On 11 sep 2016, the Australian Herald Sun placed an opinion piece by Andrew Bolt titled Drowning in cash: Pacific islands love this scare* about the $300 million** financial aid pledged by the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, at a Pacific leaders’ forum in Micronesia last week (I guess that's this meeting), to help the Pacific “manage climate change and improve disaster resilience".
Bolt's critique is that these islands do not actually face much danger:
The scare that these islands risk drowning as man-made warming melts our ice caps is wildly exaggerated.
Professor Paul Kench, an Auckland University coastal geomorphologist, along with Australian scientists, has studied more than 600 coral reef islands.
His findings: about 40 per cent have actually grown in size. Another 40 per cent stayed stable, and just 20 per cent have shrunk.
Much of that is because coral islands, essentially living things, grow with rising seas, as well as with sand washed up by the waves.
What’s more, populated islands can reclaim land.
Paul Kench's page at the University of Auckland lists several of his publications, and maybe the blog post refers to this one:
Destruction or persistence of coral atoll islands in the face of 20th and 21st century sea-level rise?
From the abstract:
Here, we analyze the physical changes in over 200 islands on 12 atolls in the central and western Pacific in the past few decades when sea level in the region increased at rates three to four times the global average. Results show little evidence of heightened erosion or reduction in island size. Instead island shores have adjusted their position and morphology in response to human impacts such as seawall construction and to variations in climate–ocean processes.
The article is behind a paywall, so I cannot look at the actual study - the abstract does not mention anything about coral growth.
As far as I know, sea level rise is going to be much faster than coral can grow, plus we have the complication factor of reduced grow (or actual coral death) because of rising sea water acidity and temperature.
But it's still an intriguing question: Could there be a hint of truth in this, that coral growth could keep up with sea level rise?
Maybe with a little help from us?
Has this been investigated?
* You may have trouble following this link directly. In that case go to the start page, Andrew Bolt's blog, and look up the article there.
** Australian dollars, I assume. That would be US$ 227 million