monday, Nov. 11, 2019

Rising seas will endanger more than 300 million people in the next 30 years, according to a startling new study published in late October in the journal Nature Communications. By 2050, the impact of rising sea levels will be much more severe than previously thought, “threatening to all but erase some of the world’s great coastal cities” in low-lying areas from Egypt’s Nile Delta to southern and eastern China to Southeast Asia, as The New York Times put it. One of those cities is Ho Chi Minh City, the economic hub of Vietnam, which could be underwater along with the rest of southern Vietnam by mid-century, as these new projections suggest. Many coastal regions across Southeast Asia would be doomed. Yet despite this imminent danger, Southeast Asian countries are lagging behind in preparing for the deluge.

Researchers and government officials have long known that Southeast Asia is one of most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change. The Global Climate Risk Index, calculated by a prominent German NGO, lists four Southeast Asian states among 10 countries around the world most affected by climate change during the last two decades. From Myanmar to the Philippines, many heavily populated areas in Southeast Asia sit near sea level. Long coastlines that are vulnerable to flooding are regularly battered by natural disasters like typhoons and tsunamis. The tropical region can barely afford major rises in temperature, which could render already brutally hot cities like Bangkok unlivable outdoors. ...

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