Brief: October 1 – While countries such as Australia have much to lose through rising sea levels, in many developing nations the consequences will be dire. The New York Times reported recently that a study by the Vietnamese government shows the Mekong Delta, one of the world’s most fertile areas and the source of food for millions, is under threat from rising sea levels and temperatures.

The report, released last month by the Vietnamese Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) , says that more than one third of the delta, which provides nearly half the country’s rice, could be submerged if sea levels rise by just under a metre this century, as projected in the study.

The report contains scenarios compiled from extensive historical data and the best current estimates by the Vietnamese and international scientific community. According to the Vietnamese government it will continue to update the scenarios, especially on sea rise level, so that ministries, sectors and provinces can take specific actions to limit negative impacts of climate change.

A government minister, Pham Khoi Nguyen, told reporters that in the last 50 years, Vietnam’s average temperature increased by 0.5-0.7 degrees C while the sea level rose by 20cm. He said both trends have intensified the impact of storms and floods. 

Vietnam, with large populations concentrated in low-lying delta regions, is recognised as one of the nations most vulnerable to climate change. 

According to the MONRE scenarios, 90 years from now Vietnam’s average temperature will be 2.3 degrees Celsius above the average level of the 1980-1999 period.    

The scenarios also show greater total rainfall, wetter wet seasons and drier dry seasons, especially in the southern region.

The report predicts the average level of Vietnam’s seas will rise 28-33 cm by the middle of the 21st century and 65-100 cm by the end of the 21st century as compared with the 1980-1999 period.