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Trump’s climate change views are super awkward in flooded Vietnam

AP Photo/Hau Dinh
A week before Trump’s arrival in Da Nang, Vietnam, Typhoon Damrey left nearby cities like Hoi An heavily flooded.
By Zoë Schlanger
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Donald Trump arrived in Da Nang, Vietnam, today (Nov. 10), to a friendlier audience than he has found elsewhere. Whereas globally, a median of just 22% have confidence in the US president’s ability to guide international affairs, 58% of Vietnamese feel confident in him, according to a Pew survey.

But Da Nang, a low-lying port city, is also a place where Trump’s policies against addressing climate change are the most at odds with the real dangers Vietnamese are already facing. The World Bank describes Vietnam as one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change; with its long coastline and many river deltas, the country is extremely sensitive to sea level rise. Even the most conservative estimate—a 1-meter rise by 2100—would displace more than 10% of the country’s population.

Vietnam also sits along the Southeast Asian typhoon belt, where typhoons are projected to intensify under climate change. Right now, communities around Da Nang are still reeling from Typhoon Damrey—the worst to hit southern Vietnam in 16 years—which devastated the region just a week prior to Trump’s arrival, killing more than 90 and leaving tens of thousands homeless. Heavy rainfall followed close behind, inundating the city again a few days prior to the APEC summit.

Da Nang is also extremely sensitive to flooding during rainfall events. In 2007, “a moderate rainfall event caused significant flooding in the city; flooding was clearly exacerbated by rapid development and urbanisation occurring in the floodplain,” according to a report from the Climate Development Knowledge Network. Climate change is poised to increase the intensity of rain events in the region anywhere from 3% to 24% in the next three years alone.

Rainfall has already increased 20% in Vietnam’s wetter southern region over the past 50 years, according to the dedicated Climate Change Adaptation Division of the Vietnamese government in a presentation to the UN. The same presentation included maps showing large tracts of land that would be wiped out under even a moderate sea level rise (slide 9).

In stark contrast to the American approach, the Vietnamese government has a national strategy on climate change, which it considers “the biggest challenge to human beings, causing deep impacts and comprehensively changing the life on the globe.

“As one of the worst affected countries, Viet Nam considers the response to climate change a vital issue.”

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